“The best day in an FE maths teacher’s career…”

by Elizabeth Hopker, Newham College Centre for Excellence in Maths Centre Lead

As a maths teacher in Further Education, working with GCSE resit or Functional Skills maths learners, there are often times when you are faced with an uphill battle with motivating and engaging our learners, particularly since COVID-19 hit. However, standing in the lecture theatre at UEL’s University Square Stratford Campus on 23rd March 2022, I had the honour of witnessing cheers of delight, shouts of support and a love of maths from 16–19-year-old learners from colleges across London. The atmosphere during the London CfEM Hub MEI FE Maths Challenge Cross-College Final was like that of the Olympics, with members of staff from UEL, MEI, the ETF and colleges across London in awe at the commitment and enthusiasm shown by around 100 learners from across London.

This atmosphere was not just cultivated in one day, but from careful planning since July 2021 from the MEI, CfEM Centre Leads and maths teachers and leads at colleges within the London CfEM networks across London.

The learners in attendance had competed in class rounds, their own college finals and had made it as the top 100 out of 7000 competing in 3 categories according to their maths level. Those with a GCSE grade 1 or studying Functional Skills Entry Level Maths competed as the Funkies, those with a GCSE grade 2 or studying FS Maths Level 1 competed as the Ein2steins and those with a GCSE grade 3 and studying GCSE maths resit competed in the Go Forth category.

Throughout the afternoon, learners supported their teammates, but also had the chance to meet learners from other colleges and the student ambassadors from UEL. From the perspective of a teacher and CfEM Centre Lead, I saw learners who were passionate about maths from a variety of backgrounds. All of these learners have struggled at some point in their maths journey, yet all of these learners were showing strength, motivation, and resilience in their mathematical knowledge.

Whilst special congratulations need to go out to the winning teams from New City College for Funkies and Ein2steins, and Southwark College for the Go Forth category, every single one of those learners should be proud of their achievement in making it to the cross-college final, and for being excellent representatives of their college.

So, whilst this was one of the best days in my career so far, I can confidently say that for the learners, this will be an extremely positive maths experience that they will carry with them throughout their academic journeys and beyond.

Thank you to Martin and the team at MEI for organising the FE Maths Challenge nationally, Byron Sheffield (LSC) and Elaine Gates (ESC) – Centre Leads from Leyton Sixth Form CfEM and Christ the King CfEM respectively – for being co-Centre Leads for this challenge, Andrea McMahon and all the staff at UEL for providing a venue, hospitality and amazing levels of support for the final, and all the Challenge College Leads, the staff and administrators at each college who organised their college rounds and finals. Thank you to the ETF and the Centres for Excellence in Maths programme, which enabled us to carry out the challenge. Most of all, thank you to the 7233 learners who participated in the FE Maths challenge across London, without whom none of this would have been possible.

Colleges involved in the Cross-London FE Maths Challenge Final: BSix Sixth Form College, Croydon College, East Surrey College, Leyton Sixth Form College, Merton & Carshalton College, New City College Group, Newham College, South Thames College, Southwark College.

Find further information about the challenge, and details on how to get involved.

Centres for Excellence in Maths (CfEM) is a five-year national improvement programme aimed at delivering sustained improvements in maths outcomes for 16-19-year-olds, up to Level 2, in post-16 settings. Funded by the Department for Education and delivered by the Education and Training Foundation, the programme is exploring what works for teachers and students, embedding related CPD and good practice, and building networks of maths professionals in colleges.

Share this article: