Since my last post on the subject of education there have been many changes not only for me but, as you will all be aware, FE itself. We accept that FE is an ever changing beast, personally I think we foot soldiers accept this as a kind of comfort blanket excuse to cover the fact that the people at the very top (Government, not FE management) don’t know what they are doing. That is a different post and not one I will deliberate on today.
The last year has been eventful to say the least. I completed my DTLLS, and my Assessor Certificate. Our construction department has moved into bigger better workshops, wonderful new classrooms and offices, so we are very lucky, now we need to up our game to justify the investment. That’s great because it means a challenge and don’t we just love challenges?
‘Cut to the chase Charlie people are getting bored.’ We had a training day yesterday (booo) no actually it was quite good (hurrah) Maths and English were top of the agenda (booo) Stop it! Maths and English are very important (hurrah). We have been invited, as construction lecturers, to volunteer for a programme that will improve our Maths and English so we can become GEM’s. Which stands for, Great at English and Maths, instead of being SEM’s (I’ll let you work that one out). This is all aimed to improve overall student standards in said subjects. After the training speeches we retired to our own departments where we were asked to address the challenges of attendance revolving around Functional Skills Maths and English.
This is what we came up with:
At present FS is spread over a whole year with their classes in the middle of the day and GCSE at the end of the day, which causes gaps in timetabling, particularly for the students who have GCSE C’s and B’s and so don’t need to attend any of these classes. Sometimes students have to wait around for two to three hours while the others go off to Maths or English. So, why not teach FS in a block preferably at the beginning of the first term. Students are generally more easily manipulated (bad choice of word perhaps, but you know what I mean) in the first few weeks and are more likely to attend and behave. For the rest of the year we could concentrate on the core subject, with no distraction and lots of reinforcement of English and Maths through embedding.
This is where the GEM’s come in, because it would be taught in house. Students won’t have to trail across to the other side of the campus to the English and Maths department which will eradicate the excuse of, “I didn’t know where to go, I got lost, I couldn’t find it, when we arrived there was no teacher there so we went home,” etc, etc, the teachers come to us and as GEMs we get stuck in too. We are constantly told that, as lecturers/course leaders they are our students, we are responsible for their attendance/behaviour in FS and it’s up to us to monitor it, but it’s very difficult to monitor when they are at the other side of the college. If FS was taught in house we would be a constant presence, teaching or not.
English and Maths are not going to go away, we are going to be under increasing pressure to improve the students level of achievement even though they have failed to achieve during their twelve years in school. I really believe that changing the way we teach these subjects is the only way we will succeed.