Qualifications and Curriculum
Conversations with the Exam Boards
A change as big as the new GCSE comes with much uncertainty for heads of department, school leaders, teachers and anyone else involved in the delicate task of preparing students to optimise their grade and be ready to face whatever the exam papers throw at them next summer. With the aim of improving lines of communication, two Maths Hub Leads, Matthew Linney and Dean Rowley (from the North Mids and Peaks and Norfolk and Suffolk Maths Hubs respectively), met last month, with representatives from the three main exam boards: Joanna Deko (Pearson [Edexcel]), Neil Ogden (OCR) and Andrew Taylor (AQA).
Matt and Dean’s intentions were to put questions frequently raised by teachers to the exam boards. The answers given would then be compiled so that teachers can easily compare provision of the three main boards. We asked Matt about the meeting.
What is the broad, long term aim?
We want to provide other Maths Hub leads, subject leads and teachers with up to date information about the GCSE changes. The idea is to bring all the information together in one place under a list of FAQs, so that teachers can see, at a glance, each exam board’s response and what they are doing with regards to certain aspects of the new GCSE.
What topics did the meeting cover?
Each exam board was asked to provide information on:
- teaching resources provided by them
- CPD offered to individuals in support of the new teaching
- making accurate predictions within the new grading system
- guidance on grade boundaries
- textbooks and other commercial resources approved/recommended
- any work they are doing with clusters of schools or groups of teachers
- links to specimen and practice papers
- impact on further maths and statistics GCSEs.
Particular focus was on the new problem-solving expectations and what the exam boards were providing in terms of guidance, resources, CPD and exemplification to support schools with teaching these skills.
What were the most interesting things you found out?
It was reassuring to find that all boards are thinking extensively about providing support for the problem solving element, through their own CPD networks and sessions.
We were pleased to learn about the quantity of resources offered by the exam boards. These will all be linked in the index we create so that teachers will have one place they can go and find, for example, problem solving resources from the three main boards. Largely the resources are free and don’t require teachers to sign up to a particular board, though some will require a login account.
Was there very much difference in provision between boards?
No. The responses showed a lot of commonality of provision across the three boards.
What are the plans for disseminating this information to teachers? Where can I find the answers to the questions?
We plan to publish a reference matrix with each question and the responses given by each of the exam boards, with any links to relevant pages and resources on exam board websites. The matrix will be available through Maths Hubs and the NCETM Secondary Magazine. It may form the basis of a new NCETM microsite concerned with providing teachers with a one-stop-shop for all they need to know about Qualifications and Curriculum.
Can you give us a taste of what to expect...?
Yes, sure. Here’s an example of one question we asked:
Do you have a website dedicated to CPD and what CPD do you currently run for the new GCSE?
Free online training is available with “GCSE Mathematics: Getting Started”. Bespoke and free face-to-face support is available from AQA Maths Advocates. For example, to help teachers with the reasoning and problem solving element at KS4. There is a PD tab available and there are both face-to-face and webinar training sessions. Some of these are free and have previously included teaching and learning, pedagogy, KS1/2, aspiring HODs and subject knowledge enhancement.
Pearson (Edexcel) said:
Both free and paid for CPD can be accessed via Training from Pearson where you can find a wide variety of online and face to face events. If you missed or couldn’t attend one of our face to face launch events or online content sessions you can still access presentations and listen to the recordings available. Introduced in 2013, The Mathematics Collaborative Networks are free local teaching networks introduced to help support, train and share best practice with maths teachers and heads of department across the country. Network meetings run throughout the year on a termly basis in over 40 hub centres, you can find out more here.
CPD for OCR qualifications can be found here. Past course documents are also available. GCSE (9-1) Maths, offers planning approaches for the qualification (for delivery over 1 or 2 years), problem solving, new foundation and higher tier content, co-teaching GCSE (9-1) Maths with the Additional Maths FSMQ, webinars and past paper reviews.
What next? Will exam boards and Maths Hubs maintain these lines of communication?
Now that we have a vehicle for communication, we will continue to communicate with the exam boards – the initial meeting was beginning to build that relationship. Meetings will happen as and when there is new information to disseminate. The boards are addressing uncertainty around grades this term with mock assessments taking place currently, to help with mapping old grades to new grades, and for helping teachers understand what, for example, a grade 9 question will look like.
Page header by David Feltkamp (adapted), some rights reserved