Wirral Metropolitan College (Wirral Met) is the largest provider of post 16 learning on the Wirral with three campuses; Carlett Park (Eastham), Conway Park (Birkenhead) and Twelve Quays (Birkenhead). The college offers numerous vocational programmes for those looking to gain skills to enter employment or Higher Education.
There are currently 8 qualified Subject Learning Coaches at Wirral Met working within Maths, Construction, e2e, Science, Business, Information Technology and Health & Social Care. They act as pioneers for change and development within their subject areas undertaking individual and group training, using coaching techniques to improve attitudes to change amongst peers, and developing subject strategies, resources, tools and best practice within teaching and learning. Benefits attributed to the programme at Wirral Met include increased learner engagement and confidence, improvements in induction programmes and the management of behaviour. Staff within other subject areas including Modern Foreign Languages, Engineering, Visual & Performing Arts and Adult Learning are currently participating in the Subject Learning Coach (SLC) training programme.
Heather Aspinwall, Curriculum Leader for Skills for Life at Wirral Met, is also the SLC for Maths. Initially with a notional 4 hours per term for subject coaching, Heather has developed her role to bring about a real impact on the teaching and learning of mathematics at Wirral Met and to embed the role of SLC into her role as Curriculum Leader.
New and existing teaching staff can find their way to Heather for individual subject learning coaching, group coaching or a combination of both. She takes the opportunity at staff meetings to introduce new resources to staff and works closely with the college’s three Teaching and Learning Champions to plan CPD activities. Teaching and Learning Champions can also direct staff delivering any aspects of numeracy and maths to her for coaching as and when they need it using the college’s existing peer shadowing system.
As well as organising development days for the Maths and Skills for Life teams, Heather has established Numeracy Group Meetings within the college. In these meetings anyone involved with the delivery of numeracy from across the three college campuses (often non-numeracy specialists) can get together to share ideas, trial resources and discuss the effectiveness of these within the classroom.
2008 has been a particularly pro-active and productive time for Heather as SLC at Wirral Met. In February 2008 Wirral Met hosted the North West SLC network meeting together with the North West and North East Regional Co-ordinators from the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM), giving all Wirral Met staff the opportunity to participate.
The college is also currently carrying out an action research project funded by NCETM enabling staff to plan and develop resources together for Level 1 numeracy students. The Maths and Skills for Life teams have devised problem solving kinaesthetic resources to aid the learning of scale and circles (two topics that Level 1 learners have previously found difficult to learn with other approaches). Level 1 learners have been trying out the resources in specific lessons and giving feedback on the new approaches.
Heather sees the action research as a real high point in her role as SLC as it has brought a fresh approach to the teaching and learning of Mathematics within the college and created a real buzz amongst staff and students. She attributes some of the overall success of subject learning coaching to supportive managers, who have given her the opportunity to try out new approaches, as well as to the Teaching and Learning Champions, who actively promote subject learning coaching within the college.
Having seen the impact at Wirral Met, Heather would like to see more teaching staff train as Subject Learning Coaches and develop the college action research project further. “Becoming a Subject Learning Coach has changed my approach to teaching,” says Heather “radically improved (the learners) enjoyment and achievement, given me great ideas and created a real excitement about developments in teaching and learning mathematics for me and my colleagues.”
For further information about attending the SLC regional networks, please contact Anne Fieldhouse, NCETM North West Regional Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org