Diary of a subject leader
Real issues in the life of a fictional Subject Leader
Some would say that I have a ‘glass half empty’ outlook on life. To some extent, this is true. Scepticism and cynicism are certainly two of my characteristics, however when it comes to education, my glass has recently been topped up.
A while ago, we were becoming increasingly aware of the need to prepare students with the necessary process skills in order for them to pass a Functional Skills exam. Early pilots had proved challenging for students, with some disappointing results, leaving many of us scratching our heads as to what to do next. The relief that a Level 2 Functional Skills qualification was no longer required to attain grade C or above came as a great relief for many in my department. However, this reaction did leave me somewhat heavyhearted. I perceive a real need to develop the process/functional skills within everyday lessons, and if assessment was to be the driving factor, so be it.
I couldn’t help but smile upon reading the QCA publication Changes to GCSE mathematics 2010 which describes the assessment objectives of the 2010 GCSE. The hopes of some, that Functional Skills was to be a thing of the past, had been quashed. Students would now be required to interpret and analyse as part of their GCSE. The need to continue developing process skills and student independence was back, much to my relief.
I distributed the QCA publication among my staff and made it a topic for discussion at our next department meeting. Once the sceptics had aired their grievances of the continual changes in government policy, the discussion focused on the practicalities ahead. How were we, as a department, going to ensure students were equipped to cope with this new style assessment?
When I read the assessment objectives within the QCA publication, I recognised the principles outlined within the Standards Unit. Students need the opportunity to explore mathematics for themselves and they can only do this through interpreting and analysing problems in a range of contexts. After all, is that not what we do as adults every day of our lives to some extent or another?
We agreed to continue using the types of activity described within the Standard Unit whenever possible, encouraging focussed discussion and a sense of exploration within the subject. My second in department and I now need to discuss how this ethos transfers to a scheme of work and whether the inclusion of ‘rich tasks’ is enough. I’m sure that providing we continue to discuss issues, share good practice and experiment with our teaching, the students’ skills will develop alongside the pedagogy within the department. It’s just a shame that it takes changes in the assessment for this to happen.