Intuition- Summer supplement 2021

Page 1

MATHS, ENGLISH AND ESOL An inTuition supplement outlining the vital role maths, English and ESOL play in our society and economy

In partnership with

Summer 2021

FACING THE FUTURE How maths, English and ESOL teaching is shaping the skills needed for a post-Covid world

01 Cover_Intuition June 2021 Supplement_Intuition.indd 1

24/05/2021 16:37




C O V E R P H O T O G R A P H Y: I S T O C K

Secret ingredients





Why maths, English and ESOL are crucial to lasting learning

4 REMOTE REFLECTIONS Success through professional collaboration was the biggest lesson to come out of the࣢pandemic


Using comedy to lighten up maths teaching – and raise grades

12 GCSE ENGLISH The pedagogical theory underpinning English assessment


CASE STUDY How did Newham College deliver maths and English during࣢lockdown?

Taking stock after lockdown, foreseeing bumps in the road and reconnecting with the ESOL community





Mastering maths with new techniques

Making the most of all languages in the ESOL࣢classroom

Maths, English and ESOL are vital components of almost everything we do, and will help to shape our society. Those delivering teaching in the FE sector are playing their part aths and English skills are the bedrock of almost any career and will play a hugely important role in shaping our societal and economic recovery over the next few years, including through apprenticeships, adult education and teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). The government’s qualifications review is a recognition of this, and you can read the latest about this on page 7, in our exclusive contribution from Tessa Mackenzie, policy lead at the Department for Education. ESOL can have a transformative effect on society – on page 14 Jennie Turner, group curriculum director at New City College, offers her reflections on the challenges of the last 18 months, with Brexit having had a major impact. And on page 15, Becky Winstanley, ESOL teacher and teacher trainer at English for Action, outlines a vision for the sector which she believes will allow ESOL to play its part in helping to create a fairer and more equal society.


EDITOR: Nick Martindale

DIRECTOR: Martin Reid

LEAD DESIGNER: David Twardawa


InTuition is published on behalf of the Society for Education and Training

SUB EDITOR: James Hundleby PICTURE RESEARCHER: Claire Echavarry


Redactive Publishing Ltd +44 (0)20 7880 6200

PRODUCTION: Jane Easterman +44 (0)20 7880 6248


PRINTED BY Precision Colour Printing, Telford


There’s no getting away from the fact that the last year has been dominated by Covid-19, and this supplement also takes a look at how the sector has responded. When the pandemic struck, Bob Read of the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) set out to chart the experiences of maths and English practitioners, and pulls together his findings on pages 4 and 5. This summer will, of course, see a second year of teacher assessed grades as a result of Covid-19 disruption. Dr Michael Smith, head of teaching and learning innovation at Barking & Dagenham College, outlines some of the enduring work and wider thinking in English assessment, which can help shape this, and give cause for reasonable confidence. It’s another example of how the sector has responded with courage in the face of adversity, which can give us all hope for the future.

MARK WRIGHT is director of development and evidence at the Education and Training Foundation

In partnership with

157-197 Buckingham Palace Road London, SW1W 9SP membership.enquiries@

While every care has been taken in the compilation of this magazine, errors or omissions are not the responsibility of the publishers. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the publishers or editorial staff. All rights reserved. Unless specifically stated, goods or services mentioned are not formally endorsed by the Society for Education and Training, which does not guarantee or endorse or accept any liability for any goods and/or services featured in this publication. ISSN: 2050-8980


02 Contents_Intuition June 2021 Supplement_Intuition.indd 2

24/05/2021 16:39



Making an impact Maths and English remain a hugely important part of the wider educational mix. New material from the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) will ensure teachers can rise to the challenge



SAYS JULIE BAXTER, national head

SAYS PHILIDA SCHELLEKENS, national head of English and ESOL at the ETF

of maths at the ETF

Joining the ETF as national head of maths in the middle of a global pandemic has meant that maths has always been in the spotlight – the graphs, the data, the R rate, the furlough scheme, unemployment figures, Centre Assessment Grades and Teacher Assessment Grades, the exams algorithm – it cannot have gone unnoticed. Maths is everywhere! Whether you like it or know it, or not, many activities are not possible without the application of maths. For example: daily routines such as preparing and cooking food; the journey to work, school or to the living room table; scheduling Teams meetings; topping up a travel card; getting petrol; or calculating discounts and comparing prices when shopping. Not to mention in home schooling! You got it: we all need maths. As stated in the FE White Paper in January 2021: ‘’Most occupations require competence in English, maths and digital skills. However, 49 per cent of adults have numeracy skills no better than the level expected of an 11-year-old.’’ Many 16- to 19-year-olds leave school without a Level 2 qualification in maths. Despite the huge growth in numbers of learners enrolled onto maths programmes and continued commitment from government and the sector, six years into the ‘resit’ policy, GCSE outcomes remain low. In 2019, for instance, only 17࣢per cent of GCSE maths FE resit students achieved high grades.

Julie is absolutely right that maths is everywhere in our daily life and that the pandemic has re-emphasised the importance of data. Equally, I would argue that the English language is core to our ability to function, learn new things but also to have fun. I love how inventive people are and how they enjoy playing with the English language. The sense of humour and camaraderie that it brings are pretty special, it seems to me.

Without strong English language skills, learners are likely to struggle to understand vocational subject content, progress to the level of qualification of which they are capable, and do well in a job interview. While FE resit students achieve at slightly higher English levels than for maths, there is still room for improvement. At the ETF we are happy to work alongside teachers in the sector to create better learning opportunities for our students.

WHAT IS THE ETF DOING ABOUT IT? It is a testament to the sector that maths, English and ESOL teachers up and down the country eagerly attended CPD and adapted to the pandemic by trialling new and exciting online tools and techniques to improve the skills and attainment of all learners. Here at the ETF, we are passionate about improving outcomes for all learners, and we are very excited to be part of the team developing high-quality, specialist CPD and resources for the sector. We are about to launch our new CPD offer, with a strong focus on supporting the sector with both subject specialist skills and new pedagogies. Look out for new faceto-face and online courses, and resources to support maths, English, ESOL and vocational teachers.

The team is also working on new materials to support T Level teachers with the new maths and English competencies. Alongside this, our Centre for Excellence in Maths programme allows maths practitioners and organisations to get involved with Action Research, CPD on mastery, and joining networks and communities of࣢practice. And, on ESOL, 110 providers contributed to research on the number of ESOL learners on functional skills provision and their needs. On the back of this, we are designing CPD training for functional skills English teachers. It is a great time to be involved in FE, maths, English and ESOL! Keep up to date on the latest maths and English CPD offer at mathsandenglish


03 Baxter Intro_Intuition June 2021 Supplement_Intuition.indd 3

24/05/2021 16:40



om Lessons from

lockdown Co Covid-19 saw the FE system plunged into the biggest remote learning experiment in history. As measures eased in March 2021, Bob Read set out to chart the experiences of maths and English teachers

uring the autumn term I interviewed five maths and English teachers in FE colleges and adult community learning providers about their experiences of teaching through lockdown, and used the interviews as the basis of a series of posts on the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) blog. As lockdown restrictions began to ease in March 2021 and teachers returned to the classroom, I asked them for further reflections on their experiences, particularly on their use of digital technology. They all said they were looking forward to going back to the classroom. They had missed the social dimension of teaching, and the chat and banter with learners. They missed the faster pace of classroom interactions and the feedback from body language and quickfire questioning. And they had missed the natural opportunities in face-to-face teaching to laugh, smile and give encouragement, which are vital in breaking the cycle of failure that invariably characterised their learners’ experience of maths and English at school.


At the same time, all felt they had a more nuanced appreciation of the benefits and the limitations of digital technology, and were exploring forms of digital teaching, assessment and feedback they could take into the classroom. For example, several found it useful to complement their use of commercial online resources with selfmarking quizzes using Google Forms or Microsoft (MS) Forms. This type of assessment resource has become popular with teachers across the sector who value the instant feedback for learners and the data on performance they can then use to plan future sessions. In her book, Teachers vs Tech,1 Daisy Christodoulou highlights the benefit of


such resources in developing fluency in underpinning skills through spaced practice, suggesting “digital quizzes make it easier to space out repetition of new content in the most effective way”. Some providers used Google or MS Forms not only as a format for self-quizzing, but also for milestone assessments and mock GCSE tests; others are exploring their use in creating initial assessments which contain a simple ‘adaptive’ element that directs learners to different levels of task as they progress through the resource.

Remote benefits While most of the teachers felt synchronous online sessions tended to be slower and less spontaneous than face-toface teaching, others reported that some learners seemed to prefer the quieter, more anonymous learning environment of an online lesson. The advantages of a quieter learning experience have been welcomed by many, particularly those students with a more introverted temperament whose learning is impaired if a classroom is noisy and dominated by more vocal and extrovert students.2 It is interesting then that, by working online with learners, teachers have


04-05 Lockdown Lessons_Intuition June 2021 Supplement_Intuition.indd 4

24/05/2021 16:40


discovered they can democratise the process of obtaining feedback from learners by making good use of chat boxes, or de 6 tails student response systems like Mentimeter, or online sticky boards like Padlet.3 If teachers reported they had missed the face-to-face contact with learners in the classroom, some also felt, rather paradoxically, that the process of working with learners on MS Teams or Google Classroom had improved the ease and frequency of teacher/student communication, to the point that they were receiving work from learners at all times of the day (and night!). Department for Education research into strategies to boost retention on maths and English programmes has in fact highlighted the importance of improving contact with learners and their families via texting and emails, and has suggested it can play a key role in motivating learners and improving attendance.4 However, there is clearly a tension here between the need to limit teacher workload and the benefits of providing easy access to personalised support online. In conclusion, all five teachers were impressed by the creativity, resilience and mutual support shown by their colleagues as they worked first to quickly develop, and then continually improve, a workable delivery model for remote learning, using unfamiliar online platforms and digital tools. During a difficult and stressful time, it was an astonishing team effort that brought colleagues together and demonstrated how much can be achieved through professional collaboration – which is, perhaps, the most lasting lesson from lockdown.


Level 2 and below study

3 Ofsted. (2021) What’s working well in remote education. Available at: CV_remote_education

he Department for Education recently carried out a call for evidence on Level 2 and below study, including maths, English and ESOL qualifications. This was part of the broader review of post-16 qualifications at Level 3 and below, which aims to ensure that every qualification approved for public funding is necessary and has a distinct purpose, is high quality, and supports progression to positive outcomes. To do this we want to: provide clarity about the purpose of Level 2 and below classroom-based study, what it offers learners, and where it leads them strengthen the pathways to Level 3: apprenticeships, traineeships, supported internships and, for some, directly into employment improve progression to Level 3 for 16- to 19-year-olds and adults give greater focus to the needs of employers by looking to align classroom-based Level 2 study to employer-led standards deliver improvements to maths, English and digital skills qualifications so they are straightforward, engaging, valuable and take into account the different needs of post-16 students create a system that delivers for all, including those with SEND, from disadvantaged backgrounds, and those who have poor past experiences in education. The qualifications review will play an important role in delivering FE reform aims, including the White Paper commitments to introduce a national system of employerled standards by 2030, and to improve progression routes so more students can attain higher-level technical skills. The review focuses on those maths and English qualifications that sit alongside functional skills and GCSEs. We want to ensure that the small number of learners not able to take maths and English functional skills qualifications/GCSEs have a solid offer of qualifications that meet their needs, and that allow good outcomes. For ESOL, all ESOL skills for life qualifications up to Level 2 were in scope and we want to ensure that these qualifications are of high quality and allow learners to effectively progress. We are considering responses to the call for evidence and these will inform further proposals that we will set out later this year. We will consult on proposals where these relate to withdrawal of public funding for certain qualifications.

4 The Behavioural Insights Team. (2018) Retention and success in maths and English. Available at:

TESSA MACKENZIE is policy lead, further education – ESOL, maths and English – at the Department for Education

BOB READ is the ETF’s regional specialist lead for maths and English, Eastern region

References and further information 1 Christodoulou D. (2020) Teachers vs Tech. Oxford: OUP. 2 Cain S. (2013) Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. London: Penguin.



04-05 Lockdown Lessons_Intuition June 2021 Supplement_Intuition.indd 5

24/05/2021 16:41



Overcoming adversity Like all FE providers, Newham College in London found itself in unchartered territory when delivering maths and English teaching during the pandemic. Here, Zia Rahman and Ronald Anderson explain how the functions rose to the challenge ZIA RAHMAN is head of maths and project lead for the Centre for Excellence in Maths (CfEM) at Newham College The end of a lockdown, a global situation that has impacted on everyone in ways we were not able to comprehend; I felt an overwhelming need to ensure my friends and family, my team and my learners were safe. I did not feel there was enough recovery time before I was back at work dealing with appeals, enrolment and the fallout of what had gone before. We had great GCSE results but a functional skills (FS) disaster… we couldn’t run FS exams, but we were being held to the same metrics, so there was a sense of unfairness. At the start of the academic year there were a number of concerns: Were all the staff fit, happy and healthy to return?

06-07 Managing Pandemic_Intuition June 2021 Supplement_Intuition.indd 6

Could I truly trust the awarded results? ‘Grade inflation’ is a phrase that is here to stay. Disrupted learning meant that we had no idea of starting points for learners. Different colleagues in the sector were taking different approaches in their return to college strategy. Why were we going in face-to-face?


Why are there only ideas about how the ‘new classroom normal’ looks and not enough information on how to make it work? So back to work. Business as usual. We are open, against the backdrop of an increasing R rate, second spikes and forecasting (a silver lining for statistically literate learners). Of course, disaster strikes! We are not even halfway through October and the virus has hit the maths and English team. When getting my team to plan each lesson for online delivery over the summer looked like overkill – especially after centre assessed grades (CAG) for more than 700 learners – all of a sudden it was the stroke of genius that could save us. Buying cameras and graphics tablets for the staff before anyone could veto my request – what an awesome move! Tapping into networks proved to be invaluable – Centres for Excellence in Maths (CfEM), Desmos, and so on – a range of tools that transformed our practice, delivery and expectations of what can be done. My mindset changed from firefighting to being at the leading edge of whatever will happen. Sharing and owning success and failure opened a larger pool of knowledge that we were able to tap in to – how to manage disruptive online behaviour, using the Silent Teacher model on padlets and MS Forms as an agent of change. I have a well-grounded colleague as head of English with whom to bounce ideas and share resources – I was not alone, and it felt great! Network partners from Newham CfEM and beyond were exceptional in their help and advice – network meetings became the new social media tool. A great moment was discovering how to use a PlayStation for MS Teams lessons for learners with no laptop and being able to share that with the whole college.

24/05/2021 16:42

P H O T O G R A P H Y: G E T T Y


I have learnt not to compare myself with sector colleagues – we don’t sit in competition. This does not dilute my ambition for my learners, it enhances it. I have learnt the challenges are not mine alone. I have learnt my own children are alright, even though there was no prom or Year 7 taster day, and my elderly parents are fine so long as I check in with them daily. I have learnt that the overwhelming majority of my learners just wanted to get on with it. In short, I have learnt we are a resilient bunch and we will move on, progress and look forward. We should also reflect on the ones no longer here, or affected in ways that have changed their life, and give thanks that we are here to help all of our learners on that journey with the only gift we can hope to give – skills that will be there for life. Discover more about the ETF’s Centres for Excellence in Maths programme at


RONALD ANDERSON is head of English at Newham College As with the maths team, English had only short notice before going into lockdown. Training on MS Teams prior to the first lockdown in March 2020 gave the team an initial tool to deal with remote teaching and learning. No one could foresee the length of the lockdown, and not only did teachers have to engage in CPD to upskill their digital engagement, but many learners were put at a disadvantage because of digital poverty. There was an attempt to address this by our college via the Department for Education and charities, but the demand for assistance always outstripped supply. The college adapted the enrolment process in August to check for learners not being able to connect digitally, but responses were not accurate as evidenced by the demand in the second lockdown. Learners engaging with remote lessons on their mobile phones does not allow for learning opportunities to be maximised. As the process for assessing learners in GCSE and functional skills (CAG) became clearer, the challenges facing individual tutors and teams were overcome, with remote support being key. We also tapped into networks, webinars and examining bodies to adapt to the changing landscape. One key reflection is that the remote model has now been let out of the bottle, and providers will use this as part of the ‘new’ normal in the future. The past 12 months has compressed a change in culture that would have taken a decade to implement into a far shorter period, and I surmise that this will change all delivery models from now on. I doubt that many of us had realised at the beginning of lockdown that we already had the technology to deliver teaching and learning remotely. There are debates about the

effectiveness of the new remote pedagogy, but much of this has to do with expectations and learner engagement with online lessons. Learners’ responses to the changed landscape have varied, and practice in maths and English across FE colleges at the beginning of the new academic year have also been very different, with some college providers opting for an online model only, and others implementing faceto-face bubbles, based on vocational areas. This practice of bubbles, in my experience, did not work for maths and English as vocational levels/bubbles did not align with maths and English.

ONE KEY REFLECTION IS THAT THE REMOTE MODEL HAS NOW BEEN LET OUT OF THE BOTTLE Cross-college team support, particularly from maths in our context, was and is key to being able to deliver fair but robust outcomes for learners, as our experience and shared learners are very similar. Both teams are now using additional online platforms and support to help our learners achieve, and this will be embedded in our delivery models from now on. The future offers both challenges and opportunities for teaching and learning. Synchronous teaching has now entered the mainstream and how this is adapted to enable distance learning will be fascinating as it continues to develop. Learners should be further surveyed to find out what works best for them, so providers can improve our model.


06-07 Managing Pandemic_Intuition June 2021 Supplement_Intuition.indd 7

24/05/2021 16:43



Mastery in

MATHS The Centres for Excellence in Maths (CfEM) is an ambitious project which explores not only how mastery can change the world of teaching maths, but also how teachers interpret mastery in an FE setting. Here, Byron Sheffield outlines the experiences of Leyton Sixth Form College hen Leyton Sixth Form College in London joined the Centres for Excellence in Maths (CfEM) project, we were keen to do two things. The first was to look at mastery approaches and see if they could be usefully applied to our students, as our current approach was not taking us far. Second, we taught GCSE maths to all our Grade 0-3 students, with Grade 0-2s grouped separately to Grade 3s. We were keen to develop a two-year scheme of work for the former group to improve their experience of learning maths and their ability to make progress over the whole time they were with us. Two teachers with a real interest in the potential of mastery took part in the national trials, and another group formed an action research group to start work


on the scheme of work. The training that came with the trials inspired our staff to research these approaches further and we were soon trying out a range of them in departmental meetings and even on some unsuspecting students. In our action research scheme of work project for Grade 0-2 students, we slimmed down the content of what we aimed to cover in one year and thought very carefully about how topics linked together around key structural ideas. We used the ConcretePictorial-Abstract framework and chose a few representations, such as bar models, across a range of topics. We saw the effectiveness of manipulatives which turned into pictures: doodles, drawings and sketches, and students moved backwards and forwards while


beginning to develop the ability to think abstractly, finding ways into GCSE questions they would have previously skipped in their exam. We supplemented this work with fluency activities using procedural variation, where each practice question was purposeful and students were not given sheets of repeated calculation practice as often provided by some maths software licensed products. Even given the impact of the pandemic, we have seen the new scheme start to make a difference to the students’ perceptions of maths and their ability to make progress. We are now looking to do the same for Grade 3 students. Although there have been many challenges, we feel confident that a mastery approach can be adapted for the GCSE resit course and students can feel the success that it brings. To make these sorts of incremental changes, teachers need to be given time to experiment in the classroom to try out these approaches. BYRON SHEFFIELD is project manager, CfEM, at Leyton Sixth Form College If you would like to get involved in the mastery trial in September 2021, visit


08-09 CFEM_Intuition June 2021 Supplement_Intuition.indd 8

24/05/2021 16:45



CfEM: Breaking the link n the UK, the poorest regions have suffered the biggest economic hit as a result of the pandemic, exacerbating their long-term decline. We have seen many learners who can only access lessons using a mobile phone – or, worse still, have no access – left behind in the brutal logic of the remote learning revolution. Mitigating regional inequality is an urgent priority and now part of the government’s levelling-up agenda. Educational outcomes are more normally explained by family socioeconomic status, gender and race, but what about where they live? What do we know about regional differences in GCSE maths results? Ofqual has recently published GCSE (9 to 1)


experienced in maths teaching and management in further education colleges. As part of the programme, there is centrally organised research as well as a programme of Action Research to help address regional differences by giving room for teachers to innovate locally, and enable a more holistic approach to change. This programme is being carried out at scale over five years, and it is hoped that CfEM will affect long-lasting change and go some way towards breaking the link between a fantastic education, great careers and where you࣢live.

mathematics grade outcomes for students aged 17 to 19 across England. Each county has been assigned into one of the eight regions in the UK and the table below shows some surprising࣢results. Looking across the North East of England and the West Midlands, the results are much lower than the rest of the country. This is not to say that there are not pockets of underachievement in all regions; however, the pass rates in London and the South appear higher and have become more so over time. CfEM is a national programme aimed at improving maths teaching up to Level 2 (Grade 4 GCSE) in post-16 settings using mastery approaches. It has been set up with three regional maths leads

SHOBHNA FLETCHER is regional maths lead for CfEM at the Education and Training Foundation

Regional summary % students achieving Grade 4+ DATE









































Newcastle and Stafford Colleges Group

Use of technology MOST POPULAR Listening to the teacher We work in groups

ur Action Research project consisted of colleagues from Newcastle-underLyme College, Stafford College, Stoke College, and Buxton and Leek College. We surveyed 148 learners from these partner colleges in the West Midlands, asking them what they believed an engaging lesson looked like and what they felt the aspects of the most effective and engaging lesson were. The most popular aspects were ‘use of technology’, ‘listening to the teacher’, ‘group work’ and ‘real world links’, and the least favourite was ‘linked to my main course’. We then planned activities and lessons based on these responses to test whether they did find the resources engaging and enjoyable and whether that led to better understanding and higher achievement. Although we were stopped by the pandemic, this insight has helped us to plan future learning, and our next cycle of action research.


ANDY SNAPE is group curriculum projects manager at Newcastle and Stafford Colleges Group

It is linked to the real world Is exam focused We do hands-on activities We discover things on our own We go outside We move around the classroom It is linked to my main programme LEAST POPULAR


08-09 CFEM_Intuition June 2021 Supplement_Intuition.indd 9

24/05/2021 16:45



Injecting humour into maths teaching can be an effective way of building confidence and allowing learners to feel it’s OK to make a mistake, says Susan Okereke


10-11 STEM_Intuition June 2021 Supplement_Intuition.indd 10

24/05/2021 16:46


e all love to laugh, but how can we use comedy and comedic techniques to add a little sparkle to our STEM communication, outreach and teaching? This International Women’s Day (8 March), I had the privilege of participating in the Finding Ada panel discussion, titled Comedy and Communication, looking at how we can use comedy techniques in our STEM communications and teaching. The Comedy and Communication panel discussion was an hour-long, live-streamed event hosted by comedy and science writer, Dr Helen Pilcher, and included: comedian and science comedy producer Kyle Marian Viterbo; biologist, YouTuber and science communicator Dr Sally Le Page; and me. But why me? I’m a maths teacher and communicator, not a comedian! Well, I’m a maths teacher and communicator who thinks playfulness and humour are an essential part of the learning environments I aim to build. I passionately believe that numeracy is an essential basic skill that everyone should be confident at, like reading and writing, and through my teaching, presenting and writing I hope to challenge the negative views that maths is boring, too difficult and irrelevant to people’s everyday lives. Being involved in the comedy and communication panel led me to reflect on the role comedy plays in my teaching and communication, and it confirmed my belief that comedy is a powerful tool that teachers, especially STEM teachers, should use more often. STEM subjects have a reputation for being serious and dry and, specifically with maths, many people are intimidated by the subject because they believe ‘you’re either right or wrong’ and that is all that matters. I’m on a mission to challenge this common misconception. Maths is so much more than the final correct answer, it is about seeing patterns, making connections and solving problems, which is an emotional and collaborative process. My work as a maths communicator is an extension of this mission. Over the years I have been involved in a variety of amazing STEM events and projects. like


IF STUDENTS ENJOY THEIR LEARNING ENVIRONMENT, THEY ARE MORE LIKELY TO ENGAGE ACTIVELY WITH THEIR LEARNING Festival of the Spoken Nerd and Maths Inspiration. These events strive to bring maths and science to life for audiences by highlighting the weird and wonderful places they can be found. Also, the podcast ‘Maths Appeal’ I co-host with Bobby Seagull aims to make maths more accessible to everyone, by including maths puzzles and interviews with maths champions from the worlds of tech, entertainment, comedy and education. As a teacher, I have high expectations for my learners, but I also subscribe to the idea that if learners enjoy their learning environment, they are more likely to engage actively with their learning and therefore retain more of the information. In my classroom I aim to create a safe space for learners so they feel comfortable trying problems, making mistakes and communicating with each other, and injecting a little humour can be a great way to facilitate this process and build a sense of community, while also showing I am a real human being. There is also a substantial body of neuroscience research and cognitive studies that explain why we remember things that make us laugh and educational research that indicates that humour, used in an effective way, can improve retention in learners, from early years through to university. Working with Finding Ada in preparation for the panel discussion also opened my eyes to the undeniable issue that there are much fewer women than men in STEM fields, despite evidence that girls do well in such


subjects at school. Sadly, few girls go on to study STEM subjects at further and higher education, even fewer go on to get jobs in these fields and by the time you get to the boardroom there are hardly any women to be seen. A reason cited for this issue is there are too few female role models in STEM, but organisations like Finding Ada are doing a great job to change this. Finding Ada supports women in STEM through projects like the Ada Lovelace Day (12 October), which celebrates female achievements in STEM. Other projects include the Finding Ada Network, which provides peer mentorship and exclusive career development and gender equality content for women in STEM, and the Finding Ada Conference (20-22 July), which shares best practice and advice. It was such a pleasure to speak to, learn from and laugh with such incredible scientists on the Finding Ada comedy and communication panel, and if you are a STEM teacher who would like to add more comedy into your STEM communication, I encourage you to watch the discussion. It is full of ideas and advice, and here is a suggestion to get you started – watch some science communicators online and see how they incorporate comedy into their presentations, then have a go at including some humour into your work. It might not be great at first but, remember, practice makes progress! SUSAN OKEREKE is a maths communicator, maths education consultant and teacher facilitator

Further information Visit Susan’s website at Finding Ada Festival of the Spoken Nerd Maths Inspiration Maths Appeal


10-11 STEM_Intuition June 2021 Supplement_Intuition.indd 11

24/05/2021 16:52



Shared experience This year’s assessment regime for GCSE English learners will again be different to normal. But there is a body of work that can help provide a framework for teachers to arrive at fair results that stand up to scrutiny, believes Dr Michael Smith s we move into the summer term the challenges around assessment facing GCSE English teachers across the sector are in sharp relief. With teacher assessed grades (TAG) confirmed as the way in which learners will be awarded grades, our collective attention might naturally turn to how we can address the Herculean effort of assessing our learners fairly and reliably. We have the experiences of last year fortifying us, but we can also look to some of the enduring work and wider thinking in English assessment to help us. Each of the discussions below have been adapted from Bethan Marshall’s excellent Testing English (2011), which provides a thought-provoking chronology of where we’ve been and where we are now in the assessment of English.


3. Originality of ideas. To what extent is the writer’s view of the subject distinctive? 4. Feeling for words. To what extent does the writer use words: a) strikingly and b) effectively? The group assessed 100-word scripts using the above criteria. Initially, they found that assessors for the most part disagreed on the quality of scripts. Britton and the teachers of LATE remained resolute and continued their work, anonymising scripts, using

discontinuous marking (where assessors marked different kinds of work one after another), and having assessors re-mark work between one session and the next. They ultimately concluded that, despite differences in opinion, their assessment decisions were reliable. What can we take from this? Criterionled assessment can be troublesome, but talking about quality indicators is valuable in helping assessors establish what assessment criteria mean in context.

The marking of imaginative compositions Our first discussion comprises the work of the London Association for the Teaching of English (LATE), of which James Britton was a founding member. This group of English teachers wanted to assess English in a holistic and reliable manner. This work pre-dated the national curriculum by almost 40 years, and represented one of the first attempts to develop shared criteria around writing quality. The group’s efforts yielded the following: 1. The assessor’s general impression of the text 2. To what extent can the reader experience what is presented?


12-13 GCSE_Intuition June 2021 Supplement_Intuition.indd 12

24/05/2021 17:07


Exploring writing pedagogy further, the use of 100-word scripts in assessment research has proved enduringly valuable since the work of Britton and LATE. Research Matters: Aspects of Writing 1980–2014 (Elliott et al, 2016) is a fine example, and the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) is soon to release an online course for GCSE English teachers at FutureLearn based on the findings of this research.

Guild knowledge So how can we traverse the subjectivity of assessment criteria? We can look to Royce Sadler’s concept of guild knowledge (1989), which represents how, as teachers, we arrive at the judgement we’re forming. The idea is that English teachers have a ‘guild knowledge’ they cannot necessarily articulate, but which they share with others in the profession. Sadler poses that criteria are unhelpful in improving performance – “for complex phenomena, use of a fixed set of criteria [...] is potentially limiting” (1989: 132). He goes on to say that holistic appreciation of a text is important,

THERE IS VALUE FOR TEACHERS IN CONSIDERING THE QUALITY OF TEXTS HOLISTICALLY because of “the large number of variables involved, the intense relationship existing among them, and their essential fuzziness” (ibid: 140). Essentially, Sadler argues that referring to an individual criterion when assessing a piece of work fails to appreciate the complex and intertwined nature of what we’re trying to assess. What can we take from this? There is value for teachers in considering the quality of texts holistically, beyond what can be captured in criteria alone.

Construct referencing


perhaps unsurprisingly, is collaboration. The work of James Britton and LATE reminds us that, while opinions on quality might differ, it is possible to agree on general principles of what good quality looks like. Sadler’s concept of guild knowledge advances this, and points to the shared expertise of English teachers as a collective group. Sharing this expertise through dialogue is a key takeaway from Wiliam’s research into construct referencing, which helps to form a community of interpreters. And what’s the final take-away? As we tackle TAG over the coming weeks and months, take strength from the support of your colleagues, avoid working in isolation, and know that collaboration underpins good assessment practice. DR MICHAEL SMITH is head of teaching and

learning innovation at Barking & Dagenham College

References and further information

In the 1990s, Dylan Wiliam conducted research with English teachers into what he termed ‘construct referencing’ (1994, 1996, 1998) – the means by which teachers acquire the ability to make reliable, qualitative judgements. ‘Constructs’ are made up of what we think a grade looks like – a gut feeling – based on previous encounters with similar work. When teachers engage in discussion and professional dialogue about their assessment judgements, Wiliam suggests they form a community of interpreters with a shared understanding. What can we take from this? While criteria can be unhelpful and potentially limiting, what’s crucial is the interpretation of the evidence, rather than the criterion descriptions themselves. Teachers talking about their interpretations with one another can help us make meaning of them in context.

Sadler DR. (1989) Formative assessment and the design of instructional systems. Instructional Science 18(2): 119–144.

Looking back, looking forward

Wiliam D. (1994) Assessing authentic tasks: Alternatives to mark-schemes. Nordic Studies in Mathematics Education 2(1): 48-68.

What do these discussions offer us as we look ahead to TAG? The most recurring theme across all examples,

Britton J. (1950) Report on the Meaning and Marking of Imaginative Compositions. London: LATE. Elliott G, Green S, Constantinou F et al. (2016) Variations in aspects of writing in 16+ English examinations between 1980 and 2014. Research Matters, a Cambridge Assessment publication, Special Issue 4. Marshall B. (2011) Testing English: Formative and Summative Approaches to English Assessment. London: Continuum. Wiliam D. (1998) The Validity of Teachers’ Assessments. Paper presented at the 22nd annual conference of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education, Stellenbosch, South Africa. Wiliam D. (1996) Standards in Education: a matter of trust. The Curriculum Journal 7(3): 293-306.


12-13 GCSE_Intuition June 2021 Supplement_Intuition.indd 13

24/05/2021 17:07



Taking stock With the dual challenges of Brexit and Covid-19, the last 18 months have been immensely challenging for those teaching ESOL. What’s needed now is a period of stability, says Jennie Turner am director of ESOL at a large FE college in London. This is my perspective on the challenges we have faced over the last 18 months and what we need for the future. In autumn 2019, ESOL appeared to be inching up the agenda after years of neglect. In England, we were looking forward to the publication of a national ESOL strategy, outlined in the Integrated Communities Action Plan (February 2019), following a successful campaign by the National Association for Teaching English and Community Languages to Adults (NATECLA). We hoped this would include free ESOL provision, improved professional development, updating the ESOL Core Curriculum, and ensure collaboration between providers and stakeholders. Funding for adult learners remained stagnant, but learners on low wages were now entitled to fully funded (free) provision. Funding devolution provided new opportunities, and authorities, such as the Greater London Authority, had recognised the importance of ESOL in upskilling communities (Skills for Londoners, 2018). The Education and Training Foundation (ETF) was rolling out New to ESOL CPD and resources, and gearing up for other࣢developments. Early in 2020, when the UK left the EU, the home secretary announced the end of free movement. The immediate impact on ESOL was mitigated by the Brexit transition period, but those without settled or presettled status will no longer qualify as home students beyond the end of this academic year. In February and March 2020, we were busy modelling the impact of Brexit and preparing for an Ofsted inspection when we were overtaken by the Covid-19 pandemic. Looking back, we were wholly unprepared for remote learning. Many ESOL learners


could not log into their college account, or had forgotten how to do so. Most did not have laptops and some did not have a smartphone or Wi-Fi. We had a welldeveloped virtual learning environment, but not everybody used it. Most teachers had never heard of Microsoft Teams. The first lockdown was an intense period of CPD. Most delivery was asynchronous. We pooled our resources, and poached and shared ideas as we went along.

Adapting to change

Practitioners used all the tools at their disposal for emergency remote teaching. We called, texted and emailed. The college distributed laptops but demand far exceeded supply. Across the sector networks and communities of support sprang up. Twitter was a fabulous source of CPD and networking. NATECLA started a Twitter chat, ran forums, webinars and a fantastic online conference. Our own online CPD day beamed in speakers from Solihull, Leeds and Turin in Italy. The winter 2021 lockdown was different. Live lessons became the norm, teachers and learners were more confident, and engagement was good – including for those with very low literacy levels. However, many learners were still learning on phones and in less-than-ideal circumstances. Undoubtedly, learners have not made as much progress as they would face-to-face. Now, as we return to college, our biggest challenge is to prepare learners for examinations, which are going ahead as normal, despite the disruption. There are other worries and some comfort ahead; with smaller classes for social distancing and the difficulties of engaging online, many providers will not meet their targets and may have to return some of their funding. However, more

positively, some devolved authorities are increasing adult funding rates.

Language issues

On the policy side, the DfE review into Level 2 qualifications shows a lack of understanding of language learning. It questions why we start learners at entry level rather than Level 1, why entry is divided into three sub-levels and considers removing ESOL Level 1 and 2 qualifications, citing low take-up, missing the point that funding is the issue. The review also questions the validity of the ESOL Core Curriculum. Updating this will be a key goal of the ESOL strategy for England when it is finally published. The impact of Brexit on learner numbers will emerge in the autumn and may be compounded by pandemic job losses for migrant workers. We are working with Jobcentre Plus on new programmes to support the unemployed. Another pandemic effect could be some practitioners leaving or retiring. We need new teachers to join the profession and to offer subject specialist training, permanent positions, career pathways, decent pay and ongoing support. The continued support of the ETF through the New to ESOL programme will be key, and it will be interesting to see the impact of the national recruitment campaign for FE teachers envisaged in the FE White Paper. Over the last year, the ESOL community has reconnected, shared and developed in positive ways, and with our newly honed technical skills we will continue to learn and grow.

JENNIE TURNER is group curriculum director at New City College


14 Jennie Turner_Intuition June 2021 Supplement_Intuition.indd 14

24/05/2021 17:08



Communicative repertoire It’s time for a new commitment to a multilingual pedagogy in ESOL that incorporates reflections on the current political climate and up-to-date academic thinking, says Becky Winstanley here is a growing and very welcome renewed interest in multilingual approaches to ESOL. Over the past two decades at least, an ‘English-only’ approach has been dominant in classroom practice, institutional policies and teacher education, but it wasn’t always like this. Up until the late 1990s, there was a greater focus on ESOL learners as users of other languages. The acronym ‘ESOL’ – English for Speakers of Other Languages – reflects this time. ESOL teachers who knew other languages were a sought-after and valued resource; learners were given opportunities to develop their mother tongue alongside English, and even double-staffing with language support wasn’t unheard of. The practical implementation of a multilingual pedagogy is supported by theoretical ideas in sociolinguistics. One useful concept for ESOL to embrace is that of ‘communicative repertoire’. This concept, which is very mainstream among linguists and sociolinguists, says that, rather than people speaking one or many separate languages, we each have a unitary store or ‘repertoire’ of languages, accents, gestures, tones and other communication tools. Learning a new language, or learning to adapt linguistically to a new social environment, allows us to expand and add to this repertoire. This approach is very relevant for ESOL as it moves us away from the damaging deficit model in which ESOL learners are thought about only in terms of their lack of English. Instead, it helps us to think about ESOL learners as expert users of


language and communication, in the process of broadening their repertoire. It also tells us that separating out languages, and trying to leave other languages at the classroom door in order to maximise exposure to English, is artificial and unnecessary. To explore these ideas further and investigate whether they connect with good ESOL pedagogical practice, I worked with colleagues Dermot Bryers (English for Action) and Melanie Cooke (King’s College London) on the Our Languages project ( During this 10-week classroom research project we explored ideas such as communicative repertoire together with our ESOL learners. Some of the following points link directly to this experience.

Quick wins

There are many things teachers can do immediately to make their ESOL classrooms more multilingual. Put all the languages you know to positive use in the classroom Encourage learners to ask for meanings and explanations in different languages with questions such as ‘How do you say X?’ or ‘I want to be able to say X’ Expand the idea of what ‘knowing’ another language means. All ESOL teachers have a wealth of knowledge about other languages Engage learners in discussions about languages – for example, how languages are used in different situations in their lives, and how language use changes in different places and among different power hierarchies.

What can managers and policymakers do?

Recognise and value existing multilingual practices (many teachers already work in this way but feel like they shouldn’t be) Actively challenge and remove outdated ‘English-only’ policies Recognise the value that multilingual ESOL teachers bring to the sector and increase employment opportunities, especially where they share languages spoken locally. There is also a compelling and important political argument for moving towards multilingual ESOL. The hostile environment, which brought damaging and dehumanising policies to immigration, health and education, has also brought policies that promote English and fail to value the other languages spoken by migrants. As a result, speaking English is viewed as demonstrating ‘good behaviour’ in society and cases of abuse, racism and xenophobia related to language use have increased. ESOL could lead the way in standing up for migrants by promoting multilingualism, and welcoming other languages into our learning spaces as an integral part of the language learning࣢process.

BECKY WINSTANLEY is an ESOL teacher and teacher trainer at English for Action

Many of the ideas in this article can be further explored in Melanie Cooke and Rob Peutrell (eds) Brokering Britain, Educating Citizens, published by Multilingual Matters, 2019


15 Becky Winstanley_Intuition June 2021 Supplement_Intuition.indd 15

24/05/2021 17:09



1 2 3

Regional specialist leads

4 5 9

Did you know that the ETF has regional specialist leads (RSLs) for maths and English? here are nine maths and English RSLs whose support is fully funded by the ETF. RSL support is for both individuals and organisations from across the Further Education and Training sector and includes: Running regional and national networks of maths and English practitioners and managers Keeping you up to date with information about CPD opportunities, new resources and publications Bespoke, specialist advice and support, either one-to-one or for your team Information, advice and guidance about maths and English pedagogy, resources and professional development opportunities. Reach out to your nearest RSL to find out how they can support you.


See full biographies at





7 SOUTH EAST CLAIRE CALLOW Maths and English 8 LONDON PAUL STYCH (INTERIM) Maths and English 9 EAST ENGLAND BOB READ Maths and English

Register from 1 September

Get ready for QTLS Use our brand new online Eligibility Checker to help identify if you are eligible to undertake QTLS, the badge of professionalism in the FE and training sector. Receive DGYLFH WR HQVXUH \RX DUH ̴47/6 ͤW̵ ZLWK WLSV RQ DFFHVVLQJ our online library for inspiration, choosing your mentor, and UHͥHFWLQJ RQ \RXU FXUUHQW SUDFWLFH *HW UHDG\ IRU WKH QHZ registration window in September for an October start.

Visit: The Society for Education and Training (SET) is part of the Education and Training Foundation (ETF). QTLS is the abbreviation for Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills status. The status is developed by the ETF and conferred through SET.

InTuition_Advert_SET_QTLS_Half Page.indd 1


16 Back page_Intuition June 2021 Supplement_Intuition.indd 16

20/05/2021 08:59:52

24/05/2021 17:09