English & Maths

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I strongly believe that everyone is naturally good at either English or maths. I am definitely better at English, as are most of my family. When it comes to maths just the thought of it brings me out in a cold sweat. With any subject, I think that enjoyment has a lot to do with how you are taught. From a young age I have always disliked maths, partly because the teachers I had just didn’t seem to like teaching the subject.

I can still remember the lessons where I looked at a task and had no idea how to work out the answer. Most often the teachers would say that the answer was obviously ‘x’ or ‘y’ and I would always think “but you haven’t explained why”. I did miraculously get my desired grade C which meant I could enrol for A Levels at college. I think I owe much of that to my Year 9 teacher Mr Jina. Wow, that man loved maths, loved it! For every maths rule he had a saying, the one that sticks in my mind the most was “you can’t have a pee with a pound”. The story behind it being if you’re at a train station and you need to pay 20p to use the toilet, you can’t use a £1. You have to work out the change instead. I don’t know if you can use that example anymore in 2017 where everything is much more expensive but I have never forgotten that little story.

With English, I never had any problems. I’ve always loved reading, devouring book after book, staying up late with my torch underneath the duvet, desperately trying to finish the next chapter even though it was passed my bedtime. I also loved writing, often making up stories or starting a novel that I wouldn’t finish. My spelling and grammar weren’t always perfect but I had passionate teachers who inspired me and helped me to achieve high grades at both GCSE and A Level.

From someone who always felt like a ‘failure’ at maths, I understand how the students forced to resit English and maths must feel. I do think it is both unfair and unachievable to put the burden of students passing resits onto lecturers in college. Students choose to come to college to learn the subjects they like and want to progress into. By forcing them to resit English or maths you are taking away that choice. I think that if a student had been close to a C grade, then they would probably choose to retake. Then the teachers could focus on the skills that they are less confident in; which are supposed to be highlighted in the BKSB test all students take at the start of the college year.

The reality, is that a lot of learners have become disengaged with English and/or maths at school, and have no interest in learning or in some cases even attending resit lessons. This is detrimental to the students that want to learn and the teachers who want to help them. I feel like the government are pointing the finger at the wrong stage of education. If the schools have failed these students then surely colleges should try to build them up by providing an alternative way. There should be an equivalent qualification that includes real world examples to try and help the less academic student bridge the gaps in their knowledge and prepare them for where they want to go in the future.

But who am I? Just another person, working in a college, trying to make a difference. Who would listen to me over someone sitting in government, who has never met a ‘failing’ student or heard their story?

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