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BSix Back on Track – Educating the invisible students

BSix College Hackney leads the way to educate ‘the invisible students’!


On the 13th November 2018, Julia Belgutay, Deputy FE Editor for the TES, wrote an insightful piece entitled, ‘Let’s open our eyes to the invisible students;’ regarding the tens of thousands of college students who drop out in the first six weeks of each year.

BSix already has a reputation as a ‘2nd chance college’ and is turning this into a positive. It is clear just how many young people don’t get it right with their 1st choice of course at post-16. BSix Principal, Kevin Watson, was keen to further the role of the college and address this need.

‘Every year we know that some students find themselves, after the first few months of sixth form education, at something of a dead end. Whether because they struggle to make the transition from school to college, have chosen an inappropriate course or failed to deal with particular personal circumstances, many choose to drop out. It is usually a year before those students can resume their education, but our Back on Track programme allows them to avoid such a loss of time, to gain qualifications and to consider carefully their next steps towards employment or university.’

In November 2018, the ‘Back on Track course’ was devised and promoted. The college was overwhelmed by the number of students who responded and came to interview. In January the college enrolled 30 students with a diverse range of experiences: those who had arrived in the UK too late to enrol in September, some with a mixed package of GCSE results who didn’t get their 1st choice elsewhere, and some who had dropped out of college courses, or not been allowed to return to their course at college, due to poor attendance and mental health issues.

The Back on Track Course models the BSix flexible approach; with its key purpose to motivate and re-engage young people with education and work towards a suitable progression route. By the summer, students will have achieved Study Skills and Higher or Extended Project Qualifications. The projects are ideal as they enable students to select a subject that interests them and helps to deepen their knowledge in a sector that they hope to have a career in. Local Business Enterprise Partnership, Inspire! is integral to the course. They are delivering an enrichment element called ‘Head Start,’ which mentors the group to research local issues and devise a social action project. They also run employability workshops leading to a block work placement in each young person’s career interest area.

The course tutor, Nadine Joseph, said that, ‘The added dimensions of the course and the element of team teaching has been a powerful tool in supporting and working with this diverse group to ensure they achieve and progress. I have seen a few who were less engaged at the start who are now really excited about what they are working on!’

Back on Track student, Mohamad Ahmad, was at a loss of what to do on arriving in the UK in June 2018. The 8 colleges he visited to enquire about courses did not seem to be able to offer him the GCSEs that he hoped for. BSix was effectively his 9th choice college and the January start option was a lifeline. Mohamad travels daily from Barking, a bus journey that takes him 2 to 3 hours each way! Yet so happy has he been with his experience of BSix that his progression plan is to achieve well this summer and progress to A-levels at BSix for a further two years.

Mohamad commented saying, ‘I am gaining so many positives even in this short time at BSix. The simple lesson of patience that I am learning through my daily schedule has built up my tolerance and appreciation of the fact that anything worthwhile in life is worth taking time over. BSix has completely changed my life!’

Catherine Antwi, also a student who arrived from outside the UK, has a similar story and plans to stay on at BSix to study further GCSEs and A-Levels.

Rufai Ali has a career ambition to become a computer network engineer. He had been seeking an apprenticeship after school, but when this did not materialise, found himself in a state of play where he was also too late to enrol at College. He is enjoying the Back on Track course and said he plans to progress internally onto a full time BTEC IT course in September this year.

On Wednesday 13th March, BSix Back on Track students were visited by the Deputy Mayor of Hackney, Cllr Anntoinette Bramble and Annie Gammon, Director of Education at the Hackney Learning Trust. Both were impressed by the students and the purposefulness of the course.

Annie commended BSix saying,

‘The Back on Track course is hugely important for a number of young people who clearly feel that it has given them a great opportunity and a new chance to further their education. For individuals in, or local to Hackney, who have not found the right post 16 course at the right time, or who have missed part of their post 16 education, this course gives them a tailored opportunity to attain any missing qualifications and to prepare for their next steps. I don’t know of any other institution that has such a flexible January start option: this course is a great chance to include our young people and ensure they get back on track.’

Reflecting on the current success of the course, Principal Kevin Watson added,

I am delighted that this cohort of students are benefitting from the opportunity provided to remain in education, achieve valuable qualifications and gain a clearer idea of where their long-term futures lie.  Hopefully, this can become something of a niche for BSix, helping students to get Back on Track.’

Annie Gammon HLT Director of Education

'I spoke to some of the young people on the course who felt that it had given them a great opportunity which they were committed to and a new chance to further their education. One young man travels over two hours each way to come to college to take part: it is so important to him.'