Normally I try to be wide-ranging and all-encompassing on this blog. I try to discuss issues that others will face and share my full or partial solutions to problems I encounter. This post is no different; the only thing that will change is the size of the target audience. You need to be able to answer yes to the following questions for this post to be much use to you:
Teach in England? Keep reading!
A History teacher? Keep reading!
Looking to change your Key Stage 3 Programme of Study? Keep reading!
Now that I’ve suitably reduced and targeted the intended audience, let’s get down to business… 😉
I’m not a Head of Department. At the moment, I’ve no intention of being. But I do want an input into the reaction to the changes QCA has specified for September 2008. These change the way in which History is delivered in Key Stage 3 (11-14) in Secondary schools. The best way to get my head around things, I find, and to get to grips with them properly, is to attempt to try and show others in as simple a way as possible.
You might not think that a 30-page document would qualify as ‘simple and straightforward’, but I’m hoping that you change your mind after having a look through it. I’ve attempted to encompass everything I should have, with links to stuff worth including within 8 sections:
4. Curriculum overview
5. Key Concepts & Processes
6. Scheme of Work
7. Attainment targets
8. Further reading
I’m aware I should put in a section for ‘general resources’, but felt it was getting a little unwieldy, plus I wanted to get it online before I tinker with it too much. I’ve included the ‘Context’ section so you can understand that my school is perhaps skewed towards the top end of the ability range and the little quirks inherent in each school/department.. :p
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… 😀
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.
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.
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.
There are two different stages to the new controlled assessments:
Research and data collection (can take place under limited levels of supervision “to encourage out-of-classroom learning”)
Production of final piece of work (under formal supervision)
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.
I sent the following email to Gareth Mills (Head of Programme, Futures, Innovation, and E-Learning at QCA) today:
Gareth,Please excuse me contacting you directly in this manner (I obtained your email address from Terry Freedman), but I feel it is important that my school is clear on what is meant by the QCA ‘big picture’ and the Futures in Action initiative. I am a teacher of History and ICT at a successful school in Doncaster – as well as being an blogger about education – and feel that the sentiments behind what the QCA is proposing and what is going on in my school seem to be in tension. What seems to underpin the QCA big picture is a move to a more competency-based curriculum, personalised to the learners in each institution, with the somewhat artificial barriers between the different forms of human knowledge being broken down.
What’s happening in my school, on the other hand, is that departments are merely highlighting on their schemes of work where the elements from the big picture are or could be located. Whilst this could be a first step, it would seem that this is all initiative-weary teachers are likely to want to do, for fear of doing lots of work only for everything to change again. What I think is needed is some clearer guidance on what exactly should be taking place in schools. I agree that, to a great extent, each institution needs to figure out how the result of the Futures in Action initiative will look in practice, but at the moment what is likely to happen is mere tokenism.
I don’t know how much time you will have to read things like blog articles, but perhaps you may be interested in a couple which have been the result of my Ed.D. research (Durham University):