Whilst a bulletin was sent out to interested parties this week, there were no answers for teachers struggling to get to grips with what to tell their year 11 students (anecdotally I’ve seen less emphasis on predicted grades and more emphasis on what to do to improve their answers in schools).
The information did serve a purpose, and that was to remind me how my special school students have been let down by the system. In the email we are reminded “New GCSE content will be more challenging” which is depressing for students who were struggling, because of their learning difficulties, to cope with the content of the old GCSE exams.
We are also reminded that the boundaries have changed, supposedly “The new grades are being brought in to signal that GCSEs have been reformed and to better differentiate between students of different abilities.” What that means on the ground is that most of my students will fall within a two grade range rather than three. That’s hardly better differentiating between students of different abilities.
When you add these factors to the press (and government) talking about a grade 5 being a good GCSE pass and you can see why my students don’t want to take the exams. They are made to feel that their achievements are worthless and that anything below a 5 doesn’t matter.
A government talking about expanding grammar schools has little interest in those students at the bottom of the ability spectrum, but for my students, the GCSEs are becoming less and less accessible with more exams for less recognition and lower grades.
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Following the publication of my article in the ASE’s EiS (Education in Science) magazine and on their website, I was offered the chance to host #ASEchat on Twitter with a special needs theme.
@viciascience opened with questions about specific needs which led to a discussion about visually impaired and hearing impaired students. @cleverfiend raised the issue of specialist vocabulary and @viciascience promoted an event in Huddersfield on 21st Nov.
@DrWilksinsonSci said he gave out slips of paper for everyone to answer same question on, then some were picked to critique as a group, and the rest were checked by teacher later for misconceptions.
@cleverfiend asked if it was teaching SEN students that teachers struggle with or having to teach them within a larger mixed ability group. @viciascience reminded us that their diverse needs could be hard to meet, especially when some are very demanding of attention. Photography was suggested as a useful strategy and @cleverfiend added video, and with tablets tools like comic strips become a powerful tool. ComicLife and HalfTone were suggested as good comic strip apps.
Kinaesthetic activities and practical activities were recommended by chat participants, for example modelling solubility with rice and peas.
Talking Tom was suggested as a good app to encourage reluctant or EAL students to speak in class.
Graphing was a problem, especially where maths ability lags behind science ability. @cleverfiend suggested checking out the old Science Year CDs from the ASE and advice from Anne Goldsworthy. @ViciaScience suggested the AKSIS materials from the ASE for good advice on scaling etc. IanMcDaid suggested gingham tablecloths and dry wipe markers.
Make a graph template from perspex, holes drilled for coordinates, black tape for axes. Match sticks for points. Join with elastic #ASEChat