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There are some interesting stories in the papers about education today. Apparently, Nicky Morgan is planning to make the English baccalaureate subjects compulsory. That would mean all children taking English, maths, science, a humanity and a language at GCSE. Watch this space!
In another development, John Crickland, director of the CBI wants the government to scrap GCSEs altogether and to only have exams at 18 like many other countries. That would presumably have consequences for A levels because without GCSEs many more subjects would have to be studied at sixth form. It doesn’t seem likely that this will happen in the near future.

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The specifications for the new GCSEs are gradually appearing.

Any child currently in year 9 will be taking the new English and maths GCSEs. Children currently in year 8 will also take new exams in science, history, geography and languages as well as maths and English.

In summary:

There will be a new grading system from 1-9 (instead of A-G)

Exams will be harder e.g. learning formulae by heart for maths and more emphasis on problem solving.

There will be more emphasis on spelling, punctuation and grammar.

No more controlled assessments or coursework except in a handful of subjects. Children will take externally marked exams.

What will the reformed assessments look like?

  • Linear assessments (examined at the end of a two year course)
  • Assessment by external exam only
  • Tiering to be avoided (i.e. exams split into foundation and higher), unless strong subject-specific reasons
  • Expectations to match and exceed those of high-performing international jurisdictions
  • Greater demand and discrimination at the top
  • Current grading structure to be replaced by numbers
  • No re-sit opportunities (except for English Language and Maths) 

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Exams? What exams?

 

Yes, it’s that time of year again; hated by both students and parents alike. Exams loom large on the horizon. There is light at the end of the tunnel however, and tackling revision in a structured and methodical way is essential.

 

Many young people sit in front of a pile of folders or books and can’t face starting revision at all. It all seems like an impossible task and an unassailable mountain to climb. Certain techniques aimed at breaking down the mountain into manageable chunks can certainly help.

 

1.     Mind maps

 

These are a really useful tool and have been proven to help the brain assimilate information. They are basically a visual representation of areas of knowledge. Start by drawing a circle in the middle of a piece of paper (A3 if possible) and writing the topic to be covered in the middle. Draw five or six lines from this circle to smaller circles and write five/six aspects of this topic in these smaller circles. Then continue the process. To be inspired, google “mind maps” on Google images and you will see lots of examples to follow.

 

 

2.     Colour, colour and more colour!

 

Use coloured pens, highlighters, post-its, paper. Many students make the mistake of staring at pages and pages of notes hoping some of the information will be transferred into their brain. It usually won’t! Write the main points to be learnt on post-its and stick them around the wall. Highlight important ideas or key facts with a coloured highlighter. Help your brain to remember information by making it stand out using colour in this way.

 

 

 

3.     Draw up a revision time table

 

Many students put up resistance to this idea thinking they can just revise what they feel like on any given day. The main danger of this is that consciously or subconsciously you will revise topics you already feel comfortable with, and those tricky topics will get pushed to the following day and the following day and so on! It is very easy to draw up a revision timetable; divide up a piece of paper into 7 days and each day into half hour slots. Again use different colours for different topics and subjects and add in breaks between revision slots. Pin the timetable on the door and wall and you should see at a glance whether you are covering all the subjects equally.

 

Then stick to your plan!

 

 

4.     Exam practice

 

There is now a wealth of material on the internet to allow students to practice exam questions. Visit the website of the relevant exam board and you should see a link to past papers and mark schemes. This means that you can try a past paper and mark it yourself. Highlight questions you get wrong and then work on these before trying a paper again.

 

And finally START NOW! Little and often is the most effective way. Don’t put it off!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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