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Have to choose AQA or WJEC for GCSE... Strong feelings either way?

Discussion in 'English' started by MissPob, Apr 16, 2012.

  1. Hi everyone, I'm hoping for some help making a decision.
    I've just been appointed Head of English and been asked to decide whether we go with AQA or WJEC from Sept 2012. At present we have some sets on AQA and some on WJEC for various reasons from before I joined the school..
    I feel we should choose just 1 exam board, and stick to it! There are pros and cons of each. Colleagues I've spoken to so far don't seem to feel strongly either way. Some people think WJEC doesn't allow kids to hit top marks as well as AQA, some think WJEC is better for C/D borderline.
    Anyone got any advice? Thanks!
  2. We do WJEC and I feel that it is harder to hit top grades with it and yes, it seems to have been good for our C/D borderlines. However, I'm reasonably sure that focused teacher of WJEC will give students the opportunities to hit the top marks. WJEC support to schools, the accessibility of the English team in Cardiff, their promptness at getting back to you etc etc mean that the initial skepticism I had for WJEC has been replaced by a sense of very strong support. The lovely Hugh Lester (who used to be English subject advisor) haunts these boards occasionally and would, no doubt, concur. Phone WJEC and talk to someone there if you want to know more. Sorry, it sounds like an advert. I'm not paid by WJEC.
  3. sunflower48

    sunflower48 New commenter

    Yes agree with ArthurDent. We are with WJEC and have to say support is excellent. They are swift with email responses as well as phone. Agree about Hugh Lester but have to say dealings with Nancy Hutt have been excellent and I seem to have phoned lots recently querying things but are never made to feel as if you can't ring, very approachable. Our C- D borderline do manage the texts and questions, which is not to say they are easy but a good structure - they still have to work to earn their grades! As for higher grades we have had more time to focus on a set one and pushing for those high grades instead of all that effort in on the ones SMT want! students have worked hard and we have had time to teach proper analysis etc and high grades have been achieved. Only bit I don't like is the controlled assessment for Shakespeare and poetry and the link between the two. It's too long and should be two separate units but then I think this may be the same for other boards. I like the fact we can start them all doing the same Controlled assessment and then for the weaker students split to theEnglish only syllabus at a later date. I would not like to do two exam boards as the logistics in working out who has missed their assessments with absence is a nightmare for one board let alone two! Hope this helps and I have nothing whatsoever to do with WJEC but think we are all quick to write if things go wrong and therefore should praise when we are pleased!
  4. Thanks both of you, interesting points. Totally agree about the Shakespeare/ Poetry linking CA! But it is the same for AQA.
    You're right- people are really quick to criticise so it's v positive when you come along and say nice things! : )
    The main thing I'm struggling with with WJEC though is the old "to PEE or not to PEE" dilemma on questions 2 and 3 on the WJEC reading exam. AQA have made it more predictable on the new spec; on the old one kids had to judge whether it was a PEE question or not, and getting it wrong lost them heaps of marks. Now there's a set pattern, I believe, so they can't trip up. On the WJEC exam is there a pattern for Q2 and 3, or do the kids have to make the call? Someone on another forum advised they should do many short PEEs, therefore covering themselves if simply lots of info retrieval was required, and also having analysis in there in case that's what's being looked for.What do you reckon, WJEC experts? : )
  5. sunflower48

    sunflower48 New commenter

    Well Question 1 is always a locate and retrieve, so when it comes to 2 and 3 I always teach PEE, otherwise they become too similar to Q1. Each question gives them only about 15 minutes to answer so they have to be selective and effective in finding quotes and explaining them. I do lots of preparation in time management, so teach them how to do it and then lots of timed questions, as many do not reach or have the time to finish Q4 and then throw away 10 marks. You can use the old legacy paper as skills preparation for this as it is a similar format for students. Firstly, I do lots of grid work where I find the quote and they explain and vice versa. That just breaks it down into manageable and easy to see steps and then they progress to finding the quote and explaining themselves. Well that's the theory, now put a class of Year 11 in and see what happens!!!!!
    For higher they have to PEE but this time they definitely need to analyse certain words and phrases and devices and say why they are chosen and are effective. It is the analysis part that gains marks for higher tier that foundation can't seem to manage. This is how I do it, maybe ArthurDent can explain further. Hope this is useful for you.
  6. Hi as a head of English, I really strongly advise AQA. The exam paper for English now is very straightforward and we are having great success on it. I examine for this paper too and can advise on it if you like. We are looking at our best ever results this year if our CA marks are upheld. Choosing the right CA task for the ability of the group is crucial but all my staff and the students are really enjoying the course. In terms of the borderline students, I would defninitely advise following English only for 2 years - we are set to get many more C grades by just taking longer over skills work and doing numerous controlled assessments so they have a range to choose from to go forward

    email me if you want to talk further: saralou5@hotmail.com

  7. sunflower48

    sunflower48 New commenter

    But you are not supposed to do numerous controlled assessments, otherwise this becomes coursework and that's why we moved away from this.
  8. Neither -get away from CAs and look seriously at iGCSE. No help, I know.

    Am hating new WJEC at the moment with y11 since there seems to be such a lack of clarity about the whole thing.
  9. englishtt06

    englishtt06 Occasional commenter

    Hi. I don't teach the new WJEC spec, but I taught WJEC for many years prior to moving schools where we teach AQA. I have to say that the WJEC is so much better and much more teacher and pupil friendly. This may be because I started teaching WJEC first after my PGCE, so was indoctrinated early, but after two years with AQA I can't say I have much to recommend them. My biggest concern with them at the moment is my C/D borderline group (mostly Foundation but a few Higher) and having to teach all 15 poems for the Lit exam - it's a lot and time is so limited! I think AQA have tried to pack too much in. The alternative is to just deliver English-only but I gather it is too little to stretch to two years (we looked at a Media combination but again, it then becomes unwieldy). I met up with some old colleagues from my previous school who tell me that the new WJEC is good and support is excellent (yes, there have been issues and WJEC isn't all lily-white but the overall impression was positive); I hanker for their more realistic approach to poetry - a comparison piece of two (but teaching several to allow choice) rather than a 15-text gauntlet, as well as a prose text, a play and then an unseen poem. It's a lot for C/D borderline students to manage.
  10. NIce thing about the WJEC approach to poetry is that, apart from using the Poetry Collection for the selection fo poems to accompany the Shakespeare, it can be used as general prep for the Unit 1 Literature exam (which has comparative unseen poetry), as the exam contains unseen poetry, you can use what you like. Which, for someone who likes poetry a lot as I do, is excellent!
  11. I am also looking into WJEC as I have lots of issues with the new AQA spec, but am I right in thinking that the the WJEC Literature exams are closed book? How does this work? Do the kids have to memorise screeds of quotes. I didn't think anyone took this approach any more.
  12. sunflower48

    sunflower48 New commenter

    Yes it is a closed book. However, they are given an extract as part of one of the questions and so use quotes from this when answering. For the other question, I suppose some of them do learn odd quotes and obviously they are not word perfect, but if the main point they are making is clear they should get the marks. I think it is the structure of the answer and their knowledge and understanding of the text and sub-text that is important rather than remembering where a quote is in a book. Time is of the essence in an exam and it may hinder students looking for quotes. We have never had any problems at all with a closed book exam in Literature with WJEC.
  13. I'll echo that.
  14. sunflower48

    sunflower48 New commenter

    I have had several students who on higher tier with WJEC have achieved B grades the first time they took this in Year 10' they are now pushing for A grades. I have also got students who did achieve A and A* first time round but think they would have achieved this no matter what board they were with. There are obviously pros and cons for each board, perhaps have a discussion with your department and discuss this with them and come to a decision together, after all they are to teach it!
  15. Mrs Goatstrangler

    Mrs Goatstrangler New commenter

    Hello GloriaSunshine,

    Just wondering what you have decided! We are definitely going with Edexcel Cert this term. Our results were pretty much as I'd predicted - my pupils did much better in the exams than they did in the CAs. Interesting!

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