January 2019

University College Birmingham beats national trend - GCSE maths resit success

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Students have been celebrating after passing their resit in GCSE maths - and for one dedicated student in particular, it was a moment well worth waiting for. 

Areejah Mahmood was among 47 UCB students to achieve a Grade 4 in the latest GCSE maths resit in November, with the University's pass rate more than 10% higher than the average across the rest of the country.

The pass had been a long time coming for Areejah, who had already taken a string of resits since arriving at UCB in 2014 to study a Level 2 in Early Years Education and Care. She arrived with a D grade in both GCSE English and maths, the latter of which had long been a troublesome subject for her. 

“I used to be afraid of maths,” said Areejah. “I felt like numbers were going to eat me up!

“It was the only subject which I found really difficult. I used to get quite worried and frustrated about why I couldn't understand it.”

Areejah had a difficult time at school before arriving at UCB, experiencing problems with low confidence and bullying, as well as several medical conditions including a visual impairment. But, she showed great strength to pull through.

Needing to resit both her English and maths GCSEs alongside her studies at UCB, Areejah was given plenty of help by staff at the University's Centre for Academic Skills and English (CASE) and the Academic Skills Centre (ASC), who provide all UCB students with tailored support to help them achieve their goals. 

“I spoke to my lecturer, Su Collins, who decided to help me and find out what I needed,” said Areejah. “A few weeks later I had an Academic Skills support worker sitting next to me, who said I could ask them for help and they could explain the work to me.

"Because of my visual impairment, I had note-takers in the classroom and had altered versions of PowerPoint presentations provided for me.”

Areejah also attended appointments at the ASC every week, where staff helped look over her work, suggesting ways she could improve her English skills and help her to become more independent.

Chloe Painter, who supported Areejah at ASC, explained: “She became so independent and improved so much over the years. It was fantastic to see the change in her in terms of confidence, the content of her work, her dedication, everything.”

Acing English

With the help of ASC staff and her English teacher, Gavin Cole, Areejah excelled and passed her GCSE English resit at the first attempt.

“Despite initially lacking in confidence, Areejah quickly grew to enjoy English,” said Gavin, Assistant Director for Learning Services (English) at UCB.

“She combined strength of character with a pro-active and professional approach to her studies. With excellent attendance to her GCSE English lessons, her effort and determination were exemplary and she overcame an occasional lack of confidence in her ability. She always worked hard in lessons and never gave up despite the challenging nature of the course.”

Although she had now passed her GCSE English, Areejah did not get the grade she wanted in her maths resit, but that did not stop her. She continued to study and take further resits, all while successfully progressing through her Level 2 and 3 childcare courses, before being accepted onto UCB's BA (Hons) Childhood Studies course.

Supported by her personal tutor, Emma Ransome, Areejah was given the flexibility within her higher education timetable to continue attending maths classes with her lecturer Sunil Ramsey, with continued collaboration with the CASE and ASC teams.

And, after more than four years of dedication and hard work, she received the best late birthday present she could ask for when, a few days after turning 21, she found out that she had achieved a Grade 4 in GCSE maths.

“I want to say thank you to the whole maths department,” said Areejah. “Sunil – and Gavin – have had my back since I started. If it wasn't for my lecturers, I don't know where I would be.

“Sunil always took the time for me to come and see him, he was always here for me. If I got upset, he would calm me down.

"Also thank you to Chloe Painter, Sharon Legg [CASE], Gregory Hughes [Learning Services] and others - they're fantastic at their jobs. I couldn't ask for more.”

Praising her on her success, lecturer Sunil Ramsey said: "From the very beginning, Areejah never missed an opportunity to develop and improve her mathematic skills, constantly asking for more material to work on in lessons, and always bringing work in that she had completed at home for me to check.

“She never missed a lesson and as a result, she is now able to taste the success she so richly deserves.”

Areejah was just one of the many UCB students to achieve a Grade 4 in the latest GCSE maths resit, with the University's pass rate of 38.8% ranking far above the national average of between 25% and 28% across different exam boards - as well as an improvement upon its own pass rate from previous resits.

Detori delivers

Also celebrating recent GCSE resit success was Detori Avey, who arrived at UCB in 2018 to study Health and Social Care.

Detori was determined to achieve both her GCSE English and maths in one academic year. And amazingly, with unrelenting determination and hard work, she achieved not only a Grade 4 in English, but in maths too.

Debbie Hocknell, Assistant Dean of Education, Health and Community, said: “English and maths are vital to future success in our vocational area. Detori can be rightly proud of this wonderful achievement.”

Detori said of her outstanding achievement: “I’d like to thank Guy Fothergill [Learning Services] and Sunil for all the support they gave me over the year - I couldn’t have done it without them. I can now move forward in my chosen career.”

Find out more about our pathways for students to continue studying GCSE maths and English here.

See more information here about our Learning and Support Services, including CASE and ASC.

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