KS3 APP & Level descriptors

Whilst reading the Department of Education web site I found this useful snippet of information.

Ministers have also decided not to proceed with the revised level descriptions which were due to come into force for Key Stage 3 from this September. Secondary schools should therefore continue to use existing level descriptions.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised because this Government seems determined to stamp their mark on education policy, regardless of the impact on schools and the wasting of many hours of time spent on preparation by teachers.

I’m sure that many schools have already been working with the new level descriptions for a year or two (as the new curriculum rolled out) and to suddenly switch to the old descriptors in this way is most inconsiderate.  Fortunately the changes to the level descriptors are only cosmetic and the essence of each level has not been changed.  What is a level 5 with the old level descriptions should be a level 5 with the new (and now abandoned) level descriptions.

Where does this leave APP?

  • Remember APP isn’t and never was statutory – You don’t have to do APP whatever your SLT says!
  • There is no right and wrong way of using the APP materials
  • APP is about robust assessment and embedding Assessment for Learning (AfL) in teaching
  • APP works alongside either set of level descriptors (new or old)
  • APP is not about collecting banks of evidence for every student
  • APP isn’t about a once a term assessed task (although this is a place to start)
  • APP can still be used to assess ‘how science works’ skills.
  • APP can still be used to inform teacher planning and expected lesson outcomes.

So APP isn’t dead yet, and can still be a useful and valuable tool for teachers of science, whatever the key stage (from KS2 to KS4!).

Update (11/06/10):

Given the lack of detail in the Government statement I’m wondering if I got the wrong end of the stick.  On the QCDA site there are level descriptors (KS3) from 1 upwards, and a document dated hidden at the bottom of the page, and then the 2007 descriptors also listed at the bottom that seem identical but missing levels 1 to 3.  Is it the new levels 1 – 3 we are not meant to be using?  I can’t believe we are going back to the v. old level descriptors but in the lack of detailed guidance from the Dept of Education it’s hard to know what to think!

Role play in Science

Role play is often overlooked or forgotten about in science lessons as a valuable tool that can aid student understanding – especially useful with SEN students.  I thought I’d write about one of my favourite activities that I revisited this week, and how it helped with student learning and understanding.

Double circulation role play

Aim: To learn how blood flows around the body & sites of oxygen/carbon dioxide exchange.

This needs a little preparation/apparatus to make the most of it.  You will need a set of cards and either red/blue counters or the provided oxygen/carbon dioxide cards.

You will also need to select three suitable students to take the role of heart, lungs and body organs.  If you have a large or able group you may want to use multiple students for the body organs, representing multiple organs.  I give the students a card to remind them of their role.

The rest of the class take the role of the red blood cells.  Students have to move from the heart to the lungs and collect an oxygen token.  Students then return to the heart before being directed to a body organ where they exchange their oxygen token for a carbon dioxide token.  The student taking the role of the heart do the directing – selecting a suitable student is essential if this is going to succeed.

Whilst a little chaotic, even the weakest of students was able to participate and gain something from the activity.


  • During the follow-up activity and plenary students could:
  • describe the journey of oxygen around the body
  • say how many times through the heart the blood passes whilst going around the body
  • say which blood is oxygenated/deoxygenated at various points around the body
  • make good guesses at the structure of the heart
  • explain why the sides of the heart aren’t of equal size.


Role play cards

What’s the best way to share resources and ideas?

small version of the share icon rasterized by jonas@rognemedia.no I was asked an interesting question by another science AST within our authority.  He wanted to share some of the materials he had been generating and was interested in getting the Nottinghamshire ASTs to follow a common approach.  He came to me for advice since he knows I have a web-site on which I actively share nearly all of my resources.

One of the questions we need to answer before we look for a solution is who will be sharing?  Will it be Science ASTs as a group of Nottinghamshire employees, will it be the Science ASTs acting as a group of individuals or does the LA want a county wide solution?  I’m assuming for now that we will be sharing resources as a group of interested teachers with a common goal.

Fragmentation is common online and sharing resources/getting your message across can be extremely difficult.  I’ve not succeeded in getting more than 100 visitors a day to my blog, and 150 a day to my resources site.  Of those that do visit my site, many science teachers are looking for a quick fix – to download a resource that meets an immediate need.  They aren’t bothered in improving their practice – just in taking the easy road.  I’d rather they do this with decent resources than not, so I don’t really mind – but it does make it difficult to get your message across.

The options we are considering are listed below.

Solution Good points Bad points
Use our County VLE (Fronter)
  • Set up already (free hosting)
  • Can be accessed by many schools in LA
  • Harder to access from outside the LA
  • The interface is like something from the 1990’s – terrible
  • Who would know about it?
Use the TES resources site with a single login for Nottinghamshire ASTs.
  • Free
  • TES site gets 2.5k unique hits per week
  • Corporate image of LA ASTs promoted
  • Tracking information provided by TES (number of downloads)
  • Science teachers already search the TES for resources
  • What about people who search Google?
  • How to post articles rather than worksheet style resources?
Register our own domain name and set up our own site (e.g. a Wiki)
  • Complete control
  • Proper analytics (can see Google Search queries etc)
  • Corporate image of ASTs promoted
  • Who will know about it?
  • Who has time to maintain it (and keep it secure)?
  • Fragments our resources over yet another site.
Find an established Science site to host articles and resources (e.g. this blog)
  • Audience already established
  • Synergy with visitors to site
  • Infrastructure ready to go
  • Is the audience big enough?
  • Is this further fragmentation
  • Is this a long-term solution?

As a matter of interest I looked at where the visitors come from to find my blog.

Source %
Google 68.5
Direct (includes bookmarks) 7
Upd8 3
Yahoo 3

I then looked at similar data for my resources site

Source %
Fiendishlyclever blog 32
Google 30
Direct (includes bookmarks) 17
TES resources site 11
TES forums 7

My figures seem to suggest that good visibility on Google is more important than the high number of visitors coming to the TES site.  Perhaps we should consider this as we make our decision.

I’d be interested to hear from other people who share resources and ideas.  What method should the Nottinghamshire ASTs use to share their resources and advice?  What have you found that works?  What advice could you give us?