Ex-pupils pass on expertise in mentoring scheme

Students and mentors at Whitby Community College''w130502k
Students and mentors at Whitby Community College''w130502k

ONCE sixth formers head off into further education or the world of work it’s rare they return to their school.

But at Whitby Community College, 10 former students are passing on their expertise to other youngsters as part of a mentoring scheme to help those who need extra help or are struggling with their studies.

The pioneering initiative which college head Keith Prytherch says is very successful, is just one way in which it aims to enable students to fulfil their full potential.

He said: “They are ex-sixth form students on a gap year or who have been to university and have just come back, they are much closer to the GCSE students in age.

“They work with those students who are a bit behind with their coursework or who are under achieving. These young people do a fabulous job as learning mentors.”

One pupil to benefit from the mentoring scheme which has been running at the college for the past four years is 17-year-old Luke Brown from Whitby.

Luke, who hopes to work on the oil rigs in the future, received support from students and extra teaching tuition to help him with his GCSE English exam after getting a D grade last summer.

After re-sitting the exam he received the good news he had achieved a C grade in November last year.

“I didn’t do very well during class,” he said. “The mentoring was more on a one to one basis. We met every day for 20 minutes a day.

“I feel a lot happier now I have passed, I never thought I was going to. I was with Rich and Dan, two past students, and I was able to talk to them in a less formal way. I think it really helps.”

Fellow student Katie Welford (16) from Staithes received extra help to achieve a C grade in Maths after narrowly missing out on the benchmark in her exams. She now hopes to pursue a career in the police, working in the drug squad or traffic after achieving a C grade in her resit.

“Without maths, I wouldn’t be able to do that,” she said. “I wanted to do well for myself as well as the teacher. He put a lot of effort in to where we needed to be. It’s such a relief to have passed.”

Last year, 55% of students at Whitby Community College achieved five A* to C grades at GCSE or equivalent. This was below the national average of 59.4% and the county average of 65.6%.

Schools are mainly judged on results in English and maths, with science, languages, history and geography also carrying weight.

Headteacher Keith Prytherch said the grade marking fiasco last summer, which saw results slump after exam boards suddenly increased the number of marks needed to secure good grades, has impacted on the college’s 2012 league table results which were published in the Whitby Gazette last Friday.

According to exams regulator Ofqual, nationally schools sent a third more GCSE and A-level papers back for re-marking last summer after thousands of teenagers did not achieve their predicted grades.

It resulted in the number of students achieving A* to C fall for the first time in 26 years and saw more than 45,600 GCSE and A Level grades being changed – about half a per cent of all exams and an increase of 19% on the year before.

At the college, there were a number of students who closely missed out on a grade C in English or Maths last summer because of the marking controversy and re-took their exams in November last year.

Mr Prytherch said sixteen youngsters narrowly missed out on a grade C in Maths last summer because of one mark however, they re-sat the exam in the November with the different grading system and 14 of them achieved a C grade.

“If fairness had been in play they would have all passed in the summer,” he said. “We could have had 14% of students passing 5 A* to C if the January grade boundary had applied in the summer exams.

“It’s affected the league tables figures undoubtedly, that said it would have impacted on most schools.

“I just hope the people in charge of the exam boards have got it right for the future.”

Mr Prytherch said he raised the issue with Whitby MP Robert Goodwill at the time and wrote to government education secretary Michael Gove, along with many other schools in the country who were also hit hard.

He added he thinks it is very unfair for people to look at raw scores in league tables and misinterpret them and that other figures, which take into account socio-economic factors and prior attainment for example, should also be featured more prominently.

“I’m always cynical of people that compare raw results,” he said. “You have to understand what students are like when they enter your school.

“All you can do is the best for every individual and work with them as best you can.”

In the past two years, for example the college achieved a value added score of 1003.3 for its pupil progress in key stage 4 – 1,000 is the par score. The score indicates how well a school has brought on pupils from one test level to another.

Another figure, not mentioned in the league table results often published in the press, is the amount of NEETS – a government acronym for people currently “not in education, employment, or training.

Last year, the college had four and Mr Prytherch said the team puts a huge amount of work into each individual to ensure a positive outcome for them – something he said they are very proud of.

In their A Level results, students at Whitby Community College scored an average of 674.3 A Level points down from 681.3 the year before while pupils’ average point score per grade was 210.1 which actually between a B and C grade at A Level.

Mr Prytherch added the college has also made a huge difference to youngsters’ learning and recreational environment over the past 18 months.

It has invested in a new fitness gym, the art department has been refurbished, there are two new science labs and the school hall can now be transformed into a state of the art performance space complete with big screen and black out blinds.

The college is also investing heavily in new technology and at the learning centre including e-books.