Catching up with the new A level - a whistle-stop tour of changes, resources, CPD and more
Having hardly drawn breath after results from the new GCSE, teaching for the new A level has begun… How is it going? Are you feeling confident, competent and sufficiently well-prepared to teach the new content? Where do you feel you still need more support? Have student numbers held up? Does the new GCSE seem to have produced students more able to meet the demands of A level? If you weren’t as well prepared in advance, as you might like to have been, here we signpost information, resources and training to help you get up to speed.
Importantly, 100% of the curriculum content for A level maths is now prescribed by the DfE meaning that choice of exam board will be made by other factors, and can possibly be made later. This also means that teachers should not feel tied to ‘the’ exam board textbook but can hunt for the one they feel is most appropriate to the way they want to teach the course, or mix and match. As you’ll probably already know, the course is now linear, with all assessment in the final exams (three two-hour papers), and all students will study Pure Maths, Mechanics and Statistics (boards differ in how they distribute assessing these three areas over the three papers).
For Further Maths, 50% of the content is prescribed – there is more flexibility in the other 50%. It is assessed at the end of the course in six hours of exams (boards vary in numbers of papers), containing some Pure and some Applied Maths.
If you’d like a quick tour of all the changes, Mathematics in Education and Industry (MEI) provides a useful summary. Answers to any further questions you have, may well be answered in this list of FAQs. A detailed description of content changes is available in this table from the Further Maths Support Programme (FMSP). MEI also explains the increased emphasis on embedding technology into the course.
If you are taking this opportunity to re-write your A level Scheme of Work, you might like to use the editable scheme of work that MEI has put together. This is not board-specific. For Further Maths, FMSP provides these editable schemes of work for each board.
And to keep you updated in all matters ‘Qualification and Curriculum’, visit the NCETM Qualifications and Curriculum page and subscribe to updates through our online community or Twitter feed (@NCETMQandC).
If you are hunting down resources, specifically for the new content, Jo Morgan at Resourceaholic is ahead of the game tracking down free online material for the new specification, while her older pages cover topics that remain from before. STEM Learning’s A level resource packages also do an excellent job of pulling together the best of the resources to save you having to do the hunting. Underground Mathematics provides excellent, creative and connected free learning resources, now hosted by NRICH, with CPD on Underground Mathematics provided by MEI. If you have some budget available, then MEI’s Integral resource provides high quality, comprehensive resources for use in the classroom and for students’ independent study (though much of this – particularly the further maths and applied content - is available free by registering with FMSP). FMSP's A level Problem Solving Resources give you a chance to focus on the increased problem-solving emphasis. Exam boards also all offer their own selection of resources.
In terms of teacher professional development with a particular focus on the new A level, the exam boards all offer types of short training. From Edexcel’s free Getting Ready to Teach webinars and local collaborative networks, to OCR’s free face-to-face sessions or webinars, tailored to particular parts of the curriculum under the headings ‘Get Started’, ‘Get Going’ and ‘Get More’, and AQA’s mix of online and face-to-face courses focusing mainly on the applied modules and the requirement to embed technology in the curriculum. MEI ran a lot of their teacher CPD over the summer, but still offer bespoke courses from their experts, that schools can buy in for training days. STEM Learning's CPD is more extensive and in-depth: residential courses of three or four days, attracting full bursaries so that teachers attend for free. They are Teaching for deep understanding in A level mathematics, and the summer school New to teaching A level mathematics.
The Maths Hub network is this year running a national project under the title ‘Supporting the Teaching of the New A Level Mathematics Using Technology’ and each Maths Hub will be recruiting schools and teachers to work in depth on this subject, in local Work Groups. Contact your local Maths Hub if you are interested in taking part.
Sometimes it’s just nice to know how others are getting on… this blog follows the developments in one maths department.