I was asked by one of my heads of science how much funding other science departments received – so I asked my network.
One of my local science leaders wants to compare how much funding their department gets against others in the area and nationally. Can you help?https://t.co/bPAQvoAQdT
I’ll share the findings if enough people respond! #ASEchat
I’ve been reflecting on the curriculum for SEND learners, and regular readers of my blog will know that I’ve written lots about the KS4 curriculum before. Previous posts have been written from the point of view of a classroom practitioner but now I’m looking in from the outside. I’ve met lots of teachers and school leaders over the last year and have pulled together my thoughts and reflections after speaking to them.
Many departments will be reviewing their curriculum offer as a result of the proposed Ofsted framework (not the aim of the new framework but an inevitable consequence) For those late to the party, the new framework is built around the 3 I’s – intention, implementation and impact. I believe the first of these is where things for SEND learners starts to go wrong.
As a special school our ‘intention’ (our ethos & school values) revolved around preparing students for life after school. High aspirations and high academic performance are an important part of this (as long as they are realistic) but our intention also extended to the life skills and opportunities that are needed to make the most of those qualifications. I’ve written before about the implementation (approved and backed by our governors) of our curriculum, which trod the difficult line between the needs of the learners and accountability measures (especially as a special school in a mainstream MAT). We were fortunate that Ofsted wasn’t interested in Progress-8 as a special school, although we still used it to benchmark ourselves against mainstream schools and obsessed about it (to a lesser extent than mainstreams) in our frequent data drops. Having met many teachers and leaders over the last year (whilst wearing a variety of hats and representing different interests & organisations) I’ve collated my thoughts below
Barriers to a full GCSE curriculum
Covering the content – the quantity (getting to the end of the specification)
Understanding and engaging with the content
Recalling the content taught over two (or usually three) years
Exam pressure (having to sit so many exams for one subject)
Model 1 – Entry level certificate (ELC)
There are many learners for whom ELC would be an appropriate pathway but they are prevented from following this option by the need to study a qualification that contributes to progress 8 data. I’ve met subject leaders who have gained permission for this route but most are accrediting alongside another option. In my mind ELC is KS3+ and there isn’t as much overlap with GCSE content as many would like.
Would I recommend this option? Over my last few years in special education, I could count on my fingers the number of students whose accreditation journey stopped at ELC (but of course that was under a system where they could take a single science exam each year)
Model 2 – co-teaching ELC and GCSE
This is a preferred option of many including the exam boards, but it could also be the most expensive and time-consuming of the options. The content isn’t a problem but you have to make sure you find time to fit in the classroom based assessment (as all the assessment for ELC happens in school).
This modular nature of this option has the advantage of building confidence and self-esteem of your SEND learners over the course. It’s also an easier sell to SLT who will still have the GCSE to count in those all-important performance tables. With many schools aiming to complete GCSE by Christmas of year 11, learners would have a qualification under their belt before sitting the GCSE exams.
There are plenty of published resources to support this option, with more coming on the market this year (this is where I should declare that I have written a workbook to support this option) If you do go down this pathway, make sure you have assessment points and a clear understanding of timelines at the start of your course.
Model 3 – partial GCSE
This is a model that I’ve seen increase in popularity over the last year. The premise is simple – rather than superficially teach 100% of the content, you teach part of the course in greater depth and miss out some of the content that learners might not need. Some subject leaders gasp in horror when I mention not teaching all the specification, but this the way I’ve taught GCSE for many years. The foundation textbook from OUP follows exactly this approach and is AQA approved (so it isn’t a forbidden practice)
I’m sure that many learners could benefit from the extra depth and reinforcement that this method offers.
Model 4 – full GCSE
I don’t really need to say much about this model as just about every science teacher must have experienced it and be aware of the pitfalls. It does ensure that there won’t be topics on the exam papers for which learners haven’t been taught.
Model 5 – alternative qualifications
It’s interesting that the only schools I’ve come across who don’t follow a GCSE/ELC pathway are PRUs and special schools (which harks back to what I said at the start about performance measures)
The best model?
The best model is the one which meets the needs of your learners and could be a combination of the above. It has to be a decision that is taken locally, and with the approval of SLT and the governance structure of your school.
AQA recently released some very useful documents that gave feedback on the 2018 new-specification GCSE exams. As well as including common mistakes made by students, the documents gave entry numbers and grade breakdowns for each of the science specifications.
The entries for AQA are summarised below:
I was interested to see that the take-up for Synergy was much lower than I was expecting. However more interesting is the difference in single biology compared to single chemistry/physics. I’ve spoken to several schools who have entered SEND students for single GCSE biology – and whilst this might not account for all of the difference in entries it is certainly a contributing factor.
I did some ‘back of a fag packet’ calculations using the percentages of grades awarded and a significant number of students gained grade 3 or below (figures in brackets include those with 4:3) These figures won’t hold up to rigorous scientific scrutiny (in my defence I was probably paying more attention to the Apprentice on TV than the scribbled figures on my notepad) but they do give an idea of the percentage of the cohort that isn’t reaching grade 4.
% of Foundation
% of total entries
I hear of schools putting all of their efforts (CPD, development plans etc) into getting students the 7-9 grades whereas the equivalent percentage of students getting grade 7 or above (calculated using the same method) was only a few percent higher.
Given that lots of students fall into the 1-3 bracket we need to pay more attention to how to support them. I’ve seen GCSE 1-3 CPD from STEM learning and the Science Learning Partnerships (I’ve even run the course myself!) but my experience is that schools aren’t booking on these courses (perhaps because of a shortage of money or perhaps because of a shortage of capacity?)
I’m pleased that Oxford University Press is looking at this issue across the board, not just in science. Their English Catapult scheme looks just as good as their new ELC/1-3 foundation tier GCSE textbook. They have products in development for your ELC/1-3 learners (but not all schools are able to afford them) If you haven’t seen their Foundation GCSE textbook, check it out (and also look at the principles behind it – and it is AQA approved)
Please make sure you focus as much attention on your 1-3 foundation learners as you do your 7-9 learners. They might not be EBacc students or have a full quota of Progress-8 buckets, but the success they experience in science might be every bit as life changing and motivating as hitting a grade 9 is for a higher tier student.