xmas tree

In true fashion … don’t be expecting answers. Just more questions and things for you to consider.

Back to school tomorrow and if you’re like me you haven’t done all the things you meant to do this holiday. The holidays started with the tree going up on the day I finished work and it is down already – so the house looks normal again. Welllllllllllllllll ….. I say normal ….

I was lucky (not sure he would agree!) to have my husband at home with me for most of the break so given that he is quite handy I made the most of him – to be honest we’re both sick of JustMaths stuff taking over the house as it keeps getting bigger than we originally envisaged – so it now has its home under my stairs which we kitted out. As is always the case, we get an idea that we think will be nice and quick but the knock-on effect is that it’ll take me a few days to decide where everything that was under the stairs will live. The net result is that there are now piles of stuff for ebay, the charity shop and the tip (our bin men haven’t been for 2 weeks but that’s another story!) and along with the tools that have gravitated from the garage to the house but are yet to be returned the house is messier than it was before. I know it’ll be worth it in the end.

The highlight of the holibobs was seeing my godkids to find that I had to do a treasure hunt to get my Christmas pressie. Puzzles and hunts are something that I started several years ago with them and I paid for it when it took me 2 hours to solve all the clues that had been set out for me … so much thought had gone into this. It was amazing!

treasure hunt

Anyway I’ve digressed.

I’ve updated the exam questions by topic for both the Higher tier and Foundation tier to include the most recent AQA practice papers and also thought it would be useful to have a suite of questions that appeared on both tiers, so I’ve attempted to collate these too -> HERE . The matter of tiering is something that I know is uppermost on most people minds and is something I spoke about at a “thing” a few weeks ago, so I’ll share our thought process so far … I’ll give you a spoiler … it isn’t a simple decision for us and WE HAVEN’T DECIDED YET!

It’s important to set the scene that we use the Higher tier for the vast majority of our students with the current spec. So why Higher tier? Well … the main reason is that we aren’t limiting the achievement of our students which is what happens on the Foundation tier. Purists can hate me, but hey get over yourself.

As to whether this will continue will remain to be seen …. When we make a decision I will be sure to let you know because it really isn’t that simple and there are consequences that you need to manage whatever decision you make. My thought process is confusing even to me, but there are a number of factors swimming around my head:

Accountability measures. Remember the original “postcard” from Ofqual showed just “C and above = 4 and above” and then Nicky Morgan announced the idea of a “good pass” which is what we will be measured on. So we have to get the students a “5” – what the first couple of cohorts need to go onto FE is a different matter.

ofqual tiering

The grades allowed on each tier and what percentages they are likely to need to get a “good pass” on the foundation tier given that it is the highest grade allowed on the Foundation tier is also a consideration. The crossover grades of 3 (allowable!), 4 and 5 – there will be no topics aimed at grade 3 mean that the latest set of exam questions by topic that I’ve collated are quite important to understand.

awarding tiers

The fact is that to some extent it is irrelevant as 2016 results are being used to reference the percentage passes at certain grades awarded and so the government whilst they say they are protecting the outcomes what they’ve actually done is set us up to compete with each other to make sure our students are in the group that would have got a C and two thirds and above (which is roughly a 5 and above!). This means that no matter what happens those students that would have got a “C” in the current GCSE (but below the new grade 5 cut-off) will no longer be seen as a “good pass” … the below stats show the historical percentages at each grade (it does include FE/resits I think) but you need to brace yourself and your SLT for a decline in “pass rates”. The media are going to have a field day. Interestingly Glenys Stacey at Ofqual won’t be in situ when this happens and it turns out neither will Ian Stockford (who was involved in the whole comparability study) who has just resigned to return to AQA.

historic results

This led me to look at the grade and mark distribution and I know that our average marks last Summer, given that almost all of the cohort did the higher tier has given me food for thought. I would suggest that you need to look at your own distribution and ask yourself where is the “hump” in your bell curve – if in fact it forms a curve at all.

HOWEVER past performance isn’t enough for me which is why we are still undecided due to the changes in assessment objectives from the current GCSE. This is not just in the type of questions i.e. use and apply or problem solving but also in the percentage make up of each topic area i.e. number, geometry etc

assessment objective topic area

You need to make your own decision and I’m sure you’ll have other considerations – I’d love to know your thought process having shared ours even though we are still very much undecided. What has really helped is working through the sample assessment material for all the boards and continually asking myself what (if anything) needs to change to make some of the topics more accessible.