How to teach GCSE English to disaffected students at post-16 PART ONE


This is the first of a two-part blog to celebrate (by which I mean publicise, promote, plug) my new book, How to Teach English GCSE Re-sits at Post-16

My new book, How to Teach English GCSE Re-sits at Post-16 is published on 14 March 2017.  It is the third book in a trilogy of English textbooks and follows on from 2013’s SPaG Book and 2014’s Outstanding Literacy.

You know what they say: Three is the magic number, third time lucky.  Well, this book is certainly my favourite.  (Coincidentally, my third child is also the favourite of my offspring.)

SPaG Book was about how to teach spelling, punctuation and grammar and – though I hesitate to use the word ‘idiot’ to describe my fellow professionals – was an idiot’s guide to grammar.  I started that book on the premise that nobody can teach grammar for the simple reason that no one knows what it is.


Outstanding Literacy picked up the baton and carried it a little further along the track.  It explored how to lead – and teach – literacy across the curriculum.  I started that book on the premise that every teacher in English is a teacher of English and that it is every teacher’s responsibility to teach literacy within their subject context.


I wrote my latest book in response to – and I hesitate to use the word ‘crisis’ – the crisis in teaching English re-sits in post-16 settings to those students who failed to achieve a grade C at the end of Year 11.

As part of their Raising the Age of Participation agenda, the government insists that students continue to study English (and maths, for that matter) up to the age of 18 or until they attain the magical C.  Further education providers must therefore teach English (either GCSE or functional skills depending on the student’s starting point and post-16 qualification) in order to meet the conditions of funding.  As such, English has become an integral part of the 16-18 study programme along with the main aim, maths, enrichment and work experience.

And yet little thought – or so it seems to me – has been given to the little matter of how this policy will be enacted.  It poses huge challenges for sixth form colleges and FE institutions in terms of staffing and accommodation, not to mention the challenge of motivating students in a subject in which they have little interest and which has caused them frustration and anxiety at school.

It’s unsurprising, therefore, that (according to Ofsted) “too much teaching in [post-16] English is not good enough” and that recent GCSE results in the further education sector have been poor, with only 6.5% of students achieving a grade C or above in English.

The problem is a big one, too: around 50% of students join a sixth form college or FE institution without a grade C in English and/or maths.  What’s more, many people teaching English re-sits in further education colleges and sixth forms don’t have a grade C themselves and haven’t been properly trained to deliver the subject.

With such a complex malady, it comes as no surprise to me that no one has yet discovered a miracle cure.

My new book – I should point out – doesn’t purport to possess the cure, the panacea, the secret; but with it I do aim to provide a range of advice and strategies to help teachers ensure that their recently unsuccessful, disaffected, low ability, adult students are engaged and inspired and go on to achieve a grade C or higher.

My book focuses on five key themes:

  1. Teaching English;
  2. Teaching students who’ve failed to secure a grade C in English at secondary school;
  3. Teaching students who are likely to be feeling disaffected, disenfranchised and demotivated – and other words beginning with D – by the prospect of once again studying a subject they didn’t pass first time around;
  4. Teaching students who are, by definition of re-sitting a subject they’ve previously failed, ‘less able’ or ‘lower performing’ than their peers who passed it aged sixteen; and
  5. Teaching students who are now in some form of post-16 education or training, most likely in a sixth form college or further education institution, and are therefore to be considered ‘adult students’.

It is split into three parts…

In Part One I explore ‘How to teach’ and offer advice on:

  • How to teach adult students
  • How to teach disaffected students
  • How to teach less able students
  • How to teach post-16 students
  • How to teach re-sits
  • How to teach large groups of students
  • How to teach small groups of students
  • How to teach through explanations and modelling
  • How to teach through assessment
  • How to teach through classroom debates


In Part Two I tackle ‘How to lead’ and proffer opinion on:

  • How to lead an English team
  • How to lead on attendance
  • How to lead on behaviour
  • How to lead on staffing
  • How to lead on timetabling


In Part Three I open the lid of the teacher’s toolbox and examine:

  • The new GCSEs
  • The assessment objectives
  • The learning outcomes
  • How to teach SPaG
  • How to teach reading comprehension
  • How to teach writing


I’m pleased to say that my book is already being used as a core teaching text in the Education and Training Foundation’s (ETF) national English Enhancement Programme which re-trains and up-skills teachers working in FE colleges.  I hope you will find it as useful as they seem to do.

My book is available in paperback and a variety of ebook formats including Kindle and iBooks.

In order to further entice you to buy it, in the second part of this blog I will share an edited extract from the ‘How to lead’ section of the book which focuses on the four biggest challenges associated with teaching English re-sits to disaffected students at post-16, namely:

  1. How to improve student attendance;
  2. How to secure good behaviour and student engagement;
  3. How to get the best staff in place – and keep them; and
  4. How to timetable English.


In the extract, I will look at the first of these challenges: how to improve student attendance…


Buy the new book: Paperback | Kindle | iBooks