Graduate from school - with a maths degree

6th February 2015 at 00:00
London comprehensive to offer its own BSc from September

A London comprehensive is to become the first school in the country to offer a degree, to encourage more students to pursue higher education and a career in teaching.

The Woolwich Polytechnic School will offer a three-year BSc in maths with qualified teacher status (QTS) from this September, making it the first school to cater to 11- to 21-year-olds.

Lecturers from the nearby University of East London (UEL), which will accredit the degrees, will come to the school to teach. Woolwich Polytechnic may not have the usual attractions of a university student union, but it is confident that the course will attract applicants from its own and neighbouring sixth forms, as well as mature students and career-changers.

According to the school's co-headteacher Tim Plumb, the course will cost pound;9,000 a year in fees and students will need at least 280 Ucas points to be accepted - equivalent to grades BBC at A-level.

"We've always felt there's a connection between further education and higher education that is not fully exploited," Mr Plumb said. "We looked at when sixth-formers start their journey and we want to try and facilitate their next step if they are looking to become a teacher."

He added: "It's important to have the `equivalent' part on there as we are hoping not just to attract sixth-formers but also career-changers, people who may have worked in the City and who may not have a maths A-level but have the subject knowledge and want to go into something different."

Woolwich Polytechnic School - an 11-18 comprehensive, despite its name - already employs postdoctoral maths lecturers from UEL to teach its sixth-formers. Mr Plumb said that the school had been approached by the university to provide the course because it was one of the country's national maths hubs.

"It also appealed because this is something that will help meet the need for maths teachers, both for us as a school and for the wider area," Mr Plumb said. "We need to attract more maths teachers into the profession and I think the best way to do that is to offer a variety of different routes."

The school is hoping to attract up to 30 students a year, although fewer than that are expected to enrol this September when the course opens.

David Reynolds, head of maths education at the University of Southampton, welcomed the move, saying that any attempt to meet the shortage of maths teachers could only be a good thing.

He added that the experimental spirit shown by the school was something that higher education needed to replicate. "There hasn't been enough experimentation from the higher education sector, but this sounds like it will be innovative and that is very much to be welcomed," he said.

"The crucial thing is that it is opening up the all-through route, which could be interesting. I would be very eager for it to be evaluated, even if it was evaluated in-house."

Professor Reynolds, who chaired the numeracy taskforce under the last Labour government, said HE had not been given "an easy ride" in terms of teacher education recently, despite teacher training routes getting satisfactory ratings.

He added: "That hasn't stopped experimentation by government, but it has meant that higher education has become risk averse. When experimentation is done to you there is a tendency to get caught in the headlights, but there need to be more attempts to do it themselves."

Creative thinking

Although it is not a school, the Plymouth College of Art has adopted the all-through education model by sponsoring the creation of a primary and a secondary school.

The college is one of the few remaining specialist FE art colleges in England and also provides undergraduate courses. The aim of opening the two new schools was to provide a creative education for pupils from the age of 4 up to 21.

Plymouth College opened its primary school in September 2013, and its secondary school a year later.

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