TIMETABLING

In November 2015, 182 centres who are currently delivering Core Maths, completed a short survey on how they have integrated this new course into their timetabling provision.  The centres who responded, fell into the following categories:

-          40 Further Education Colleges

-          117 Schools

-          21 Sixth Form Colleges

-          3 UTCs

The survey asked questions about the time allocated to and the arrangements for teaching Core Maths.  Further questions probed levels of student and teacher satisfaction with Core Maths provision and what would be needed for centres to be able to offer Core Maths ‘at scale’.  It is hoped that the findings of the survey will be helpful to other post-16 providers as they plan for introducing and upscaling Core Maths in their centres.

Timetabling Survey Results

Timetabling

An issue for all centres offering Core Maths is how best to incorporate it into the timetable. Should it be offered as an enrichment course? Core Maths could be added to the range of options already on offer – Extended Project Qualification, General Studies or Duke of Edinburgh Award. Or should it be offered within option blocks? Available for example in two out of five option blocks and matched against A Levels in one of the blocks.

Just over half of current providers who responded to the timetabling survey, timetable Core Maths within option blocks. A further quarter offer it as an enrichment course. Just over three quarters of centres are offering Core Maths on an optional basis, with the majority (two thirds) making it available to all students, rather than just a specifically targeted group. The remaining centres have made the course compulsory for clearly defined student groups.

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Further Education Colleges

The following case study vignettes are based on the responses to a survey on timetabling carried out in November 2015. The details of the timetabling arrangements of a small sample of FE Colleges are summarised below in order to illustrate the range of approaches taken to accommodate the delivery of Core Maths. While no overall pattern is evident it is clear that close monitoring of student attendance and achievement is important for their success on the course.

Walsall College situated in the Midlands, specialises in vocational course delivery. Here, Core Maths is timetabled as an enrichment activity taking up a maximum of two hours teaching time each week. It is currently optional, but only for students who are available at the times it is delivered. The College is exploring the possibility of Core Maths becoming an integral part of students’ programme for those not retaking GCSE. Initially BTEC Level 3 Business students were offered the course. This offer has been extended as of September 2015 to include BTEC Level 3 Science students. The college is planning to extend the offer of Core Maths to Engineering students who wish to continue with mathematics after GCSE.  This is part of a strategy to gradually increase and expand the number Core Maths students at the College.  As the College does not offer AS or A level mathematics, teachers note that students are likely to see Core Maths as a viable alternative. For now there is one teaching group in each year of the course.

Walsall College

At some centres, where Core Maths is also offered on a two-year basis, the course is compulsory. This is usually for a particular cohort of students.  At Accrington and Rossendale College in the North West of England, for example, it’s compulsory for BTEC students studying software development.  The College currently has six students on the course in both year 12 and year 13, all being taught by the one tutor for two hours a week each. This approach works well as it ensures that everyone on the course studies mathematics in some form. Numbers are lower than expected.

This is the result of students joining or progressing to the Level 3 course with a C grade in Maths, meaning they resit GCSE rather than take Core Maths. Students at the College report that studying Core Maths is benefiting their BTEC studies.

Staff in the mathematics department at the College have also worked to apply the problem solving approach and discussion sessions that characterise Core Maths to other mathematics courses on offer.  They have been adopted in Functional Skills and GCSE courses with the intention of improving results for students on these courses. In the summer term, the whole college participated in a Maths Challenge week where problems from Core Maths have been used on all courses to promote mathematics in the college.

Accrington and Rossendale College

At Cambridge Regional College, 3 hours per week are dedicated to Core Maths. This is delivered as one session on Monday which students come in especially for. At CRC, students have three full days of lessons for their main programme, making it a challenge to timetable any extra subjects on those days. FE Colleges are usually split up into a number of faculties which operate quite independently in terms of their timetabling arrangements. This can mean that timetabling Core Maths so that it is accessible to students across a number of faculties becomes quite challenging.  This is particularly the case, if like CRC, students from each faculty have their lessons on three specific days a week, with no two faculty typically having lessons on all the same days. For now while students attending Core Maths are from the one faculty, the College can simply deliver the course on one particular day that they know is free from lessons for these students.

The College currently has two groups of students in Year 2 taking the course (26 students) and one group (11 students) in Year one.  For the former, who are all BTEC level 3 Uniformed Public Services students, the course was made compulsory.  Eight of those students who started the course last September, left at the end of the year as they switched programmes. For those students beginning the course this year, most of whom are Media, Arts and Business students, the course was optional. Recently the College has introduced an initiative to track students' attendance, effort, behaviour and attitude on a lesson by lesson basis, in order to enhance engagement with the Core Maths course.

Cambridge College

Cornwall College for example, offers the course as a one-year option in year 12. The course is recommended for their engineering students and whole course groups taking Agricultural Engineering at Bicton College and Electrical Engineering at Camborne have taken Core Maths as a compulsory element of their course. The College began delvering Core Maths in September 2014. Student numbers have increased this year by 50%, from 30 to 45.  This has resulted in the College having three groups of students studying Core Maths this year.

Students are allocated three hours for Core Maths each week.  The two groups of Engineering students study Core Maths on a Thursday or Friday afternoon to fit in with their Engineering timetable at Camborne, while the Agriculture Engineering students have it on a Thursday afternoon. The course is timetabled within option blocks at the same time as GCSE resit classes.

Cornwall College

 

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Schools

The following case study vignettes are based on the responses to a survey on timetabling carried out in November 2015. An outline of how Core Maths has been integrated into the timetable of a small number of schools provides insight into the range of methods taken to accommodate the delivery of Core Maths. The amount of time allocated to the teaching of Core Maths is varied, as is the way it has been assimilated into the timetable. What is clear though is the view shared by many teachers that Core Maths has an important role to play in supporting students with the mathematical component of other subjects they are studying, such as Biology, Psychology and Business Studies.

At South Wilts Grammar School, Core Maths is offered as an enrichment course. In year 12, in addition to four AS levels, students have the option of taking General Studies, an EPQ or Core Maths. In the first year of delivery, 32 students, out of an eligible cohort of 80, have enrolled in the class.  The school has been very clear in promoting the benefits of Core Maths to students, particularly in relation to how it can support the other subjects they are studying.

The 32 students on the course have been split into two teaching groups, each receiving one and a half hours of Core Maths, equivalent to a double lesson, every week. All teaching is delivered by two specialist mathematics teachers. The school notes that the reason they can recruit such high numbers and provide specialist teachers is because they offer Core Maths ‘out of block’ i.e. not in any option block, as an alternative to General Studies or an EPQ. Although this has facilitated recruitment it means that the course has to be taught on a reduced timetable allocation.  Once the course has been established and is fully resourced, there are plans to extend provision by using teachers from other disciplines.

South Wiltshire Grammar School

In Woodkirk Academy in the North East of England, Core Maths has replaced the ‘Use of Maths’ course and is being promoted as a more appropriate course for some students than A/AS Level mathematics.  Delivered as a one-year course, Core Maths is available within one option block out of five. Students receive nine hours tuition per fortnight which is delivered as nine one-hour lessons. The course is optional for all eligible students, and has been oversubscribed to date, prompting the school to consider offering it in more option blocks in the future. There are currently 21 students taking the course which is approximately one fifth of all eligible students. They are taught in one group by an existing mathematics specialist. Students who start the course in year 12 are typically doing 3 ASs or a BTEC equivalent. 

Woodkirk Academy

At Northampton Academy, Core Maths is run as a two year course, and is timetabled slightly differently for Year 12 and Year 13 students. The course is though, optional for all students. The Academy has recently dropped from five option blocks down to four, so fitting Core Maths in has been particularly difficult. Year 13 students have two and a half hours of Core Maths a week, consisting of one double and one single lesson. For them, Core Maths is timetabled in one option block only.  In contrast, Year 12 students have a single lesson a week. Their lesson was originally timetabled in an option block, which led to just two students signing up for the class. Core Maths was then offered as an enrichment activity instead, resulting in the numbers increasing six-fold. Approximately 15% of the eligible Year 12 cohort are now studying Core Maths.

Northampton Academy

In Lincoln, at The Priory Academy LSST, Core Maths is being delivered as a one-year course. Delivery began in September 2015. There are currently two classes, with a total of 14 students.  Classes include a mix of both Year 12 and Year 13 students - this benefits both year groups as students share their experiences of the mathematics they encounter in their various subject disciplines.   Students in each class receive 4 hours of teaching time per week from specialist mathematics teachers. Promoting the benefits of Core Maths for the other subjects students are studying has been key to successful recruitment this year. Next year the plan is to recruit double the number of students to the course. The Academy is also looking to recruit some numerate teachers from other subjects to teach Core Maths.

Priory Academy

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Sixth Form Colleges

The following case study vignettes are based on the responses to a survey on timetabling carried out in November 2015. The summaries outline the approach taken to the timetabling of Core Maths by a small number of Sixth Form Colleges.  It is clear from the experiences of these colleges, that Core Maths has a role to play in supporting BTEC studies or A Levels delivered in a vocational setting. In order to address challenges with retention that SFCs, like other centres, often encounter, the following vignettes suggest that there is value in front loading delivery to give more time for A Level preparation in the second year. 

At Christ the King Sixth Form College, Core Maths has been made compulsory for all BTEC engineering students who are not studying A Level or AS Level mathematics.  The first cohort of students on the course, 30 in total, who are now in their second year, receive one and a half hours of teaching time a week. For the 75 students who have just started Core Maths, it has been possible to provide 3 hours a week.  Numbers taking Core Maths this year have more than doubled, and there are now four teachers delivering Core Maths, one of whom is a qualified science teacher.  This is in contrast to last year, when students were divided into two classes, and were taught by one teacher. While the College assumed that Core Maths would be a good fit for BTEC engineering students, students were initially less than enthusiastic about doing more mathematics. However they have responded very positively to Core Maths, welcoming the focus on new ideas rather than just ‘more algebra’. The teacher who was also teaching engineering mathematics to the same groups was especially encouraged by the participation and progress of the weaker mathematicians in the year.

Christ the King Sixth Form College

Richard Taunton Sixth Form College, located in the South East of England, is currently delivering Core Maths as a one-year course.  The students taking the course will have typically studied up to 4 AS levels in Year 12 before dropping to 3 A2 levels in Year 13. The course is currently offered within one option block to a group of specifically targeted Year 13 students who are studying Biology and/or Psychology and are intending to study Science or Social Science at university. Delivery began in September 2015 with approximately fifteen students on the course being taught for three hours a week (two ninety-minute lessons) as one group.  Initially the College intended to run one pilot class of about 20 Year 13 students who had at least a B in GCSE Mathematics and studied Biology and/or Psychology. Approximately 50 students met these criteria. They were interviewed during the Summer Term following their AS exams and a group of 20 students was identified for enrollment on the course. Once they received their AS results the group was finalised. Unfortunately a number of students chose not to take up the offer of Core Maths in September, either because they no longer planned to study a relevant A2 courses or due to timetable clashes.

Richard Taunton

Bolton Sixth Form College in the North West of England, typically offers Core Maths as a two-year course.  This year however, some Year 13 students have joined the course, and will take it as a one-year option.  The course is compulsory for Science and Computing students who are not doing AS or A level mathematics, although the plan is to roll it out to all AS students in the future. There are a total of 72 students taking Core Maths at the College currently, 45 of them in Year 12.  The latter receive one and a half hours of teaching time each week – the equivalent of two lessons a week - while Year 13 students receive double that amount. Feedback from students on the course continues to be very positive and they note it is supporting their other courses which have a mathematical element.

The number of teaching groups has expanded this year (5 groups in the Year 12 and 2 in the Year 13)with the College taking on one new Core Maths teacher –a replacement for another teacher. This maintains the total number of teachers teaching Core Maths at three. The Core Maths teachers work closely together to develop lessons, create content and review delivery. While the College does not currently have plans to deliver at scale, it would not be a problem for it to do so if Core Maths were to be made compulsory for all students not taking AS or A level mathematics.

Bolton SFC

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Recommendations

Centres who are currently delivering Core Maths made a number of recommendations, generally in relation to timetabling and delivery, which may be of interest to centres new to the course.  Primarily they advise that careful consideration is given to timetabling well in advance of the start of the academic year.  While a centre could wait to see the level of student interest or demand before timetabling in more than one Core Maths slot, some centres suggest that it’s easier to remove additional slots from the timetable at a later date, rather than try and squeeze them in after the start of term.  Others note simply that flexibility in the approach to timetabling is required. As one centre put it ‘Be flexible - the slot can be moved, dependent on when the student who wants to do Core Maths can do it’.

Forward planning can of course offset some of the challenges around timetabling. In particular thinking through which groups of students might benefit most from Core Maths and making a decision about whether it should be optional or compulsory for them.  One centre recommends:

‘If offering the course as an option bear in mind which programme areas you expect/desire most students (to come from)’.

A consistent suggestion is that Core Maths is put in an option block either as an A Level/Against A Level Maths or at least in a way that makes it accessible for certain/all eligible students. Some centres have found this advantageous as students for whom AS Maths is proving too challenging may cope better with the different challenges and approaches in Core Maths.

For some centres this has meant timetabling Core Maths as an enrichment activity or placing it alongside the GCSE mathematics resit course.

Timetabling is also an important issue if a centre is considering delivering at scale. Almost 10% of centres would need changes to be made to the timetable to accommodate delivering at scale, including timetabling Core Maths in option blocks and introducing it into the timetable early on. 

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