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Blog: We need to talk about maths

I’m no good with maths

Maths just isn’t my strong point

I don’t do maths!

How often have you heard statements like this – not just from students, but maybe members of your own family? Maybe you’ve even said something like this too?

In the UK, it seems almost OK not to be good at maths. Where we would hide in shame (and many people do sadly) if we couldn’t read, many of seem to be fine with having a similar lack of maths skills.

More worryingly, this lack of skills is affecting students’ wellbeing and self-esteem. Every year, over 300,000 young people resit their GCSE maths and, worryingly, some 19 year olds are now on their sixth or seventh maths GCSE resit.

The maths skills crisis is harming people’s job prospects too. If you want a job – almost any job – you need some fluency in maths.

So, something needs to be done. The Capital City College Group runs three London colleges (City & Islington, CONEL and Westminster Kingsway) and, just before Christmas, we hosted a maths conference for just over 100 staff across our colleges. Our aims were to highlight the issue and help our staff to raise their game, by learning from each other and sharing the best of what they already do.

At the conference, which we believe was the first of its kind, staff heard from leading maths experts, like Julia Smith (a trainer and maths author for the AOC, the AQA and BBC Bitesize) and representatives from Pearson and MEI (the A Level and GCSE maths assessment body).

Our aims were to highlight the issue and help our staff to raise their game, by learning from each other and sharing the best of what they already do. This video explains more of the rationale behind the conference.

Delegates were exposed to a smorgasbord of ideas to help them enhance their practice and help students boost their skills, self-esteem, and their grades. They got advice and guidance on the new Functional Skills reforms and learned strategies to help students break out of their negative thinking around maths and gain the skills that they need. They also left armed with a toolkit of resources for teaching, learning and assessment. We also learned from delegates that they have a huge appetite for embracing technology into teaching maths.

We even learned this amazing method of multiplying the tricky numbers from 6 to 10! Try it with your students!

Feedback has been brilliant. Of those who responded to our post-conference survey, almost 98% said that they day had been both enjoyable and useful, while just 2.3% said that they did not feel more confident about applying the skills they had learned, in the classroom.

As one teacher who attended put it: “I really enjoyed the conference: it was very inspirational to speak with a wide range of teachers and staff across all our sites to discuss efficient methods for sustainable learning.”

We were delighted, but not entirely surprised, by the success of this event, and we are planning a similar conference later this year for our English provision.

By Julie Sinclair, Head of Development and Innovation Unit at Capital City College Group


Queen's Award for Enterprise