Monday, 7 December 2015

Making maths work for students, Employers and Governments

Delivering the entire course of GCSE Maths in 33 weeks and expecting learners to pass is laughable. FE simply does not have the teachers, resources, time or frankly, the ability to achieve this level of magic.

I’d like to see a new approach to maths resits in FE Colleges. I suspect that I’m not alone and that many others would too.

I’d like to propose a new qualification; a modular one, shared between Schools and FE.

Students could start in Year 9 in Schools. Firstly, mix together GCSE and Functional Skills. Secondly, break it up into modules; 3 in Year 9, 3 in Year 10 and the final 3 in Year 11. The Higher component could be a tenth module to demonstrate higher learning. This isn’t impossible to deliver in schools through additional teaching, nor would it be impossible in FE.

Year 9: Start with the basics and build a mathematical foundation.
Year 10: Start to apply (Functional Maths) the knowledge to situations where maths is needed,
Year 11: Harder concepts and greater depth of application and understanding.

Each module graded A – E
Overall score to be graded A – E.

Modules that are not passed to C grade or above, to be resat in FE. Only those modules, not the whole course.

Exams to be held three times a year; November, February and May. This enables learners to be removed from classes and those who are truly struggling, to be given more tuition and greater attention.

When students enter FE, their modules are considered and any that are not achieved can be relearned, with serious subject contextualisation, and resat.

When all nine modules are passed, the learner has achieved a Foundation grade. If they are able, or willing to take the tenth module, they can do so in specialised classes.

This would spread the load of learning Maths between Schools, who obviously have a real problem delivering GCSE Maths to the required level and FE Colleges who are overloaded with resits of the entire course. 

Students who are able, would still leave school with the grades required, through taking the tenth and most difficult module.

Is this approach returning to the bad old days of multitudinous resits to achieve the grade? No, there would be one resit per module. By enabling the learners to take the modules they need, not the whole course, which is demoralising and destabilizing, we would be able to focus our attention on those learners and those aspects of the course which apply to them.

Teaching the whole GCSE maths course over and over again, is like hitting them with a lump hammer. By focusing on the areas they need and developing their skills in those areas, we are delivering truly personalised learning and learners who have the maths skills needed to be effective and  useful employees. 

To me, it makes sense. What do you think?

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Time to dive it and get wet

Originally published by FE Week 
As the prospect of a new academic year stretching out ahead becomes a working reality for FE sector, Jayne Stigger considers what might be to come for teaching and lecturing staff in 2015/16.

FE & Skills providers are being sorely tested; no one doubts that but those who endlessly shout, tweet and holler the doom and gloom scenarios are missing the point.

Teaching/lecturing is challenging but staff need to seize this opportunity to develop both their learners and their own skills. Delivery using #FELTAG principles, working with local employers, giving learners the opportunity to develop maths and English knowledge in their subject specialism isn’t some new-fangled plan to make life more difficult for teaching staff; it is the future and we should already be doing it.

We should be building learner show-reels to demonstrate their competence to employers, crowdfunding opportunities for them like @hearnesque and #Scrawlmovie and developing our own skills if we don’t know how.

Yes, finances are getting tighter, classes may get bigger, courses may vanish from the curriculum, we may teach other things, some providers will merge and job losses may seem inevitable but they aren’t. This is the opportunity that FE staff should be taking advantage of; to really demonstrate just how valuable we are to the learners, our industries, country and its place in the wider, global market. It is the reactionary culture that needs to evolve.

The relentless push for more apprentices, better vocational education and training with maths and English for all, isn’t going away and the sooner the ‘traditional’ FE get on board with the new thinking, the smoother the transition will be.

UTCs, independent learning providers and National Colleges are stepping out of the wings and learning our lines. If FE wishes to continue to deliver all the courses it currently enjoys, then teaching staff must play our part in the development of even more effective vocational learning opportunities by adapting to the new rules and proving our worth.

We are ‘not like the brazen giant of Greek fame’, we are different. We are staff who are talented in our vocational specialisms, we take those who wish to learn a trade and develop their talent. We also take ‘your tired, your poor, your huddled masses’, and it is essential that we do, but to continue to provide that care and support, we must generate our own income streams, which requires multi-talented staff.

Teaching staff can do much to support this by changing the culture of a provider, with enthusiasm and positivity. If we constantly talk our positions down, why should anyone else value us?
The coming year will be the watershed for FE Staff; those who stand up and evolve into forward thinking, employment-focused delivery partners, those who facilitate skills development in all our learners will thrive
The coming year will be the watershed for FE Staff; those who stand up and evolve into forward thinking, employment focused delivery partners, those who facilitate skills development in all our learners will thrive. If they help develop independent income and secure partnerships, then they can still deliver A-levels, Access, Esol etc. I hope they do, for they are as needed by those the government doesn’t seem to see as clearly, as the favoured ones.

Governments aren’t always right and their hearing is very selective. This may be unfair, wrongheaded, short-sighted and ultimately destructive but it is the hand we are dealt. We should be working with employers, from choosing the units we deliver in a BTec, to relevant careers advice and great learner IAG, useful, logged work experience and staff training opportunities.

I urge all in FE to take the current political climate with a large pinch of salt. Governments come and go, their impact, for all their posturing, is only as great as we allow it to be. The time for standing on the edge, shouting at the water and urging it to recede is long past and those who do will drown.
The smart ones will develop their own training opportunities, build rafts, link together, use social media alongside local knowledge and industry to partner their ambitions and evolve so they can continue to offer courses to everyone who needs them, not just those who are caught in the current spotlight.

1 comment

I believe that Jayne is absolutely right and if not now – when? The time is long past to have agencies ‘raise awareness’ for updating skills and processes including adopting FELTAG principles. Not because of an edict from funding agencies, but because it makes sense if they want to stay in business. ‘Business’, still a dirty word to many, a mystery to some.
In my role, I still find organisations that should know better but are still only thinking about making change’ and regard staff development as a tick box exercise that occurs a few times each year.
Teaching staff in general know what can be done to make this cultural change, but implementing change must be endorsed from the top and many are still too busy ‘standing on the edge, shouting at the water.’
For the staff and the learners sake, dive in and get wet.
September 7, 2015 at 10:22 am

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Soundtrack of my life

Thank you to Theresa Young @treezyoung for the tag and the inspiration. I also found it difficult to limit it to just five, and like you, tomorrow the 'five' could easily be completely different. Today, right now though, these five, are my five.

Ian Dury and the Blockheads - Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick (listen here) This song came out in 1978, a glorious year of absolute freedom. My first completely frittered paypacket, no responsibilities, no restrictions. It was just music, fun, friends and freedom. I think I saw them at the Roundhouse, but wherever it was, they were superb. The Punk era was amazing. I wore dresses made of bin bags, stapled together just before we went out, my hair was very, very short; white blonde with bright red tips and I had a long side ponytail, in a plait. My skirts were short, my boots were long and my eye make up was distressingly heavy against my alabaster face. This song is full of life, full of appreciation for life, the joy that every life, abled or wonky, can be vibrant, full and glorious. The lyrics are smart, sharp, clever and ironic. The B side 'Clever Bastards' is that rare beast of an equally good track.

Fashion moves on and before long we were mad keen for the Madchester scene. Leaving work on a Friday night, driving to Manchester to dance the night away at the Hacienda, breakfasting in a greasy spoon, sleeping in the car and then doing it all again on a Saturday night. Sundays were for sleeping. This track The Stone Roses, Fools Gold, epitomises the time, the mood, the era of destruction that was happening around us.

It was the end of an era, socially, economically and culturally. England was changing so quickly, the optimism of the 1970's was replaced with strikes, wars, misery, closures and the music was reflective, deep and more anarchic than Punk had been but in very different ways. It was reflective of the sorrow, the end of days that was ripping like a band saw through the English landscape. I was so fortunate to have seen it; before, during and after.

On a lighter note, 'Let There be Love' by Nat King Cole, is another glorious song. A celebration of love for each other, for others and for the world we live in. The lyrics, like all good songs are simple, clear and beautiful.

Let there be you, let there be me
Let there be oysters under the sea
Let there be wind, an occasional rain
Chile con carne, sparkling champagne
Let there be birds to sing in the trees
Someone to bless me whenever I sneeze
Let there be cuckoos, a lark and a dove
But first of all, please let there be love
Let there be cuckoos, a lark and a dove
But first of all, please let there be love
Love, love, let there be love

These songs, loved by my parents pervaded my early years and formed many of my views on life: the  importance of the connectivity in our world, the importance of diversity of species and our need to preserve them, for their individual aesthetic beauty and for the mathematical beauty of the universe. These things shaped my academic development.

Two left .... so, so difficult.

Jonny Lang Lie to Me This came out in 1997. He was fifteen years old, 15!!!! I was a 38 year old mother of two small children, reading for my second degree, teaching full time and feeling a bit knackered. The song is perfect; bluesy, sad, uplifting and played with incredible, mind altering talent. I loved the song for the sound, the message, the lyrics, the sublime sadness of it. But, it made me think that I was lying to myself - I wasn't wonder woman, I did have responsibilities and that I needed to be more organised. The words 'Lie to me, tell me everything is alright', stuck with me. I could lie to myself, or I could develop a career rather than a job. My husband was always away touring and I was the fulcum of the family, the rock. It was a small thing but it inspired me. Isn't that what good music does?

One left ... puts on best Channel 4 announcer voice ....
As a child, we would always go to Cornwall for our holidays. It was my parents favourite place and they now live there during the Summer months, when it is too hot for them to be at their Spanish home. We would get up at 3.30am and sit, in height order tallest to smallest in the back of the Jag. It was a Mk10 - deep bullet grey with red leather interior and a walnut dash. It also had an 8 track stereo and on it, my father would play Frank Sinatra. This song is my favourite for many reasons.  As soon as I hear it, I am taken back to those early starts and dark nights in the car, the promise of breakfast on Dartmoor, the scent of heather and bracken, the anticipation of the sea with ice cream studded with ice crystals, fat Cornish pasties that tasted of sand and summer, the joy of Summer.

In 1966, we were on holiday in Cornwall and England were in the World Cup Final. My father went to St Austell and bought a portable television (my mother was outraged, by the cost not the tv) and he plugged it in to the Jag. Every father on the campsite sat around our television, whilst the women drank tea and gin in the back.

Us children ran wild, far wilder than Swallows and Amazons, we were Lords of all the Flies. We swam, surfed, drowned, climbed, experimented and returned to a campsite of drunken, celebratory and unreasonably good humoured adults, who proffered money for chips and asked for no reasons for lateness.

It was a magical time.

My music is central to me, it inspires, gives hope and soothes my soul. I look forward to reading about your top five choice.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Professional Status

I'd forgotten about this: Thanks to Shane for including me.

More than four million 14 to 19‑year‑olds and adults are educated and trained through the FE system each year. Courses and options are numerous and encompass a fully comprehensive range of students. FE does not discriminate – why? It has a range of highly skilled, professionally trained and continually developing lecturing staff.

The government proposes to halt this, to remove the requirement for lecturers in FE to be professionally qualified, through its draft deregulation bill. The key driver for this is on the first page: “Publication of the draft Bill is the latest step in the Government’s ongoing drive to remove unnecessary bureaucracy that costs British businesses millions”.

Leaving aside, for a moment, the notion that this is designed purely to save money, let’s consider the impact this would have.

Learners enter FE to gain a qualification. The relentless drive by this and previous governments to qualify our young, middle aged and old, has resulted in a plethora of qualifications, courses and options. The rhetoric is well known: “You cannot expect to have a worthwhile career without a qualification”. Is lecturing not “worthwhile”?

And yet, the government now proposes that those who lecture in FE do not need a qualification to do so.

I find this deeply insulting and from the overwhelmingly positive response to the topic on #UKFECHAT recently, staff in further education at all levels agree.


At the start of my career as a lecturer, with two degrees and a PGCE, was I “grade one”? No. I had subject knowledge, yes, but more importantly, I had training in, experience of and an understanding of educational methods and pedagogy.

I was miles ahead of those without a qualification. This enabled me to develop learners, bring out their hidden talents, manage classrooms, and identify opportunities for learning in a way that a nonqualified deliverer could not achieve. Qualifications are a measure of competence.

Those with subject experience can demonstrate how to plumb, wire or cut hair, for example. But the subject aspect is only part of the package. I have witnessed a number of people who are brilliant in their own field, some complete with PhD, utterly unable to connect with learners in their class. This has nothing to do with their subject knowledge, but is directly related to their lack of lecturing qualification.

An FE lecturer is a professional, trained to do a job and do it well for the most part. As new theories, ideas and models emerge, continuing professional development enhances their initial training and continues to prepare them to be better and more effective lecturers.

We have learners from age 14 upwards. In a school they would be taught by professionals with teaching qualifications alongside their subject specialism. A 14 year old in FE would have a ‘deliverer’.

Is the government saying that they do not regard lecturers to be worthy of professional status, but that teachers in schools are?

Are FE lecturers are not equally deserving of professional status? If not, then why are only the highly qualified teachers eligible for Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS) allowed to teach in schools? I would say we most certainly are worthy of professional status.

FE teachers and lecturers – whichever name you prefer, or is that is part of the problem? Are ‘lecturers’ somehow not as valued as ‘teachers’? Labelling us one or the other does not change our professionalism, which gives us our ability to teach, yes, teach all the learners in our classrooms. We take on all comers and we are incredibly successful at making their aspirations and dreams come true. We achieve this because we are trained professionals, in both education and subject.

If the government persists with this foolish and dangerous notion, standards of achievement and progression in further education that we professionals have worked so tirelessly to improve will be decimated. Learners will leave unqualified (surely no connection to the recently introduced measure of ‘retention’ rather than ‘success’), numbers of those who are not in education, employment or training (Neet) will rise and the UK economy will suffer the greatest loss of emerging talent for generations.

FE is the engine of the British economy: removing the need for professional status will lead to poor educational standards, lack of future talent, a waste of young people’s potential and economic misery for many years to come. It will also be a betrayal of those who have worked so hard for their professional status and have shown their determination to pass that ethos on to the learners they teach.

Does the government expect future generations to be taught qualifications by unqualified deliverers? Does it expect standards to rise by removing the framework that safeguards those standards?

Don’t remove our professional status: you will be removing the opportunity to gain professional status for every learner in further education for the next 20 years.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015


A few days ago, @clyn40 kindly included me in a nomination with some of the loveliest people ( @MrsSarahSimons @Xris32 @sezl @FurtherEdagogy ) in #FE for the


 The instructions were slightly worrying  but I've reproduced them below and hopefully, they're not too difficult.

Here are the rules:
There are only 3 rules. Thankfully, not *those* rules
1. You cannot knowingly include someone you work with in real life.
2. You cannot list somebody that has already been named if you are already made aware of them being listed on #TwitteratiChallenge.
3. You will need to copy and paste the title of this blogpost and (the rules and what to do) information into your own blog post.

If you're going to play you need to:

1. Put up your own nominations within 7 days
2. Write your blog post, listing the people you choose and why, with the title #TwitteratiChallenge
3. Include a  photograph or video of yourself raising a glass (I cheated here - but being clumsy, couldn't manage a glass and a 'phone without getting in a mess - and ... he's just better at it)

So, here is my 'Cheers' 

Now the tough bit ... who to choose. ...

These are all people who have left their mark in my life and in my heart. Each of them have inspired and encouraged me. Follow them and they will do the same for you. They're not in any particular order, as they're all fabulous.

@hearnesque Writer/Director horror feature SCRAWL with Mark Forester Evans & Daisy Ridley. Wrestles bears in spare time. Builds robots at night. Lectures film stuff. Busy.
Pete is a great teacher, full of ideas, bravery and inspiration. Someone who battled endless issues to give his students the greatest possible real life experience by turning the BTEC specification into a movie #scrawlmovie and  which is going to be a fabulous and well deserved hit.

@bobharrisonset Bob is passionate about education and the potential of technology to transform learning. 40yrs as a Teacher,Lecturer,Principal,Governor. Tireless champion of #FELTAG A man who selflessly promotes the use of technology in learning and inspires those of us to tag along in his wake.

@BcoTMedia Scott. Specialist Practitioner of Social Media & EdTech/ Lecturer/ Director
Easily the best, most innovative teacher I've ever met and the most modest. He is an inspiration to many through his relaxed teaching style, brilliant ideas, use of tech and for just being a thoroughly good guy.

@app4England Lindsay McCurdy. CEO Apprenticeships 4 England, Ambassador at European Alliance for Apprenticeships A strong, beautiful and clever woman, who set up Apprenticeships 4 England. Brilliant, sharp, funny and endlessly lovely lady.

@dp40days A senior leader in Further Education. It might seem like my back's against the wall, but if you look closely, you'll see I'm on the front foot! Sharp, funny and fabulous company, David is knowledgeable, great company and has a wonderful sense of irony; he is a superb asset for #FE

I would very much like to have included @sezl but she had already been 'taken' as it were. Currently organising a huge concert to raise money for the victims of the Nepal earthquake. Support her if you can, please.

There are many, many more who deserve to be listed and I hope that they are justly rewarded elsewhere.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Drowning, not waving.

A few weeks ago, I received an unsolicited email from Ed Miliband asking me what I wanted from him were he in a position to form the next government.

I replied: A: Secured funding for #FE, no more cuts & investment in sector.

I didn’t get a response.

This government and those who stand in opposition appear to have written off a substantial part of the population; anyone over 19 without money or qualifications. Can they really still say, as the Wolf Report boasts “our society believes in equality of opportunity for all its citizens”?

In 2013-14, there were 1.3m full-time and 556,000 part-time British students at UK universities.

In the same year, 2.9m adults were at further education colleges. 

Right now, FE is drowning: 20 of the 230 public FE colleges are in serious financial trouble in 2014-15. According to the Association of Colleges, another 30 could be financially weak. That’s 22%.

The Association of Colleges warns that 190,000 adult education places will be lost next year as funding is slashed by 24%.

Since 2010, the adult skills budget, which funds non-academic (university-based) education and training for those who are 19 or over, has been cut by a staggering 40%.

The AoC also says "Adult education and training in England will not exist by 2020 if the government continues with its swathe of cuts." 

The number of adult students participating in Level 3 courses - including BTECs and NVQs - fell by almost 18% between 2013 and 2014, and if funding continues to be cut at the current rate, "there will no longer be an adult education system remaining to support students aged 19 and over".

FE is traditionally there for those who aren’t sure of their path, those who stuffed up in school, who don’t have the right qualifications from school to get on the course they want, for 16 year olds who just don’t fit into traditional routes to university or work and for adults returning to education to retrain, to learn to read and write.

FE covers all the bases. We are needed now, more than ever.

How these cuts, this continual silent dismantling of an essential part of the Education system, the bridge that enables learners of all ages to learn new skills and take themselves out of the benefits system and into employment, can still be happening is one question.

The more important question is why?

Why does government seem hell bent on destroying FE, destroying any chance for adults to learn new skills, improve their lives and support their families?

Governments speak of reducing the benefits system, of providing nursery places from 8am to 6pm to enable adults to work; work how? Without FE to produce adults with new skills, training and qualifications, where are these ‘workers’ coming from to meet new industry and technology demands?

  • Are schools, Academies and UTC’s suddenly going to produce 100% of students with 5, 6 or 7 GCSE’s at high grade level?
  • Will careers advice in schools be so outstanding that every 16 year old leaves with a clear vision of their future?
  • Will every adult be able and willing to take out an FE loan to further their further education?
  • Are Universities going to be affordable, practical and accessible for everyone?
  • Are Universities the right place for them?
  • Will every adult learner be forced to take an Apprenticeship?
  • Can every adult learner be able to afford an Apprenticeship?
  • How will levels of Maths and English improve to move us away from 22nd out of 24 for English and 21st out of 24 for Maths?
  • Will businesses have to continue to invest in remedial training for their staff?
  • Why is there a reduction in choice?
  • Are we spiralling towards extinction?
  • Why is social equality, the right to a good education, qualifications and a well paid job not top of the agenda?
  • Are those who speak for us, speaking clearly and loudly enough?

The SFA waffles on that it is focused on Apprenticeships of the ‘highest quality’, but the uptake of these ‘high quality’ opportunities is declining.  

Even if Apprenticeship take up were rising exponentially, like a Scud missile of enterprise through the Education sector, why should the Adult Skills Budget be slashed and the whole of FE suffer just because some mandarin wants to put more Apprenticeships in place, that fewer and fewer want to do?

I'm not a Principal, a 'voice', I'm just a jobbing interim manager who has been in the sector for a very long time and despairs of the wasted talent, frustration and poverty that will result from current thinking. 
If they’re going to waste our budget on their schemes, at least use it to pay the existing poor Apprenticeships a living wage, not create more low paid unpopular opportunities.

And now we have FETL president Dame Ruth Silver telling us there has never been a “golden age of further education”, and making direct comparisons with the past is “questionable”. I’d disagree with that; as a reflective practitioner in a reflective industry, we should learn from our past.

If you can raise $78,322,520 (£53,383,063.18p) on Kickstarter for a video game (Star Citizen) then maybe it’s time we took Incorporation to the next level, learned the lessons of our past and be what people need us to be; providers of free education for 16+ students, to enable them to improve their lives.

If the government du jour also benefits from increased productivity, decreased benefits bills and a rapid rise up the OECD tables for Maths and English, then that’s just another example of our largesse.

We don’t discriminate who benefits from our work.