College’s ‘belt and braces’ approach to English recognised by TES FE News and AOC

Warrington & Vale Royal College’s “belt and braces” approach to English has been recognised by TES FE News and the Association of Colleges, with the college’s Director of English now being invited to speak at other colleges.

In her article, Elizabeth Draper – who has been the Director of English at the college since September 2015 – describes how the college’s innovative approach to English has inspired GCSE resit success.

Since being published, the article has soared to the top of TES FE News’ most read and attracted numerous comments from staff at colleges across the country.

Elizabeth, who has now been asked to deliver guest lectures for colleagues in the sector, said: “At Warrington & Vale Royal College, we are indeed feeling the dividends that love and ambition bring. Dividends in terms of hard data, with significantly improved GCSE English results; a gold award from the Reading Agency in response to students’ success in completion of the Reading Ahead Challenge and positive results from our student participation in the Accelerated Reading Scheme.”

Numerous initiatives have been introduced at the college to embed English on a daily basis, including SPAG of the week and the standardised marking scheme.

Collaborative projects with other curriculum areas have seen hospitality & catering students produce a cookbook – realising the power of words when recipe writing and describing food – while art and design students have exhibited work around the theme of the ‘power of language’.

Events like pop-up storytelling and ‘Reading Elevenses’ – which has been led by Gary Skentelbery from Warrington Worldwide – are vitally important to not just encouraging students to read, but also recognising their success in doing so.

Elizabeth said: “The last thing students want to do when they sign up to study plumbing, motor vehicle maintenance or hairdressing is an English course. So English teachers are faced with classes of resistance from day one. It is hard, gritty work. It is blisteringly important work, of course. We change lives and help young people to move on. We work with them, support them and, eventually, win many of them around, so they bother enough about themselves to actually begin to care.”

The college’s collaborative work has created a more positive culture around English and has seen students’ results improve massively, with the college now sitting 18% above the ‘provider group average’ this year in terms of A* to C grade achievement for GCSE.

Elizabeth added: “This is indeed a story about success as a result of our ‘belt and braces’ approach. We have a strong team of English teachers who work with incredible dedication and determination, alongside positive collaborative working with specialist English facilitators vocational teachers, our brilliant LRC manager, support staff and external agencies.

“Together all of us make that important difference, turn minds and encourage our students. The big shift, the signal of our success, is when our students begin to bother about their reading and their writing skills. Realising that yes – they do matter, a lot.”