This section explores an organisation's vision and values in relation to GCSE English and mathematics. The national agenda for English and mathematics in the education and training sector is clear, compelling and challenging. It is also broadly apolitical, although party-political nuances are always likely. The message you communicate to staff and learners has to embody strong aspirational values; not simply that 'we have to do this, because it is government policy'.
"Work out what the buy in or motivating factor is. This must be central to any success… (we) need students' buy in for employability, skills requirement and for university." (Senior leader participating in consultation events)
Senior leadership teams implementing an effective strategic plan for GCSE English and maths, in quick-time, will have to articulate a vision that is unequivocal in managing the expectations of both learners and staff. This will likely involve a radical, and possibly courageous, first step of repositioning English and maths at the heart of the curriculum.
A national survey survey carried out by CUREE and emCETT in 2014, on behalf of the Education and Training Foundation, highlighted some unresolved issues for the sector to explore through debate (p36), which included:
- how better to align senior leadership team members', middle leaders' and teachers' efforts to address the challenges represented by ensuring all students succeed at Level 2 in English and maths and the role of performance management, CPD and MIS in making such connections.
- creating positive expectations and mind-sets regarding English and maths for staff, learners and employers.
We know that English and (particularly) mathematics attracts more emotional barriers than perhaps any other mainstream subjects, and that aligning staff at all levels and creating positive mindsets for both learners and staff will require a clear and compelling vision.
"Traditionally, the maths and English message has not been very well sold in FE because vocational staff trying to recruit are afraid of putting potential student off by ‘threatening' them with maths and English." (Senior leader participating in consultation events)
A NIACE report for the Foundation called 'Engaging Learners in GCSE Maths and English' (Feb 2015) reported that, for learners to engage with English and maths, it is essential that:
"Learning is fun, interactive and practical where there is a strong understanding of the purpose and importance of qualifications, in particular when relating them to real-life situations"
A clear vision for English and maths (GCSE), embodying highly-aspirational values, will be a necessary condition to creating the positive mindsets essential in managing the required changes. It will be useful for leadership teams to consider how they will cascade values - via staff - to learners that are positive, aspirational, but defensibly valid.
Here are some questions for consideration, and a document outlining evidence-based approaches to creating 'vision' for the purpose of driving and managing change.
Download a PDF version of these questions here.