Northampton College is a leading provider of further education in the South East Midlands with roughly 6,000 students, including 3,700 English and maths learners.
Earlier this year, Assistant Principal Jolene Baldock, GCSE English coordinator Jonathan Moss and GCSE Maths Coordinator John Tose shared with us why their college chose to implement CENTURY, what they are doing to drive engagement on the platform and how it can be used to support FE learners and teaching staff specifically.
Can you tell us a bit about why you chose CENTURY for your college?
Jolene: Our grades were already very good for English and Maths – we have a very strong delivery team, and we're within the top quarter of the NART table data. So in terms of attainment, we didn’t have a big problem that we needed to solve. Instead, we were really looking at what we could do differently to try and promote different student behaviours, such as self-directed learning, and that’s what drew us to CENTURY.
John: In the maths department, what we were most excited about was using CENTURY to encourage our students to take more responsibility for their learning and providing them with an alternative way to access the curriculum away from the classroom, so that they can learn at a pace which is comfortable to them and be able to see tangible evidence of their own improvement.
Jonathan: We are always looking to help our students to develop stronger digital skills, regardless of their course. However, English typically doesn't tend to lend itself to interactive tasks as well as maths does, so we needed to find a way to develop that in our English delivery – we were looking at YouTube videos and using various resources on the internet, but it got far too time-consuming and complicated. We wanted a platform that would enable us to use technology in a much more streamlined way that is easy to access and to use, and CENTURY does that.
We also have over 3000 students doing English and maths, and a lot of teachers have around 150 students each. So we were in need of a way to personalise learning outside the classroom that could give us more freedom within the classroom – for example, we can assign topics like punctuation on CENTURY and focus on more engaging and fun activities in the classroom. The personalised pathways also help to fill in gaps in knowledge in a more natural way that doesn't harm students’ confidence, and which prevents them from comparing themselves to their peers as much.
How have students engaged with the platform so far, and what are you doing to drive this engagement?
Jolene: During our first year of using the platform, 91% of the 1,600 learners with English outcomes and 93% of the 2,100 learners with maths outcomes regularly used CENTURY. In terms of their level of engagement, every English learner completed an average of 18.5 hours on CENTURY, which equated to 1.4 million questions answered, and maths learners studied for an average of 25 hours in total, answering a total of roughly 2.3 million questions.
That data comes from all of our learners with an English and a maths outcome, which includes study programme learners, 16-18 year olds, adult learners aged 19 and above and apprentices, so we’re very pleased with that.
John: The engagement wasn’t as high as we wanted it to be at the start, as it was a completely new concept for our students and it required them to take on more of an active role in their learning than they were used to. We needed to get students to recognise the importance of CENTURY as a tool that is of equal importance to the taught lessons they receive, and to embrace the platform as being an integral component of their learning.
To do this, we are starting to deliver the ‘use of CENTURY’ videos in class and they will all be made available online so that students can access higher quality training. We also know that students can sense if their teachers are not confident with their subject knowledge and lesson delivery, so we have made a real commitment to upskilling as many staff as possible to make sure that they are confident using the platform in their lessons.
Finally, we are reaching out to the vocational subject areas and encouraging them to embed CENTURY into their planning. Contextualising maths topics so that students can see the relevance of them in their main course opens up the opportunity to use CENTURY throughout the whole college. So we’re looking to explore those cross-curricular links wherever possible.
How do you think CENTURY fits into an FE setting?
Jolene: One particular benefit of the platform for FE colleges is that it helps to support learners who start college with a Grade 4 in maths and English already, because they still need to keep up and improve those skills even if they won’t be explicitly assessed on them. CENTURY has worked very well in tutorials programs to support that development.
The platform has also benefited our vocational teachers, not only our English and maths teachers, which has been great because there have been so many changes to the syllabuses since they last learned English and maths themselves. So some of our vocational teachers have used CENTURY as the backbone of their own upskilling, and it has provided them with high-quality resources that are very easy to share and incorporate within their classrooms.
Jonathan: Many FE students are lacking in self-directed study skills, and they feel particularly demotivated when it comes to English or maths – by the time they start at college, they’ve already had bad experiences of those subjects at school and the last thing they really want to do is more of them.
We feel that CENTURY is a great way for us to help students develop the ability to learn more independently and, by making it more interactive and engaging, to give them a bit more motivation to learn.
How has CENTURY integrated into the teaching and learning at Northampton?
Jolene: In terms of our curriculum delivery, it has enabled us to totally rethink how we do things. For example, learners traditionally study in the college for up to 32 weeks during an academic year with a teacher in a classroom, but with CENTURY, we have been able to develop Fast Track programmes where the majority of the learning goes through the platform, meaning that it can be done whenever and wherever. This helps students to develop the self-study behaviours that will help them to reach their goals, and it allows teachers to focus more of their time on supporting problem areas so that students can make progress quicker.
Jonathan: Over the past year, students have made progress and gained confidence, it’s provided us as teachers lots of useful data and more freedom in the classroom, and it’s given parents and guardians more insight into their child’s learning. So, from our perspective, CENTURY is an invaluable independent learning tool that is here to stay.
Learn more about how CENTURY is helping FE colleges to supercharge their teaching and learning.