Repetition – not always the answer

‘If at first you don’t succeed, try try again’. We’ve all heard that mantra many a time especially while at school. After all what is homework if not repetition till you crack it? ‘Practice makes perfect’ is another .

However in some instances it clearly doesn’t work to keep doing more of the same. I can’t get out of my mind that awful statistic – only 30% of 16 year olds who fail GCSE maths and English in Year 11 (that is after 11 years of education) let’s face it, pass after retaking two years later! Clearly the repeat process however good the teaching may be is not working. More of the same is not the answer. Obviously maths and English are core skills essential for jobs and careers and productivity post Brexit. So as a country we must resolve this. We need our young people confident in their literacy and numeracy skills.

Why does it matter a lot? Well the self esteem for the young people for a start . To keep failing is definitely not good for you. More to the point they need these qualifications to secure a job. So what is the answer? We need to do something different. Try again yes but in a different way.

Teaching intensively in small groups maybe. Making functional skills exams count in League Tables maybe. Teaching through doing as the UTCs do in collaboration with business and industry. I’ve seen the latter work well. Youngsters who are not suited to classroom teaching do flourish and learn when the numeracy or literacy skill is required to make a product or complete a practical task. They are most certainly not unintelligent.

So while I applaud the recent emphasis on more students doing maths at A level, let’s focus as well on how we can ensure at least 90% of our young people leave full time education with a grade 4 or better still a 5 in maths and English. Then they can have choice in the labour market and everyone will benefit.

We need to be creative in our approaching of the problem. We need to be ambitious for our young people. They will repay the country big time.

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