The Maths Alumni Project – Message from Jackie Haggett

Maths Teacher Ralph Allen School in Bath

When Garrod, the project manager, approached us with this project it seemed so obvious and such a good idea that his enthusiasm and creative ideas were simply a bonus. The project has been a small initiative here as we needed to be realistic about our capacity to become involved. Even so it has led to the creation of new and useful contacts within our parents and alumni, and resources for use in the classroom in the shape of lesson starters.

Last year we focused on inspiring our C/D borderline students to see how a higher grade Mathematics qualification could enable them to access new pathways. We were very pleased with the outcomes as we re-engaged some of these pupils in their learning. This was achieved through use of the maths careers website and introducing simple real life uses of aspects of their syllabus material in a more directed way. Alongside a small group mentoring project, it became evident in August that these starter activities had a positive impact on the number of C grade GCSEs the students finally achieved. It also led to some useful conversations about careers, study pathways and income tax!

This year we have targeted the most able students and invited teachers in school and ex students to discuss their A level choices and career paths. Again as a classroom teacher it has meant that I am truly aware of my students’ ambitions and plans (or the lack of any) and it has not been as complicated as you might think to organise. One member of the department had a career in Finance before teaching and he was able to compare and contrast these. Just allowing students to ask questions first hand such as; “How much did you earn? Why did you leave? Why do you like teaching?; Are you glad you’ve had more than one type of job?; What A levels did you take?; What is your best memory from that job?” is fantastic. Another example which was very productive involved an ex student who returned to Ralph Allen and described to a group of students his career as an Actuary. When he spoke to the pupils, he was about to change jobs and he talked to the students about the utility of a mathematics qualification; it really brings home to students not only how useful their mathematics can be directly but also that their employment may change and it will be the transferable skills such as creative problem solving and accurate data handling that mathematics provides, that will be seen as desirable by employers. Currently I have several students in another of my teaching groups are interested in music and medicine as career paths, I am currently in the process of contacting some of our ex students to talk to these pupils about the role of doctors in today’s society and working with an orchestra.

We all know we use mathematics every day but it only helps to remind our students that we all use different aspects of mathematics at different times so the more informed our students become, the better prepared they will be for the challenges of the workplace. This project is one way in which we are able to do this; it is a simple idea, and can engage pupils on so many different levels, providing them with a range of contacts from outside of school who can inform them about careers and study pathways in a way that teachers can’t. It has also had the bonus that as a school community we are integrating more with parents and former pupils.