When speaking to colleagues about the challenges this year the conversation always seems to end up on GCSE Controlled Assessments. Teaching, managing and marking the Controlled Assessments appears to have been even more complex than people feared. And everyone I know has all their fingers and toes crossed that the difficulties are just teething problems and not a sign of things to come!
The main frustration teachers seem to have is the feeling that we are simply invigilating and marking exams on the cheap. Along with the huge amount of class time now taken up with the students writing their assessments and the associated admin, there is a real danger that GCSE students will suffer from having less time to explore the skills and content of the GCSE English Language and Literature courses.
Furthermore there are big question marks over whether a mark-scheme which does not include actual grades really does benefit either the students or the teachers. And of course, there are the logistic complications of organising the appropriate SEN support.
However, there do seem to be benefits to the CA. Some teachers I have worked with have found that weaker students have performed better and boys in particular seem to do well out of having to work in such a focussed way. This spotlight on independent learning will also be a better preparation for Further Education.
But most of all, I am thankful to have abandoned the pitfalls of marking (sometimes endless) drafts of GCSE coursework and the chasing of missing pieces by our more lackadaisical students!
So, what can we do next year to make it a bit easier on ourselves? Here are some tips that my colleagues have suggested:
- Save the CA to year 11, so that students can benefit from really building their skills throughout year 10 before they begin them.
- Ensure that all the students in a year group sit the CA at the same time.
- Schedule a period of compulsory catch-up sessions for all CA for absentees.
- Plan enough time to teach the units, as well as write the assessments.
- Plan the GCSE course as a team so that resources are shared.
There is no magic answer, unfortunately, but hopefully with some tweaking the CA will get easier next year and become less of an exam for all of us! How have you been finding it and what are your top tips for next year?
Advance Skills Teacher
Steyning Grammar School