Horncastle schools team up for pioneering Saturday scheme

Maths, glorious maths.....one  group of students getting extra help and advice ahead of their forthcoming GCSE exams. Picture: John Aron.
Maths, glorious maths.....one group of students getting extra help and advice ahead of their forthcoming GCSE exams. Picture: John Aron.

According to Elton John, Saturday night is ‘alright for fighting’.

According to students at Horncastle’s Banovallum and Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar schools, Saturday morning is alright for... studying.

All smiles: Three of the students work together in the classroom. Picture: John Aron.

All smiles: Three of the students work together in the classroom. Picture: John Aron.

Most parents would suggest their teenagers rarely see a Saturday morning - largely because they don’t drag themselves out of bed until lunchtime!

It is a different story for GCSE students at Banovallum and QEGS.

On a recent Saturday, almost 60 of them ‘signed up’ for extra sessions at Banovallum ahead of GCSE exams.

There wasn’t a droopy eye-lid in sight.

One for the boys: Two students work through a maths paper. Picture: John Aron.

One for the boys: Two students work through a maths paper. Picture: John Aron.

Just after 10am, they stepped into classrooms .

The sessions are all part of a unique initiative.

Staff and students are building on excellent links between the two schools by providing opportunities for what they describe as ‘peer led revision support and preparation for forthcoming exams.’

Essentially, Year 11 pupils from both schools are receiving support from QEGS’ A-level students in a wide variety of subjects.

Happy to help:  Georgia Whitley (centre) passes on tips to GSCE students during the Saturday morning programme. Picture: John Aron

Happy to help: Georgia Whitley (centre) passes on tips to GSCE students during the Saturday morning programme. Picture: John Aron

Staff are on hand but the actual sessions are taken - and organised - by students.

Such co-operation will no doubt surprise some - not least the many ex-pupils who were brought up on tales of not always friendly rivalry between the two schools.

The Saturday project was piloted last year and was such a success, the schools agreed to run the programme again.

Banovallum Assistant Head Ian Leary leads and co-ordinates the programme along with Tim Randman, Head of Sixth Form at QEGS.

Mr Leary said: “This is a fantastic example of the two local secondary schools working together for the benefit of the students in the town.

“The Sixth Form students are learning vital life skills and experiences which will contribute to their university applications.

“The Year 11 students are receiving support in a secure small group - or one-to- one environment - where they can ask questions of their peers who have recent exam experience.

“What is particularly pleasing is the number of former Banovallum students who went on to Sixth Form at QEGS last year and have now returned to assist this year.”

One of those students is 16-year-old Georgia Whitley.

Twelve months ago, she was ‘on the other side of the desk’ so to speak, struggling to get to grips with English Literature.

She explains: “I was a Grade ‘E’ student but I started attending the sessions and I achieved an ‘A’ in my exams.

“Now, I’m taking English as an A-level at QEGS.”

Georgia is proof the sessions do work.

There’s no doubt she could be elsewhere on a Saturday morning but she is more than happy to mentor the class of 2018.

It’s not just the offer of free tea and a broken biscuit either!

She adds: “We all get on. I suppose it can be a bit awkward at first but there’s a great feeling that we are in this together.

“The GCSE students want to learn and we want to help.

“The teachers at both schools do a fantastic job but this is just something different, something extra.

“Last year, I found it really helpful to talk to someone closer to my own age and get advice on how to revise, what to revise and what to expect (in exams).

“It was a massive help.

“I’m certain I wouldn’t have done as well in my exams .

“Now, it’s great to be able to pass on some help and support.”

While Georigia is mentoring English students, a few yards along the corridor Sam Smiley is helping with maths...arguably the toughest of all GSCE subjects.

Such is the demand for maths, students have to be ‘divided’ into smaller groups.

Sam helps organise and set-up the sessions and is another ‘big fan’ of the initiative.

He’s in his second year of mentoring and admits he really enjoys the experience.

“There’s a feeling you are doing something really positive,” says Sam who knows the experience will sit well on his CV.

While algebra and trigonometry might seem ‘Double Dutch’ to most of us, Sam and his co-mentors make things seems clearer to eager teenagers who hang on to their every word.

Staff are never far away. Banovallum head Grant Edgar is among those who believe what is a positive first Horncastle could be rolled out across the rest of the country.

The Saturday sessions are another example of a pioneering partnership between the schools who initially formed an ‘umbrella’ Academy.

Jenny Bargh, deputy headteacher at QEGS, describes the sessions as a ‘brilliant concept’.

As well as helping and inspiring students preparing for exams, the sessions provide all important experience for mentors who could well become the teachers of the future.

Ms Bargh stressed all mentors have to pass an interview while sessions are monitored by staff.

Ms Bargh revealed some GCSE students from QEGS were making use of the sessions, adding “The programme is a brilliant example of how students can work together.”

Ms Bargh said there would be further collaboration between the schools as part of fund-raising efforts for sport relief.