July 21, 2006

In the Manner of the Banner?

Follow-up to City slogans and climate change from Computer-aided assessment for sciences

City slogan time again. This year the bright cylindrical banners sheathing the lamp posts at the Gibbet Hill junction exhort me thus: Coventry Banner 2006

COV '06 — be part of it!

While I idle at the traffic lights, I am prompted to ask: when earning my crust on campus, am I part of it?

Geographically I am, because the Mathematics Institute in the Zeeman Building is on the north side of Gibbet Hill Road. But emotionally? Hard to say. I have more contact with Coventry University than I used to; I deal with a Coventry solicitor; my sons watch hockey and skate at the Planet Ice Arena, and swim at the Pool; but from my Leamington base I can't yet claim to feel deeply and meaningfully about Lady Godiva's city in the way I do about London, where I was born.

The University got off to a bad start by naming itself after a county town eight miles away. For decades many citizens of Coventry didn't know where our campus was. Culture vultures found out when the Arts Centre got going, as did some of the city's great and good on the University Council, which occasionally got embroiled in local politics. (Jolly Jack's acquisition of Westwood for the University might merit the attentions of a racy historical/political novelist.)

But here's something exciting to redress the balance: Every Wednesday lunchtime in term–time, buses (often bearing the U of W logo) roll up at Coventry schools to bring their mathematically–talented 6th formers to the University Maths Dept for an afternoon of intense teaching in A–Level Further Mathematics -- the standard A-Level Mathematics syllabus does not really stretch those with a flair for the subject.

Over 100 students from Coventry and Warwickshire are now registered with our Further Maths Centre, which started in a small way some 7 years ago. The success of its 3–year pilot phase was instrumental in persuading the Government to fund the creation of a national Further Mathematics Network which will cover the country. Students in state schools will no longer be deprived of the chance to develop their full mathematical potential simply because their school or college can't find a qualified teacher or because the class is too small to be economic.

So Warwick is changing lives in Coventry and we really are "part of it" after all.


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