Secondary Maths – Booster revision with a difference

A booster revision conference with a difference;  utilising untapped innovation.

For the past few years the mathematics team have gone the extra mile to support GCSE, ‘AS’ and ‘A’ level students  both within mathematics lessons and increasingly importantly supporting students outside of lessons through material on the VLE and recommending use of bespoke revision resources such as the MathsWatch revision CD and the Collins Revision Guides.

Within a framework of support and in the context of a need to drive standards still further especially at Key Stage 4, carefully managed revision conferences have been successfully run during half-term and Easter break;  the key factor in their success has been a relentless focus on past exam questions and exam technique and a qualitatively different experience to a mathematics lesson in normal school time.

During the Easter break, I instinctively believed that the time was right to progress something very different in the revision paradigm.  Although didactic presentations had been successful in recent years, a new model emerged which moved closer towards the AfL agenda and away from the subject teacher being the font of key information for the forthcoming exams.

Articulate, professional and forward thinking  year 12 students offered to give up two days of their Easter break to be coaches and mentors to year 11 students on the C/D borderline.  Personal letters of invitation were sent to parents of the key group and packs of questions were duly photocopied (with solutions for the coaches should they need to check an answer).   It was a privilege to take a supportive role and see the many ‘aha’ moments as 12 post-16 students used their natural talents and ideas to help 35 students with working successfully through past papers.  The unique aspect to this project was that year 12 students had gone through similar experiences nearly a year earlier, albeit at a higher conceptual level;  they could relate to students from their generation and the year 11 students were enormously appreciative.  Teaching staff managed the booster revision rooms and took care of refreshments but the key winning strategy came from the innovation of the post-16 students as coaches and mentors combined with the hard work and dedication of the year 11 GCSE students.

Year 12 student Victoria Scudamore taking revision sessions  (Picture by PT Charlton of Frome Community College)

After the two day conference which ran from 10.00 to 1.00 on successive days I recalled reading an interview with Sir Richard Branson when he talked about the unique flair and natural insight that we sometimes have before University life has an impact on our lives.  Clearly university life enriches us in infinite ways but I was also circumspect about what it can take out of our lives both from a financial perspective and in terms of natural curiosity for the world around us.   I was amazed by the mentoring ability of year 12 students who wished to put something back into their community.  I was particularly struck by a moment when a year 11 student was stuck on a Pythagoras question;  with perfect timing, a year 12 helper said ‘let me turn the page this way – now what do you see?  – suddenly a right-angled triangle seemed the’ right way up’ and the student recognised that she had to use the ‘formula, substitute, work out and check’ procedures applying Pythagoras’ Theorem.  I am sure Pythagoras himself would have been impressed had he been there!

We were able to thank post-16 students using Amazon vouchers and were pleased that this was something extra that could enhance a UCAS personal statement in the following year.  Driving home after a two day conference with lots of energy left in me was also a new experience.   I am confident this model of ‘just post-16 students coaching just  year 11 students for just two days’ during a half term or Easter break before an important exam can be applied across a variety of subject areas and areas of the curriculum.  It would be terrific if this blog helps to lead to the planning, implementation and evaluation of similar ventures across the country.

Chris Curtis
Head of Mathematics
Frome Community College

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