Supporting the 25% ‘ers

25% er

The last few weeks in FE can be, dare I say, a little stressful. Although that can depend on your attitude towards the less capable of your students and the poor attendees. We are now at that stage where we are running out of time with the above students and so 1-1’s and extra lessons are paramount to their success and indeed our success. Personally I like to concentrate on their success, in industry I always maintained that you didn’t need a monetary plan for success. If you did a good job, looked after your customers interests and had some integrity you would succeed and hence make money. I apply the same thesis to teaching, let them know that you are there for them and it is their success that is important.

Goodbye Mr Chips

Last week one of my less capable students had an exam. The appointment stated he had a reader and 25% extra time. This gave me cause for reflection. If a student requires 25% extra time to complete an exam why doesn’t same student have 25% extra time in practical/theory lessons? You could say that compensation week is just that, but it’s not. Compensation week is a week tagged on at the end whereas 25% of all practical/theory lessons is 81 hours. You could say that it is the students responsibility to do extra studying in their own time to compensate. You could say that; if you had never had any contact with these students. In reality it can be a challenging task to get them to study during class time. You could say that it is the teachers responsibility to identify extra needs and then instigate extra teaching time. But, there are only so many teaching hours in a day and even the best FS maths teacher hasn’t found a way to fit a pint into a half pint glass.

What I am suggesting here would be difficult but, there could be ways around it. We have found ways to include directed study/enrichment/tutorials and employability, which are responsible for 144 hours or 25% of my entire course.

So, my question is: If we give students that struggle with the subject matter 25% extra time to complete an exam why don’t we give them 25% extra time to learn the subject matter in the first place?

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Beauty has NO race… It has NO gender…Even NO SIZE.

This is really interesting stuff.


So many people chase a size, or have an image of what’s “perfect” nowadays. The fashion industry is often terrible for showing one extreme to the other, sometimes making people “wish” they had someone else’s body shape.

Most teenagers my age, wish to look a certain way or wish to be a certain size. But why change? No one’s “perfect” But everyone can be beautiful. I have a much  different out look on the situation, which media helps to let people accept. 

I grew up being quite tall in primary school, but was always a chunky monkey as a little kid. Unfortunately I got bullied for my size even though I wasn’t “classed” as being over weight, or anything. Bullies will pick on anything anyways, but being so young…  You never really open your eyes to that.

Growing up seeing people who actually struggle with their weight, whether they are…

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carrot Motivation
What is that motivates us? How do we motivate others? For me it’s one word – passion. One of the most motivational people I have met to date in FE is Nikki Gilbey and it was Nikki’s passion for her job that gave you that ‘can do’ feeling. You can read Nikki’s thoughts on education here  www.  Although I do consider myself lucky as this is spread across the board in my college, from the top down there are people that have that ‘can do’ approach.

corporal-punishmentI wonder if anyone remembers the good old days when to motivate students you commanded them and they did as they were told through fear? That is how I was taught, that was my motivation, if I didn’t do as I was told I got a beating. Thankfully we now find other ways to motivate.

We know that completion a course is not always motivating enough, hence innovative ideas are always sought out. Something that will give someone that desire to complete, but complete with the highest possible grade. Some people underestimate feedback, if feedback is bland and obviously written as a stock phrase then it will not motivate a student. Whereas  feedback that clearly states a genuine desire to help them achieve may give them an extra boost.  That to me is half the battle. Students can be motivated simply by understanding that it actually matters to you if they achieve and that you believe in them, rather than just doing your job or that you are aiming for higher statistics.

Magical Mystery Tour

I find some students give up easily because they have always failed, they are used to failing. In over stretched schools they can escape/disappear within a classroom. Hence their poor literacy and numeracy grades.

So how to motivate them? Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs has to be top of the agenda, we all know what that means.  We have smaller classes in FE, we can do more one to one, we can motivate at group level and individually. But, we need to be passionate, we need to deliver with a passion, we need to sell the subject.                                                                                     I was asked by one of my students if I get bored teaching the same old subject. My answer was no. I love construction, I love the problems it can bring and the never ending solutions that we, as construction workers, discover. I love to debate with so called intellects and academics when they sometimes state that construction workers are thick. Pointing out that it would be difficult to develop nuclear fusion or antibiotics in a field or a cave. Everything people live in, work in, study and learn in was built by us. I explained that I was glad he had expressed a wish to be part of that industry and in a few years time he will be the one building all those things.



He replied, “A simple no would have done, Charlie.”

Hey ho. 😉


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Innovate; vb. To invent or begin to apply (methods, ideas, etc.)                                                 So that’s what it means! Some of the synonyms I like are; change, transform, reorganise and renovate.

As you are all aware innovation is, and has been for some time, one of the key ‘buzz words’ in FE. (Can I still say buzz word?) There are some that would call me an innovator, although I believe that sometimes I’m just an adaptive thief. The real key to innovation though is not to innovate for innovation’s sake. If you actually experimented with everything you came across it would be very confusing for all. I have heard teachers being told to be brave and experiment in classes. This is not something I would advocate on a regular basis. “It doesn’t matter if it goes wrong, at least you tried.”


No, actually it does matter if it goes wrong (OK maybe once is cool) but young people can have a intolerance of fools just like ‘grown ups’. I do advocate courage though, students (like a lot of people) don’t always take well to change. Henry Ford once said, regarding the Model T Ford, “ If I had asked my customers what they wanted they would have said, a faster horse.”

Something I began to apply this year is a diary, a kind of lesson diary. It’s ‘reflective practice’ but sounds less academic. One thing that has come out of the diary is that every lesson that was planned down to the final detail was a good one. Even when it went pear shaped it was still a good lesson. In fact I think a lesson where the planning went pear shaped was better, but maybe it was more challenging to try and pull it back and so more interesting for me. I like to think of a lesson as play. If all the actors came on stage without learning their lines I guess the theater would be empty in about ten minutes, but then you get a golden moment where an actor adlibs and the play takes on a new breath of life. In the acting world it’s called improvisation.

Now is that innovation? Because I sometimes think that in today’s technological society unless it’s on a laptop, tablet or pc then you’re not a true innovator. My latest idea is ‘UniCarpentry Challenge’ Yes it’s the same as University Challenge but for Carpentry students. I don’t intend to do this until next year, as having conceived the idea, I realise that there is going to be a lot of work getting it right, although I may have a trial run at the end of term to see how well it is received.

So, lest we forget, change, transform, reorganise and renovate. I do like those words.



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Change, Evolve, but Make it Better.


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?

New Classrooms

‘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.

Teaher Improvement

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.

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The Consigliere

Interesting ideas and comparisons

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Paris, Moulin Rouge and Hot Chocolate

imagesCAJBSB01Back in Paris, I love Paris and it seemed the perfect place to take my wife for her birthday. It’s been a while, but nothing has changed. Parisian’s do not build towering office blocks around Notre Dame or place skyscrapers in front of Sacre Coeur as some cities do; no names no pack drill.SONY DSCFrom the Gare du Nord to our hotel was a short journey, or it would have been if we had been on the right metro. To be honest it was the right metro we were just going in the wrong direction, but, hey this is exploration. There was a conscious decision not to do the galleries (they had been done years ago). We did the Moulin Rouge for the first time and it was fantastic. You do have to queue (trip advisor) but how else are you gonna get hundreds of people into a show? And yes there are lots of breasts, but you kinda get used to them after a while (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it)

TOSHIBA Exif JPEGLe Deux Magots still has the best hot chocolate in the world, the ambience is the same as it was when I was there fifteen years ago and the same as it was in the 20’s when Hemingway, Joyce, Fitzgerald and the rest of the ‘Lost Generation’ were there. I am always told how expensive Paris is, hmmmmm? A glass of wine in the Cafe de la Paix would have cost me nine euro, whereas the delightful cafe around the corner cost me three and a half euro. Get a grip people.  Of course we did shopping at La Fayette and I have to say shopping here is a little different to the Mall 😉Galeries Lafayette - ParisBut after all the razzmatazz and great food I just got to spend some time with my wife with no particular place to go  xx

in love in Paris






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