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Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes, turn and face the strange…

This was the year. Everyone knew it was coming. We had prepared in many of the INSET days of the previous year, but finally it had arrived. GCSE curriculum changes.

As a department, we’re working hard to figure out the best way to teach the new material, and what became apparent early on, was how different teaching exam technique was going to be. As with many of the other specification changes, the new GCSE demands more from the students. Asking them to recall information in greater detail and be able to structure answers that reflected A Level standards. During department meetings we discussed how we were going to equip the students with the necessary skills and something that cropped up was ‘why are we just considering this when they reach Year 10?’ Surely, like when we learn anything, building both ability and confidence up early and giving ample opportunity to practice, would lead to better results in the future?

It was then we hit upon the idea of using this as an opportunity for our action research this year; to start implementing GCSE style questions in end of unit tests for Key Stage 3. Additionally to use lesson time before assessments, like we would with GCSE students, to teach them how to tackle exam style questions. However, we have a strong ethos in the department that we are not just an ‘exam factory’. We try to instil the discipline of academia to encourage the love of learning rather than the extrinsic reward of a grade. So the other aim of teaching exam skills to KS3 was to boost student’s confidence in their literacy skills, something that would be welcome across the curriculum.

Early results are promising, with students commenting that they appreciate being prepared early for exams. However we still have a long way to go, and it will be interesting to record the impact this year has had on the Year 10 of next year…

Kim White

Notley High School

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