“Eye-opening” Apprenticeships Business Breakfast at The Leigh UTC

IMG_0316 (1)On Wednesday 23rd March 2016, The Leigh UTC was delighted to host another of its regular business breakfasts. This time, the emphasis was on developments at the UTC and forthcoming apprenticeships. A large delegation of business representatives enjoyed a quality networking event along with a raft of information from Principal, Mr Leahey and via presentations from students.

Thank you to SEMTA for their willingness to support the UTC and our business partners with apprenticeships

Comments were as follows:

HVMS: “Hardy Giesler, our CEO and Jenna Wells from the HR team spent the morning at The Leigh UTC discussing Apprenticeships and how we can work together to get more young people into STEM Careers. It was brilliant to hear the UTC’s exciting plans for the future and how we can work together to keep building the excellent foundations the College has laid so far.”IMG_0320 (2)
Clive Hawkins, Director of Highbank Communications: “Visited Leigh UTC for their Apprenticeships Business Breakfast Event this morning – great training in place!”

Terri McDonald, Kent Training & Apprenticeships: “What a fantastic “eye-opening” event. The students presentations were amazing and I am blown away by the fantastic opportunities available here at the Leigh UTC.”

The next Leigh UTC business breakfast is on Wednesday 4th May.

Core maths at The Leigh UTC

Director of Learning of Mathematics, Harroop Sandhu, writes about the new level 3 maths qualification, Core Maths. This article first appeared in the SSAT termly Journal, December 2015, and details the ethos behind the new qualification, as well as experiences of offering Core Maths to Leigh UTC students.  The full article can be downloaded here.

‘Everyone needs to be confident and comfortable using numbers. At present not enough young people leave school or college with the numeracy and maths skills they need for both work and life. England has been falling behind other countries’ maths performance, with only a fifth of pupils in England continuing to study maths at any level after achieving a GCSE – the lowest of 24 developed countries. The UK must do better and provide opportunity for future generations to compete in a global market for highly skilled careers’ (Maths for All, ACME).

Research suggests that employers are particularly concerned about their employees’ ability to spot errors, analyse statistics and even make basic multiplication and arithmetic calculations. What employers need is for their workforce to have the ability to think mathematically and to confidently apply mathematical techniques in a variety of unfamiliar situations.

In addition, one of the reasons why students leave higher education without completing their qualification, or fail, is that they are not well prepared in key skills before they start. HEIs therefore have to identify knowledge and skills gaps, and support students with, for example, remedial courses in mathematics in the first year.

So what is the solution?

It is true to say that not all students are suited to studying A-level maths. In response to this, DFE has launched the core maths qualification with an ambition to fill the needs of both higher education and the workplace. It’s a two year course leading to a level 3 qualification, similar to an AS. It caters for the full range of post-16 students.

Designed to teach pupils how to use and apply maths in real situations, is targeted at students who have gained at least a C grade in maths. The main objectives are:

  • Deepen competence in the selection and use of mathematical methods and techniques.
  • Develop confidence in representing and analysing authentic situations mathematically and in applying mathematics to address related questions and issues.
  • Build skills in mathematical thinking, reasoning and communication. (Core maths qualifications: technical guidance, DFE)

Five exam boards are offering qualifications that meet these criteria:

  • each has a terminal assessment, and one board contains a coursework element
  • 180 guided learning hours are recommended
  • up to 80% of the content is higher level than the 2015 GCSE
  • at least 20% is level 3 content.

Our approach

At Leigh UTC, with our engineering and computer science specialisms and working closely with business partners we are only too aware of the impact on employers of a shortage of potential employees who are confident in applying and communicating maths. This is particularly acute among those in the STEM field. So all our students in year 12 and 13 are required to study maths at level 3. It quickly becomes obvious to students that it is imperative that they study maths at level 3 in order to excel in their specialisms.

In addition to this, students can then use core maths as the maths component of the Tech Bacc This is aimed at ambitious, talented students that want to pursue a technical career, and gives them the opportunity to be stretched through high quality, rigorous qualifications. So it provides a first-class alternative to the more traditional A-level route, ensuring candidates have the technical ability employers want.

Is maths really for all?

We are all only too familiar with the sigh of relief from a proportion of our students when they have finally gained a C grade in GCSE maths, relieved that they now no longer need to worry about continuing with the subject. We have to overcome this. But just as we need to shift students’ mindsets to continue to study maths, we also need to ensure that we as teachers have high aspirations for our students. The task is not impossible, though course content and how it is delivered are critical to success:

  • It is a false assumption that pupils who struggle with traditional maths will find problem solving even harder
  • Even able students struggle to apply their maths in unfamiliar contexts
  • Low-level thinking includes memorisation and carrying out procedures without making connections, which is the way more traditional GCSE maths lesson tend to be delivered.

The main emphasis of core maths is to use maths as a tool to analyse problems and justify decision making. Students are exposed to data and statistics every day – but how often do they (or we) question the validity and assumptions?

The qualifications cover areas such as statistics, financial maths and modelling – for example: learning how to build a financial model to understand an investment; analysing trends in population growth; or calculating ways to improve a process.

Rather than the real life context being the extension, it is at the heart of the learning.

An ‘early developer’

As an early developer Leigh UTC is one of the few centres in the local area delivering the core maths qualification. The whole department teaches core maths as we have some 40 students taking the exam. We have also begun to share expertise with other centres that are either considering delivering it or have started to teach it this year.

The staff delivering core maths are rejuvenated by the fresh approach to the subjects, which has had a positive effect on their teaching in other courses.

This year all year 12s and 13s have enrolled in core maths, and will complete the course in either one or two years. We have allocated five hours a week to the course, though a proportion of this time will be used in completing set work linking to the maths within the specialisms.

The engagement levels have been very high because the maths is strongly linking to the students’ main specialisms and ‘real life’ maths. Recent lessons themed on income tax, the Rugby World Cup and looking at the validity of statistics in the media have all promoted high levels of discussion.

The course has given students confidence and mathematical reasoning enables them to put forward strong arguments within topics that they feel passionate about. We have even had students completing A-level maths intrigued by what fellow students are learning in core maths.

Resources and assessment

We have found the online resources provided by the exam boards and the core maths support website to be well written, and they often provide solutions and teaching strategies. When exploring particular topics, students have been fascinated by the efficiency of transferring their knowledge to spreadsheets.

Because of the number of students taking the course and teachers teaching it, we have also found Google Drive an effective platform to share resources.

As this is a new qualification, assessment materials are limited to specimen papers and there are no published grade boundaries to measure your students against. However, I recommend becoming part of a core maths network, based on your geographical region, to share resources and assessment materials.

Some tips

Make students aware very early on of the relevant mathematical links to the other courses that students are taking.

Do not make it optional for students. Make it compulsory for particular groups of students otherwise retention will be low.

Make all stakeholders aware of the benefits of a level 3 maths course, no matter which career pathway they are taking.

Allocate enough time in the timetable to allow the course to work effectively.

Try and get students that study core maths to share their experiences with others.

Do not teach it like a traditional maths lesson, as students will disengage.

Incorporate ICT as much as possible.

Communicate with other centres about assessments and resources.

When choosing a board, look at the maths content that is already in the other subjects your students are taking, to ensure maximum overlap.

Start teaching core maths with a topic that is not traditionally on the GCSE specification.

If you are struggling to recruit enough maths teachers, it may be useful to know that some centres have successfully utilised teachers from other disciplines, such as science or psychology, to deliver core maths.

Proposed expansion of The Leigh UTC

With the full support of Kent County Council (KCC) and the Department for Education (DfE), Leigh Academies Trust (LAT) is now consulting on a proposal to expand The Leigh UTC. All LAT academies in North West Kent are heavily over-subscribed and have been for many years. It is quite clear that far more parents and children wish to access a ‘Leigh-style’ education than we have places for each year.

The Leigh UTC, specialising in engineering and computer science, currently admits students in Year 10 and Year 12. However, following its early success, the Trust is proposing to extend the age range of The UTC to admit students from Year 7 onwards. Under plans being developed with KCC and the DfE, vacant land directly opposite the current building will be used to construct a brand new age 11-14 facility called ‘The Inspiration Centre’ @ The Leigh UTC. It will contain its own classrooms to deliver a broad and balanced curriculum as well as a state-of-the-art sports hall. The new Inspiration Centre will house students in Years 7, 8 and 9, admitting 120 students annually from September 2017. Meanwhile, the Trust is also working with Dartford Borough Council to provide an outdoor sports complex for all students on fields next door to The Leigh UTC.

Embracing the Trust’s small school approach to education, students from Year 10 onwards will continue to be housed in the existing building. In future, students belonging to Years 7-9 will occupy the proposed new building creating a second college on the same campus. At Key Stage 3, students will enjoy the full range of subject teaching before embracing The Leigh UTC’s specialist ethos with an increased focus on engineering and computer science from Year 10 onwards. The Leigh UTC will continue to recruit directly to Year 10 until all Key Stage 3 places are full. From this point, a further 30 places will be made available in Year 10 each year on top of the 120 admitted to Year 7, taking the size of each year group from age 14 upwards to 150.

In a joint statement Principal, Steve Leahey, and Managing Director of Kenard Engineering and Chair of Governors, Keith Ellis, said:

“Plans to expand The Leigh UTC are tremendously exciting. They represent a serious vote of confidence by KCC and DfE in the early success of The UTC. They will also ensure that even more students have access to our successful model of education which is allowing students to gain places at selective universities and advanced apprenticeships in areas that our nation’s economy so badly needs. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all our committed business and university sponsors for their ongoing strong support and encouragement.”

MP for Dartford, Gareth Johnson, added:

“Leigh Academies Trust offers excellent educational opportunities for local children so I am really pleased we should now see The Leigh UTC expand. We have recognised for some time that expanding The Leigh UTC would be the right thing to do. Dartford needs more school places and this proposal will help provide this and ensure more local children can take advantage of the fantastic opportunities The UTC provides.”

Added to plans to extend the Published Admission Number at Wilmington Academy to 240 in September 2016 and the Trust’s commitment to opening the brand new Cherry Orchard Primary Academy in the Ebbsfleet Valley in September 2017, it is quite clear that LAT is leading the way to provide an increased number of high quality school places across North West Kent over the next eighteen months.

Simon Beamish

Chief Executive

March 2016

Student council events coming soon!

The Leigh UTC Student council had a very productive meeting with Hannah Patton from Kent County Council,Youth Council team on Thursday. Students were busy planning and suggesting future UTC events and developments . Watch this space!!!

Leigh UTC praised by Minister for Skills

The Leigh UTC was discussed, and praised by Nick Boles, Minister of State for Business, Innovation and Skills yesterday during a debate in the House of Commons. 

Gareth Johnson (Dartford) (Con): What progress the Government are making on supporting the establishment of university technical colleges.

The Minister for Skills (Nick Boles): With 59 university technical colleges open or in development, we are well on the way to meeting our manifesto commitment of opening a UTC within reach of every city.

Gareth Johnson: Will the Minister join me in welcoming the excellent work being carried out by the Leigh UTC in my constituency? UTCs play an increasingly vital role in ensuring that we have the engineering and scientific skills that are needed in the workplace. Will he do all that he can to ensure that the Leigh UTC is allowed to flourish?

Nick Boles: Yes, and I thank my hon. Friend for all the work that he is doing with the Leigh UTC. It is a particularly good example, not least because it is part of a very successful multi-academy trust, and that is a situation that we want replicated across the university technical college movement, because UTCs are stronger inside multi-academy trusts.

The closing gap between engineering and academia

By Clive Hawkins, Director of Highbank Communications and Partner at Etoile Partners

 What is an engineer? A simple question but often answered in a myriad of ways, that shows the term ‘engineer’ means different things to different people. 

Over the years governments, institutions and companies have sought to show-case engineering, to promote its attractiveness as a career and halt the student intake decline in science and engineering subjects. 
While I am not an engineer, my father was and, having worked with engineers all my working life, I have seen at first-hand their expertise in problem-solving and ability to manage and deliver major infrastructure projects. I also spent many years promoting National Grid’s support of public engineering campaigns such as YES (Year of Engineering Success), CPE (Campaign to Promote Engineering) as well as numerous company-specific initiatives.
Despite the enthusiasm and best endeavours from everyone involved, the change in public awareness and understanding around engineering has been slow. However, I believe we are now starting to see a change and a recent business visit to Leigh UTC in Dartford, Kent http://theleighutc.org.uk has strengthened my optimism that real progress is now being made. 
For those of you whom may be unaware of what a UTC is, University Technical Colleges are government-funded schools and a relatively new concept. They teach 14-18 year old students technical and scientific subjects in a new way, structured to reflect a real-life working environment. The length of the school-day is extended to that found in working life. Students wear suits and smart clothes instead of school uniforms and operate within a strong team-working environment. They have access to modern technology and equipment, enabling them to undertake technical, practical and academic learning and partner with local employers and universities to apply theory with real-life engineering challenges — from conception to design to production. They continue to study maths and english alongside engineering qualifications, thereby helping them understand the inter-relationship between these core subjects http://www.utcolleges.org/about/overview/.

This approach enables students to achieve academic qualifications and develop an in-depth understanding of the needs and expectations of employers. At the Leigh UTC business meeting, case study presentations were given by several students and you could see their confidence, self-belief and pride shining through. This approach undoubtedly makes students more marketable to universities and potential employers and provides the perfect bridge between a school environment and the workplace.  

For companies wanting to develop links with educational establishments and looking at apprentice or trainee intakes, a UTC has a wealth of talent. For parents helping their children decide on a career choice — and have seen their off-spring show great enthusiasm in early years for taking toys apart to learn how they work and then put them back together and make them operate better — a UTC is the perfect educational establishment!
As a society, we need engineers to enrich our lives by developing and enhancing the goods, services and infrastructure we often take for granted. As a country, we need to develop engineers of tomorrow, to maintain our prosperity in a highly competitive global market. UTC’s are stimulating the inventors, engineers, scientists and technicians of tomorrow and closing the gap between engineering and academia. 
I encourage you to visit a UTC and see the progress being made for yourself.

UTC Master Classes- Preparing for Exam Success

We have launched our Year 11 Master classes to master exam strategy and technique, and boost exam performance. Expert teachers and Directors of Learning lead the sessions, for the whole cohort sitting the exam, giving them practical advice to gain more marks. Students then directly apply this knowledge on selected exam questions, and are given support from key members of staff. This is conducted in the exam hall so that students build their confidence and also help reduce exam stress.

Students completed their first master class in maths yesterday and found it extremely beneficial:

“I didn’t know how to do that type of question before and now I’ve got a strategy”

“It helped to provide a clear mental focus”

Year 10 Maths Students enter Maths Feast at Cobham Hall

The Maths Feast is an exciting competition for students in Year 10 testing mathematical, communication and teamwork skills. We were delighted to be able to take two teams; a team of boys and a team of girls, to participate in the competition, organised by the Further Mathematics Support Programme. The students, from the Alpha group, took part in a series of mathematical challenges against other schools in the region, largely Grammar schools.

Both teams found the tasks challenging and were very engaged in the rounds. They enjoyed the competition and are very interested in attending further events.

It gave our students a chance to travel together to new areas as well as meet new people that all have a passion for maths and solving problems.

All of our students left with a certificate which we will be delighted to hand to them in our awards assembly.