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UEL partners with local school to train maths teachers

students studying at UEL

A new partnership between the University of East London and a local school may soon offer some innovative answers for those wondering how the United Kingdom can increase its supply of maths teachers.

The two institutions are working together to build a unique programme that will offer students a maths with education degree along with Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).

UEL will award the degree, and students will have access to the University’s facilities, support services, extracurricular clubs and social scene.

However, classes will take place at Woolwich Polytechnic School, a secondary school in Woolwich that has been recognised nationally for its efforts in maths education. Woolwich Poly is thought to be the first 11-18 secondary school in England to house this kind of degree course.

“I think the uniqueness of this programme is that they get the undergraduate experience but they are also fully immersed in the whole school environment,” said Helen Masterton, Dean of UEL’s Cass School of Education and Communities.

“A partnership with us at UEL enables students to access the facilities that a normal undergraduate would need to access but also experience teachers teaching on the ground in school,” she said.

The programme’s first class of students begins studies this autumn.

“I do think we’re onto something here, that we’ve actually got a programme that’s going to prepare people in a better way for the teaching profession and in a way that actually allows them to really make up their mind and understanding that teaching is for them,” said Woolwich Poly head teacher Tim Plumb.

There’s a huge demand for mathematics teachers in east London as well as nationally, Helen Masterton added. In fact, the government’s recognition of this urgency means students in the UEL/Woolwich Poly programme will be offered a £9,000 bursary in their third year as an incentive to complete the course.

Officials hope the new course will play a role in alleviating some of the difficulties that plague east London schools, in particular, trying to recruit high-quality maths teachers.

“I think it’s probably the key way to get people into the teaching profession in a way that gives them real skills deeply embedded, that allows them to hit the ground running in the first years of their teaching careers,” Mr Plumb said.

Officials believe the new programme should attract new university students – perhaps young east Londoners who want to stay in the area – as well as older adults thinking about a career change.

“I think I can say with confidence that anyone coming in that needs help will get that help in a way that other places can’t provide,” said Woolwich Poly co-head teacher Byron Parker. “I believe that someone coming here, if they’re average, will develop into something a lot more than average by the end of their experience.”

As students move through the course, they’ll have the option of dropping the QTS and continuing with just the maths education degree, although they’ll need to do both to qualify for the bursary.

Woolwich Polytechnic has earned a slew of accolades, including an “outstanding” rating by Ofsted. Despite serving one of the poorest areas in London and taking in students who score below national averages, Woolwich Poly students are 20 percent above the national average in maths and English when they leave. The school enrols mostly boys, with only the sixth form accepting female students.

Woolwich Poly has been designated a “maths hub” for the UK, which means it helps support 600 other primary and secondary schools in their respective maths work.

The school already has a first-rate maths teaching staff that includes a number at doctorate-level. Some staff teach part-time at neighbouring London universities. Woolwich Poly also runs a programme that brings maths doctoral students to the school every week to work with students.

“It would not surprise me if in ten, five years’ time there are far more programmes like this being delivered in schools,” Mr Plumb said.

“We’re the first but I’m pretty sure there are going to be people following in our footsteps pretty quickly,” he added.

Helen Masterton said UEL was interested in developing school-based partnership programmes in other STEMM subjects.
 

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Notes to Editors

The University of East London (UEL) is a global learning community with students from over 120 countries world-wide. Our vision is to achieve recognition, both nationally and internationally, as a successful and inclusive regional university proud of its diversity, committed to new modes of learning which focus on students and enhance their employability, and renowned for our contribution to social, cultural and economic development, especially through our research and scholarship. We have a strong track-record in widening participation and working with industry.