Football Maths at Felldyke and Family Learning in Wardley, Gateshead
Lottery Funding and a local passion for football has helped to engage families and provided Gateshead Family Learning and Newcastle United Foundation the opportunity to work together.
While in Wardley contact through the toddler play session has blossomed into success for adult learners.
Family Football and Numeracy project - Gateshead
Newcastle United Football Club is an obsession for the people in Wrekenton, Gateshead. The old adage of eat, drink, sleep football really does hold true here. So attending a numeracy class would have little appeal…unless it had something to do with football.
When a Big Lottery Fund grant was secured by the Family Learning Teams in Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland, it was felt the best way of engaging families, and particularly men, in improving their skills and knowledge was to tap into this local passion for football. So the Family Football project was conceived. Gateshead Family Learning and Newcastle United Foundation worked together to develop this original model to pilot a football and numeracy programme.
This programme was specifically targeted at Fell Dyke Primary School, which sits in one of the most deprived areas in England. The project combined a 60 minute class, led by the Family Learning Development Officer, followed by 30 minutes of football skills and games, led by a member of the team from Newcastle United Foundation; this football club charity aims to encourage learning and promote healthy lifestyles for young people and their families in the region through football.
When the initiative was launched in school, we were inundated. We took people on a first come, first served basis and limited the number to 15 adults (of these, six were men). They were invited to come along to the school at 9am on a Monday morning, take part in the numeracy tuition, where we would show them the methods used in school today, and then the children would come out of their classes to join their parents for the 30 minutes of physical activity.
It was a seven week programme and we arranged for the last two weeks to take place at St James’s Park itself, the home of Newcastle United. Here the families could put into practice the methods they had learned in the sessions.
After the first week, though, we were concerned that the families were involved purely because of the football and the hook of visiting the football stadium and would merely ‘kill’ time with the numeracy element of the programme. However we had 100 per cent attendance throughout even when the Head teacher warned us that the children were going away for a school trip in the third week. The parents still came along and some even left before the football activities; they were there purely for the maths.
We targeted key stage 2 children and invited their parents, grandparents and carers to try out the methods used in school for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. It seemed quite bewildering to them at first because it was so different from how they were taught – with the number line and the chunking method, for example. It was like learning a new language.
We realised that the most important thing to keep their attention was to make learning fun, so we showed them games that they could take home which reinforced what they’d learned in the class. We differentiated the activities so everyone was able to participate and found that the learners wanted to try the harder games; they wanted to challenge themselves and each other. It was important to establish the capabilities of the participants and to keep assessing how they were responding to the classes. We didn’t want to push them too hard.
The children got a real buzz from having their parents in school and even though they had to come out of their classes for the 30 minutes of football activities, the teachers found that they were happier and more focused beforehand and afterwards. Of course, the teachers were also pleased if the parents had learned skills that they could take home to help the children with their homework.
There are 241 pupils in Fell Dyke Primary School, aged 3-11 years. The percentage of pupils who are eligible for free school meals is well above the national average and the proportion of pupils with learning difficulties or disabilities is also higher than that found nationally.
The adult learners were all very enthusiastic and have become ambassadors for Family Learning. Among the comments we received included:
- “I can now help the children with their homework, which makes me feel proud.”
- “These sessions made learning with my children much more easy and fun, not a trauma anymore.”
- “I enjoyed the teamwork – everyone got on so well and helped each other; my maths is now much better”. The majority of the group want to progress onto a family numeracy programme and achieve a numeracy qualification.
If we had advertised this course for numeracy we don’t think any of these people would have come along. To attract them in, we had to have something to interest them. Other projects in the past have incorporated trips to local museums and places of interest to embed the learning into activities, but these tended to attract females. We knew that Newcastle United had a strong fan base in Wrekenton so it proved a valuable hook, and taking them all to St James’s Park was amazing – they would do anything for you to make sure they would be included in that session!
Christine Bonnar is the Family Learning Development Officer at The Dryden Centre, Gateshead.
Family Learning at Wardley Children’s Centre, Gateshead
With Family Learning projects, we are always trying to find new ways of reaching parents to encourage them to learn through their children. We link in wherever we can. We go to schools (primary and comprehensive), community centres and children’s centres – wherever there might be a group of parents, grandparents and carers where we can promote Family Learning and the range of activities they can take part in with their children.
The group at Wardley Children’s Centre is unusual because they approached Family Learning.
A project was publicised about how people could improve their skills. A member of the toddler play sessions group had seen a flyer in school and was prompted to contact the Family Learning Development Officer. She was part of a small group of parents who attended toddler play sessions at the children’s centre.
The children’s centre is attached to Wardley Primary School in what is a close knit community. The group wanted to be involved in something that meant they could stay local, have childcare but find out how they can support their children.
Family and friends were recruited to join to make a core group of around six people. Family Learning was able to provide a crèche and also to encourage the link with the school. The Head teacher was really supportive of this programme and the Family Learning Development Officer was able to meet with the numeracy coordinator to ensure the adults were shown the ways of calculating used in the school.
The group has been very proactive. They took on responsibility for maintaining the size of the group, so if anyone had to leave, the others would find someone else to take their place ensuring the group remained viable and could continue.
The group of adults started off working on ways in which they could improve their own skills, through the motivation of helping their children. They gained their Level 1 Literacy qualification and continued on to a 10 week Family Literacy programme, passing Level 2. After they had done some of these sessions, other Family Learning courses were arranged to help them understand what their children would learn when they went to nursery or primary school and it has rolled on from there.
Eight mums completed a Family Maths 10 week course in January 2011 and the group agreed to take part in the Family Learning pilot of Functional Maths starting after Easter 2011.
The Family Learning Development Officer reports: “I find that once the parents have been encouraged to look at the school approach alongside the children or in preparation for the SATS, they do enjoy it. And this group in particular has a real enthusiasm for maths.
I have come to understand that they have quite complicated personal lives. They are outstanding in wanting to do so much, and being driven to keep going, when they have so many issues to deal with.
Barbara Clark is a Family Learning Development Officer at The Dryden Centre, Gateshead.