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Planning lessons using Activate and Kerboodle – the good and the bad

Having planned for two weeks of teaching using Activate I feel I have more of a handle on what the scheme can offer and where the promise falls short.


I’m now in possession of the teacher guides but we still don’t have students imported into Kerboodle because there is still no secure option for importing them.  Unfortunately our school policies prevent using Kerboodle with students until this is fixed so it looks like we won’t be continuing next year with Kerboodle once we have downloaded all the resources.  In this day and age of enhanced awareness around CP issues you would think this would never have arisen…

The teacher guide is the central piece of the Activate puzzle when it comes to planning lessons.  Each double page spread matches those in the student book and gives you lots of useful information.  Levelled information is provided which I find useful in writing our (mandatory) levelled outcomes although I have to work backwards as many topics don’t include statements at level 3.  The same page also has literacy/numeracy links and keywords which are useful in planning for student progression.

The opposite side of the page provides a list of suggested activities – a lesson plan that is planned around the average lesson.  Clearly if you don’t have hour long lessons you will have to do some extra work and decide where to break and join the topics to make them fit your timetable.  The supporting resources can be found in the textbook and online on Kerboodle available for download.  Resources on Kerboodle tend to be worksheets (in word and PDF format) together with an interactive activity (or sometimes more than one) for each topic.  There is a distinct lack of video or multimedia material on Kerboodle and I tend to find myself making PowerPoints to lead my learners through each lesson and link ideas together.  These should have been provided as part of the scheme.

Differentiation is provided for but differentiation usually takes the form of extension activities and the whole scheme seems to assume that level 4 is the baseline for all students.  This was also true for the Wikid scheme I abandoned this year, but I know of lots of students in mainstream settings for whom level 4 is a long way off.  Some lessons have more resources and activities than you will need so you could plot alternative routes through the topic for different learners (provided they are above level 4).  Unfortunately there is little material for children who have SEN (or English as a second language), apart from the odd writing frame and this is a clear area of weakness that teachers will have to plug themselves.

I haven’t used the textbooks with students yet (probably because I’m still waiting for them to be delivered…) but when I do, I’ll be using the textbooks for pictures and extension questions (since the onscreen textbook does not enlarge as much as I would like).  I’ve dipped into some of the resources, taking them as a starting point for resources of my own.  The profile of my students mean I have lots of students at level three/four who have literacy several levels lower.  These are the students that are left behind by this scheme and that need more personalised resources.

I do intend to share the resources I have created to plug this gap with my students, and I do try to playlist any videos that I find that complement the scheme on YouTube.  I will also write another update if Kerboodle updates their site so I can upload student details securely.

I’d be interested to hear from others who have bought into the Activate scheme and how your experiences (with a different cohort) are different to mine.

Moving to the Activate scheme of work for KS3 science


My followers on here know I’ve been a long fan of Wikid Science from the Science Learning Centres/ASE.  However the scheme never lived up to the promise of a constantly adapting scheme of work in the cloud.  Instead the wiki vanished and links were moved to diigo, and if you look closely you could see the tumbleweed blowing through the resources.  The lack of updates for the new National Curriculum (in a timely fashion) meant a move to another scheme of work.  In an ideal world I’d make my own but as second in a school, I have many demands on my time outside of teaching.

I visited our partner school within our academy trust and they had opted to follow Activate. I discussed the reasoning with them, looked at the resources and invited the sales rep into school (it also makes sense for schools in the same academy chain to follow the same scheme to allow for movement of staff).  I was impressed with the incorporation of literacy and numeracy into the scheme, both of which are going to be increasingly important at GCSE level.  I was also impressed with the Kerboodle platform which offers the accompanying resources, cloud based planning tools and also pre/post teaching assessment tools.

Unfortunately I can’t give a complete review at this stage because I haven’t been into school to pick up the teachers guides (they were delivered while I was on holiday) but I have started to plan so I can give you my first impressions


The good

  • The science content is more prominent in this scheme and there seems to be less of the airy-fairy material that was in Wikid
  • there are supporting resources online for each chapter of the textbook (and there is a decent textbook!)
  • Kerboodle – the online textbook (for teachers) means I don’t have to carry the textbook home, although I have only bought paper copies of the teachers guides.
  • There are literacy key-words and tasks created with a literacy focus
  • There is a lot of self-marking assessment material within Kerboodle
  • Interactive materials for whiteboards are included in Kerboodle

The bad

  • The book and supporting resources do not show much differentiation and the units I’ve checked so far don’t include enough materials to mix and match for different abilities
  • The lessons are very rigid – and aren’t structured in a way to adapt them easily for different lengths of lessons (some of mine are 100 mins)
  • Kerboodle uses admission numbers to make sure pupil records are unique – but as of the end of term there was no way of uploading them securely (this may have been fixed by now – I haven’t checked)
  • some of the topics seem a little more dry than the wikid topics that had a theme (however rubbish) to link content together.
  • access to Kerboodle is subscription based so there is an annual charge (hence the online tests to keep you hooked).

These are just my first impressions – I’ve only started planning my first lesson, and have only had access to the textbook/Kerboodle for a few days.  I will be posting more – and letting Oxford know exactly what I think of their scheme :)

act4 act3

BTEC Level 1 (FLT) one of the best kept secrets in science teaching…

secret stamp

I don’t get why Pearson aren’t singing about this qualification.  It’s a level one qualification and it so it has limited appeal but there are a number of reasons that heads of science should pay attention to this qualification.

  • It is portfolio based assessment with NO examination.  This makes it suitable for learners with SEN (or possibly EAL students)
  • It is worth slightly more than an F at GCSE, which makes it appropriate for SEN and LA students.
  • It is on the list of approved qualifications for 2016 (and of course 2015 if you want to run it in a year)
  • The certificate can be taught in a year (I know this from personal experience)
  • You (the teacher) design the assessment tasks so can be personalised for teaching groups

There are however a number of downfalls to this qualification:

  • paperwork – you need to track every assignment and keep central records that others can access (I have 12 assignments covering the certificate qualification).
  • quality assurance – someone has to take the OSCA lead internal verifier qualification otherwise you will be subject to mandatory sampling.  Someone in the school has to act as a quality nominee (exams officer?) who will get a visit and a grilling as part of the QA process.
  • Assignment briefs MUST be verified before using and at least 50% of the marked work must be internally verified as well (and your policies must explain how this will work).
  • The qualification is pass or fail.  A new version could be in the pipeline that has pass/merit/distinction grades (there was such a version before QCF!)

I’ve been running this qualification since it was introduced as it suits the needs of many of my learners (I’m currently teaching it alongside GCSE as some of my students have target grades above an F).  I’ve uploaded many of the resources I have used and will continue to upload resources/assignments as I make them.

I’ve included some screenshots of the Edexcel site that show you where to find the specs for this qualification.




Let me know if you have any questions or you see any teaching resources that appear to be missing and I’ll do my best to help.


#ASEchat summary – Published schemes of work – how do you choose and use them in science?

schemes cloud

I opened the chat by asking “Published schemes of work – how do you choose and use them in science?”  Viciascience responded by saying he imagines that every school has a standby set of textbooks and others joined in by discussing their purchased schemes (see chat transcript for details).  ViciaScience asked the going rate for a KS3 scheme and GregtheSeal responded with the figure of £3000.

Deepexperience1 suggested we get out those textbooks for the 1950s and Cleverfiend responded by saying if there is a match with content then why not?  Deepexperience1 went on to say that modern schemes relied too heavily on worksheets, and cleverfiend replied by saying that being in special measures at his school had resulted in a move away from worksheets.  MissWatford confirmed that they are used for last minute cover work whilst gregtheseal said they good for independent research.

Some chatters had an issue with the length of lessons not being matched to their schools, for example two chat participants had 100 minute lessons.  TFScientist thought that a department made scheme is best, then you get a format for your lessons and everyone is invested in the scheme.

ViciaScience suggested that iBooks might be the way forward with cheap publishing and purchasing costs.  Gregtheseal suggested a crowd-sourced book published through iTunes. HRogerson told us that most publishers are supporting ebooks (although many require a subscription rather than purchasing them), Hodder are letting you buy ebooks through Amazon.  It was felt that there was an issue of quality control when crowd sourcing materials and despite many of the ASE members having been involved in writing schemes in the past, there wasn’t a single scheme that received universal praise from chat participants.

ViciaScience asked about a central skeleton scheme of work and Cleverfiend raised the prospect of another QCA scheme being a bad idea.  Some people like the idea of a scheme and HRogerson pointed out that at least the QCA scheme being widely adopted let you mix and match resources from different sources.

a reminder: how to request your observation notes from Ofsted

I recently wrote some posts about requesting your evidence forms from Ofsted.  One of the benefits of being in special measures is that you get plenty of attention from Ofsted.


Despite having been jointly observed and receiving feedback by my head, I still wanted to see my observation notes and what had been written about my lesson.  I’ve attached a copy of the feedback (part of a section 8 monitoring visit) so you can see what you get back.

S5 evidence form

All it takes is a quick email:

The address you need to use is ‘informationrequest@ofsted.gov.uk
The email I sent is below – I included a scanned copy of my driving licence
I would like to request a copy of the S5 evidence forms completed during the recent section 8 monitoring inspection of my school.  Hopefully the information below will help you to identify the forms in question.
Home address
Contact number
Date of lesson
Time of lesson
Year group
Name of inspector
Details of lesson content
I’d be interested to hear from other people that have requested their observation notes like me :)


My science GCSE revision/support site – your help please


When I started running GCSE science alongside our existing L1 BTEC Applied Science (FLT) I realised that my students would need a little bit of extra help if they were ever going to pass the exam. Many of them (remember I teach in a special school) struggle to remember what we did last week, so the chances of remembering what we over two years seems very ambitious.

I thought I had a solution – a supporting website that I could put on video and revision links, not a revision guide (there are plenty of paper revision guides available) but a supplement to what happened in class.  I registered the domain and set up a website and I thought I was ready to go.

Unfortunately there was one thing I overlooked.  My own time.  I had misjudged the amount of time that being a school leader in a special measures school would consume.  I teach a 60% timetable, am the second in the school, and my workload means that I’m out of the house for almost 12 hours a day as well as working at home too.

To protect my sanity something had to give, and it ended up being the website. Unfortunately, as with many things in life, the further behind you get the harder it is to catch up.  With that in mind I have two choices open to me:

  • drop the site and allow the domain to lapse
  • find a sucker volunteer (or several volunteers) to contribute to the site

It’s over to you – if you think this is something that your students would find useful then feel free to contact me if you have time to contribute.   Alternatively if you feel that this is a waste of time (or that there is something else out there that will serve my purpose) then leave a comment below.

Image © wenday on Flickr

Free science literacy resources from the author of William’s Words in Science

IWWcells‘ve written before about William’s Words in Science (here) and his resources for cells (here) and food/digestion (here).  While at was at the ASE annual conference last month I met the author, Dr William Hirst in person.  I was pleased to see him selling his excellent resources at his stand, and more importantly I was pleased to see other people buying them.  If you haven’t seen his resources, read my reviews linked above and visit William’s site (if you buy anything, be sure to tell him I sent you – note I don’t receive any commission or financial kickback, I just happen to rate his resources!)

More importantly while I was at his stand I discovered that William has many free resources that are available for any one to download from his site.  These resources showcase the strategies that are used in his books and can be used to drop into your lessons.  I would like to hope that some of my readers will try the resources and feed back to William (contact details are available on his site).

If you want an idea of what is available, William gave me permission to host a selection of these resources here – alternatively bookmark his site which will be updated more often than this blogpost.

Williams Word Games in Science