1. East Hertfordshire Study Centre Project: the County Programme, Hertfordshire
Hertfordshire's County Programme is divided into seven geographical areas and addresses four strategic objectives. One of these is to improve educational attainment, especially among young people aged 14-19, and this project represents East Hertfordshire's particular means of addressing that objective. The project is divided into three areas: a revision programme for students approaching their GCSEs; a thinking skills programme aimed at students in their first year of A Levels; and a programme that targets students of high ability in Year Seven.
The main strengths of the Study Centres project are the educational, social and personal benefits that students gain from the three programmes and the staff development that has occurred as a consequence of the project. The potential for sustainability is also an important factor.
Models of Good Practice
- The early involvement of participating schools and colleges in the project's design and development.
- Bringing together pupils from different schools has improved attitudes and motivation.
- Headteachers and staff have been involved in and committed to the development and delivery of the project.
- The project manager is a retired headteacher who is able to co-ordinate the different project strands across a number of participating institutions.
- Delivery has been of a high quality.
The project provides models in three areas.
Background - Problems to be Tackled
- Changing attitudes towards learning
- The project recognises that in some cases, improvements in educational attainment can only be achieved through improved motivation or changes in behaviour.
- To change attitudes, the project has brought together pupils from different schools at an unfamiliar venue with unfamiliar tutors. In the thinking skills and enrichment programmes, the focus on building relationships and co-operative working has also aided this process.
- Collaborative learning
- Bringing students together on discrete learning programmes not only enhances motivation, but also provides 'added value' for participating schools and their staff.
- Benefits have included development of project management and organisational skills, and improved confidence among staff. The project has also provided a platform for other areas of co-operation between schools.
- Designing forward strategies
- The project's strategy of introducing a nominal charge for its learning programmes, and gradually increasing this charge over the course of the project's life, is intended to create an expectation of payment after the SRB scheme has finished.
- For the providers - the schools - the focus on ownership of the project is intended to sustain the project on a long-term basis.
Each of the geographic areas that make up Hertfordshire's SRB programme has been involved in defining its own needs and identifying appropriate responses. In East Hertfordshire, the decision to develop study centres delivering specific study programmes was based on schools' own perceptions of their needs. Consequently, the rationale for the project is the response to specific local requirements.
However, there are certain issues across the county that the whole scheme has needed to address:
Although not all of these areas relate directly to education, it is seen as central to the long-term improvement of the county's economy, through enhancing employment prospects and raising self-esteem. This provides the link to the scheme's overarching aim: 'to promote the economic and social prosperity of Hertfordshire as a knowledge-based economy in a sustainable environment.'
- The county's labour market structure is changing, towards smaller workforces, with a core of executives controlling contractors.
- Upskilling in the county will result in 80 per cent of the workforce being in knowledge based activities.
- A geographical division of labour has the lower skill functions located in lower cost areas.
How the Project was Developed
The County Programme grew out of the Partnership for Prosperity Forum, a cross-sectoral organisation with a three-point strategy to raise education and training standards, promote high quality development on designated sites, and establish a development organisation to attract local and inward investment. The County's 14-19 Strategic Forum for Education and Training reports to the Prosperity Forum and includes Hertfordshire Education Business Partnership. The Forum has been responsible for the establishment of many initiatives including the opening of jointly funded adult guidance centres.
The Partnership's SRB bid was approved in 1994, and provided the funding and impetus for educational attainment projects across the county.
The East Hertfordshire project was developed in embryonic form by Hertfordshire TEC, in consultation with the local area partnership group and the participating schools and college.
All schools in the area were invited to an initial meeting to discuss the format of the project, and those that attended became the pilot study centres.
The project began in 1997, and delivery in schools started in the academic year 1997-98. Pilot study improvement centres were set up in three secondary schools - and at the Regional College. From September 1999, six more schools will be added to the project.
Project delivery is organised around three learning programmes
- Revision programme
This is aimed at students taking GCSE examinations, and involves a two-day revision programme covering English, maths and science. It takes place during the Easter holiday at one of the participating educational institutions, and the focus is on the process of exam practice.
The criteria for recruiting to this programme are fairly loose, though it is primarily targeted at students who are likely to be on the borderline of grades C and D in their GCSEs. These students are normally encouraged to attend by teachers and/or parents, but in some cases are directly motivated to participate.
The first revision programme was held in 1998, with 120 students - about 30 from each school/college - participating. Evaluations show that the programme was generally well received by the students, and that tutors were also positive about the way students responded to the course.
A second revision programme was held in April 1999. The intake was increased to 160 students, and the programme was enlarged to include geography, French and German.
The revision programme has a number of key features.
- There is a deliberate policy to bring students together at one site and not to use familiar teachers. This aids student motivation.
- While the first programme (1998) was free, the intention is gradually to increase the charge over the life of the project to create an expectation of payment after the end of the SRB scheme. A nominal charge of £1 was introduced in Year 2.
- Some statistical work has now been undertaken to try and assess the first programme in relation to outcomes. This was based on a comparison of GCSE grades achieved with predicted grades. While there is evidence to suggest that results were better than expected for students attending the revision course, this is not wholly conclusive.
- Thinking Skills Programme
This is aimed at students in the first year of an A level course and aims to encourage students to think and work co-operatively and to improve their attitude, motivation and study skills for their A level course.
Again, the selection criteria are fairly loose, but tend to target students who are wavering during the first two terms of A level studies, and who might consequently drop out. As with the revision programme, students come on to the programme as a result of teacher or parent encouragement, or are themselves motivated to do so.
An organisation called the Leadership Challenge runs a two-day residential course during the summer term. It covers a number of practical activities for small groups of students. A third day completes the programme with physical activities such as rock-climbing and canoeing.
Forty students attended the first thinking skills programme in 1998, many of whom were enthusiastic about what they had achieved and how it helped them to understand their own learning. Staff from the participating institutions were also positive about the way the students had responded. In 1999 the programme was enlarged to accommodate 60 students.
The thinking skills programme has a number of key features.
- The programme is designed to encourage students to work and build up relationships with students from outside their own classrooms. This increases both self-confidence and motivation.
- The second programme saw the introduction of a charge of £25 to cover the residential costs. Again, this is part of the project's exit strategy.
- Student and teacher evaluations of the course are very positive. While it is hard to evaluate hard outcomes, one way of doing so is to see how many participating students stay on for the second year of their A levels. This does not demonstrate improved attainment, but it does address one of the primary aims of the programme: to encourage students to continue their A level studies. By this criterion the project has been a success to date, since only one of the 40 students who took part in the first year did not continue their studies.
- Enrichment Programme
The enrichment programme is aimed at students who are of high ability, to provide them with a wider opportunity to learn and develop both personally and academically. The programme began in 1998-99 with 20 Year Seven students who will continue with the programme until they reach year 11. Each year, a new group of Year Seven students will be added to the programme.
In its first year the programme took the form of a residential course and two one-day sessions. These were run by GIFT, an organisation that specialises in providing these kinds of activities for schools.
There are a number of key issues for this programme.
- The criteria for choosing students are again quite flexible. According to the project leader, selection is largely based on students whom teachers perceive to be able and/or having some problems adapting to school.
- A modest charge is being introduced for the second wave of the programme, as part of the forward strategy.
- As with the thinking skills programme, this activity has received very positive evaluations from students, teachers and parents. However, it is probably the hardest programme to evaluate in terms of hard outcomes.
The SRB allocation for the East Hertfordshire Study Centre project is £111,037 over four years allowing for a project leader, a project team, delivery of the programme, and contingency.
The allocation is doubled in the final year to permit expansion of the project and an increase of the project team from four to eight. Participating schools make a modest contribution in kind.
Outcomes and Achievements
Although only in its second year, the project:
The project has also contributed to staff development in the participating schools. Project coordinators' levels of confidence seemed to have increased significantly since the project began, and it has been instrumental in improvements in organisational and other skills associated with project delivery. This should in turn help towards sustaining the project after the expiry of the SRB scheme.
- is well established, fully staffed and operational;
- has a clear vision of where it is going, has developed measures to enhance and expand the programme, and is working towards a clear exit strategy;
- has exceeded its targets in terms of the number of young people benefiting, and has been favourably received by students, staff and parents; and
- has made some impact (where it has been possible to develop some form of measurement) in realising discrete learning outcomes and achieving student retention on courses.
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