Open Thinkering


Tag: GCSEs

GCSE results by location/ethnicity [visualization]

The consistently helpful Nathan Yau at FlowingData posted a brief tutorial this week on how to make heatmaps quickly. I had a play given that the UK government launched the surprisingly useful and well thought-out recently!

Here’s what I came up with:

Proportion of students gaining 5 or more  A*-C GCSE grades in England, 2006-9

(yes, I too was surprised that the North East leads the way in number of students gaining 5 or more A*-Cs!) :-p

5 ways my teaching will change because of today’s GCSE results.

Despite having now completed my fourth year as a teacher, today’s GCSE results were my first batch. Unfortunately, they weren’t great. In fact, they were rather embarrassing. 😮

I could list many reasons why my two Year 11 History classes didn’t do as well as they were predicted – or as well in History as they did in other subjects. But I’m not a whinger. Instead, here’s the ways I’m going to prevent the same thing happening again:

1. Spend some time ‘off the bandwagon’ before implementation

I was guilty of using my GCSE class as guinea pigs; we tried a whole host of Web 2.0-related stuff. I should have focused on stuff I knew inside-out instead of being intent on being an early adopter. There needs to be a sound pedagogical reason for using a tool, rather than just finding it ‘cool’.

In every other sphere of my life I try not to be an early adopter. For example, I usually wait for the second revision of products, for others to work out the quirks and foibles. Perhaps I need to do that more when teaching, too.

2. Treat students as teenagers, not adults

I tend to have a fairly laid-back approach in the classroom. I’m interested in stories and tend to go off at tangents. I assume that students have an interest in doing well and so perhaps I wasn’t strict enough with those who didn’t hand in practice exam questions during the revision period. I’m fairly certain it was those students who just missed out on C grades…

3. Get parents more involved

In my first, less successful school, I phoned home often – and not just to ask parents to discipline their children. I’d phone home and let parents know how fantastically their child was doing in my lesson. Cue extra effort in my lessons. I haven’t done that nearly as much at my current school.

Parents obviously have a massive influence on the life of young people and help shape their values and beliefs. I need to call on the power they hold a lot more often than I do now.

4. Be more positive

I smile a lot. In fact, people comment on it. But there’s more to being positive than just appearing happy. I know that I’m overly sarcastic and can take the mick a bit too much. I just find it hard to big people up in a non-sarcastic way. Too much Monty Python and Eddie Izzard, perhaps.

I’m going to make a conscious effort to, as John Johnston commented on a previous post, adhere to a policy of ‘unconditional positive regard’ within my classroom.

5. Feel less guilty about detentions for not doing homework

I don’t like homework set for the sake of it. I’m fine with project work done at home and students doing extra research out of interest, but homework for the sake of just trying to get knowledge into heads seems to me a waste of time in this day and age.

But when students get to GCSE level unfortunately they have to fill their heads full of some knowledge that they’ll probably only ever use for the exam. In this scenario, then, I’m going to feel a lot less guilty about insisting they complete knowledge-based homework.

What lessons have YOU learned recently?

And finally, just to make me feel better: “Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth learning can be taught.” (Oscar Wilde) – also read this. Thanks goes to @theokk for both. 🙂

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(Almost) everything you need to know about the 14-19 changes

Brevity is a virtue. It’s all very well having a way with words, but they need to be read, understood and inwardly-digested to make an impact. Our Head was sufficiently impressed with SecEd‘s guide to the changes in GCSEs and wider 14 to 19 reforms to have it photocopied and issued to staff. I’m going to pare it down to the absolute minimum in what follows… 😀

Key Facts:

  • New qualification – the diploma – starting to be taught this September.
  • Functional skills to be come an essential element of Maths, English & ICT (students not able to achieve above a ‘C’ grade without passing this element)
  • Number of units at ‘A’ Level being reduced from 6 to 4 – more open-ended questions and a new A* grade.
  • Coursework will effectively cease in its current form. Being replaced by ‘controlled assessment’ that can be taken at discretion of teachers.

Timeline of changes:

(click for larger version)


The first five diplomas on offer will be:

  • Creative and Media
  • Construction and the Built Environment
  • Engineering
  • Information Technology
  • Society, Health & Development

These will be offered at Level 1 (Foundation), Level 2 (Higher) and Level 3 (Advanced). Expectation that diplomas will be available in 17 subjects by 2011 and to all students by 2013. Students will have 600 guided learning hours for Level 1 diplomas and 800 hours for Level 2. Intention is that they will be taken alongside the statutory National Curriculum.

  • Level 1 diploma = 5 GCSEs (D-G)
  • Level 2 diploma = 7 GCSEs (A*-C)

Level 3 diploma comparable to 3 ‘A’ Levels – 1,080 guided learning hours.

Functional Skills:

The first teaching of functional skills as part of English, Maths & ICT courses will take place in 2010. Pilots have been going on since 2007.

  • English: explaining information (speech & writing), understanding instructions, analysing presentation of information (& assessing its usefulness). May involve an oral presentation/contribution to discussions.
  • Maths: capability to solve problems, development of analytical and reasoning skills, and ability to identify errors and inconsistencies.
  • ICT: students expected to feel confident in finding, selecting and collecting information. Need to be able to apply it ‘safely’ to learning.

Controlled Assessment:

There are two different stages to the new controlled assessments:

  1. Research and data collection (can take place under limited levels of supervision “to encourage out-of-classroom learning”)
  2. Production of final piece of work (under formal supervision)

Flexible Assessment:

Move from ‘linear assessment’ (exams at end of two years) to ‘unitised qualifications’ (exams as you go along, with retakes). However, QCA rules state that 40% of assessment must happen at the end of the course and only one re-sit of each assessment is allowed.

More information:

(image credit: standing there riding arrows by zen @ flickr)