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Here come O levels

Discussion in 'Science' started by hcb, Jun 21, 2012.

  1. hcb

    hcb New commenter

    According to the papers this morning, students will sit the new exams in 2015. This means it will affect September's year 9. We start the GCSE course in year 9 to cover triple science without extra lesson time. Not sure what we do in September!!
  2. alessio

    alessio Administrator

    Certainly these proposed changes will have a significant impact in Science education. Someone pointed out that the balance of girls and boys studying Biology/Physics could also e affected! Something that still remains unclear is whether studying only one of three Sciences will meet statutory requirements, or if a student will need all three (although I doubt that). I couldn't see a clear reference to that in this article http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2162369/Return-O-Level-Gove-shake-biggest-revolution-education-30-years.html
    Does anyone have reliable information on the matter?
  3. What concerns me most about this is if we go back to the idea that 'only the top few percent can pass', rather than 'if you can do questions of this difficulty you pass'.
    If the government is only interested in finding out who the cleverest children are and putting them in rank order, they should have an intelligence test at the age of 11 and forget this expensive waste of time we call education.
    On the other hand if we want pupils to learn information, skills and techniques the assessment of these must be based on what they can do, not where they fall in the pecking order.
    Sorry for the rant.
  4. ScienceGuy

    ScienceGuy Established commenter

    The first exams are in 2016 so next year's Year 9 are not affected. The following year group i.e. current Yr 7 would be.
  5. hcb

    hcb New commenter

    That's a relief - the Telegraph says they will take the tests in 2015.
  6. PaulDG

    PaulDG Occasional commenter

    What do you differently between year 8 & 9 anyway?

    I mean, I teach maths, not science, and the kids believe there will be a great difference in year 10 when they "start the GCSE" but, in reality, we just go round the same topics again and bring in the final few [topics] for those kids doing the Higher paper.

    Do you guys in science really do anything different? Don't you just add depth to the topics you've been doing already?

    (Sure, I can see if the new exam throws out all the "sustainability" stuff in the current GCSEs and replaces it with some actual physics or chemistry there'll be somethings that will be different, but that's only about a term's worth of work across the whole course, isn't it?)
  7. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    I'm a bit worried about the current year 8.
    Year 10 are doing a different course to year 11.[​IMG]. It looks as if we are going to have to do the same thing two years running with current year 9 and current year 8. That is going to be SO BORING!!!
  8. lexus300

    lexus300 Star commenter

    The GCSE is currently a devalued qualification where the grades below 'A' are inadequate for normal progression routes unless extra support is inplace to bridge the gap.
    Individual 'O' levels beefed up to where they were 20 odd years ago will mean the ordinary level school qualification will be a valuable asset once more.
    The weakness will be if league tables are retained and pressures placed on schools to increase their pass rates.
    As for the comment about BTEC for the less able, you are gravely misleading your readers on this forum.
    BTEC qualifications start at level 1 and progress to degree and above depending on the course. They are specifically designed to fulfill a vocational purpose. Comparing them to GCSE is like comparing a dog to a horse the comparison has no meaning.
  9. Mathsteach2

    Mathsteach2 Established commenter

    I am well retired now, but but I have to say that I cannot see anything wrong with the old "O" level and CSE external examinations at 16+, content syllabus regularly updated, of course. The money spent introducing GCSE could all have been saved! A single examining board across the country also makes sense, economically and confidently accepted by university/college entrance requirements, employers and parents.

    However, the first issue to be addressed in this day-and-age would be the lowering of the compulsory school leaving age.\

    We would therefore have compulsory schooling (and home-schooling alternatives) for 5 to 11 year olds, and compulsory secondary schooling for Y7 to Y9. A basic grounding in a "science for all" curriculum can easily be delivered in this time, involving a fully practical, hands-on experience for pupils from 5 to 14. Y9, still fully practical, would be more geared to the choices available in the one or two years leading to any nationally organised ("O" level or CSE) external examinations. Students not committed to these end-of-year, one-off (but repeatable), sit-down written examinations would have the option to leave and find paid work, albeit with ever-open doors to schools and colleges for anyone who changes their mind and wishes to gain those qualifications, vacancies permitting.

    In this simplified structure students would know beforehand what they were committng themselves to, and what they were letting themselves in for. At 14+ students could drop out at any time since schooling would no longer be compulsory, and we would not have thousands of teenagers put into classes where they have no interest whatsoever.

    Old-style "O" levels in the three separate sciences would be available as options at 14+, and fast-streamed for high-fliers to complete in one year. After all, committed adults do this, and commitment at 14 years old seems the way to go, whatever they choose to do.

    The syllabi in physics, chemistry and biology would be standardised across the country, along with the marking and the grading. Employers, "A" level colleges and universities would know far more clearly what a candidate has achieved - just like the old days!

    Lowering the school-leaving age is a thorny one I admit, but with adequate social services exploitation should be avoided, young people would be usefully engaged, and to hell with the unions and possible unemployment for adult shirkers, they need shaking up anyway!
  10. alessio

    alessio Administrator

    In Italy and I believe in other European countries learners can leave school at 14, i.e. after their Yr9 equivalent. Most progress to vocational courses in vocational colleges and the rest, who want to continue to University, go to Licei, i.e. more academic schools which specialise in a main theme, e.g. Science, Languages, Humanities...
    Having to make that choice at that age is not easy for everyone, but some students who complete their vocational courses end up in University courses and seem to do well, as long as they are motivated and prepared to put that extra work.
    These changes might bring UK closer to those models.
  11. lexus300

    lexus300 Star commenter

    I agree with your proposition, it would free up staff to engage with those who really want to be there and for those who do not, they will not be there to disrupt proceedings and might even enjoy paid work?
    There would be money saved too and possible job losses from all the extra support necessary at this time with the endemic discipline problems caused by the ones who do not wish to be nor should be, there.
    I look forward to the responses next week.
  12. Mathsteach2

    Mathsteach2 Established commenter

    Concerning "science for all" for compulsory school-aged children, it seems to me that if we are expected to teach children to read and write, and with some basic numeracy by the age of eleven, say, then surely we can give all children a satisfactory basic grounding in science by the age of fourteen?

    Of course the specialist science teachers of the external examination courses available at 14+ will want to have a say in the design of this "science for all" curriculum, but they cannot be permitted to determine its total content, structure, and mode of delivery geared solely to their own vested interests.

    This is rather different to the old Nuffield "O" level courses developed in the 60s, good as they were for the then grammar school intake. However, I know as a physics teacher I would prefer to have a group of committed 14 year olds studying in my physics class with some deficiencies in their preparatory schooling, but also with a broader understanding of how science works in the real world, and possessing a way of working very much akin to that bit of Nuffield philosophy described as "being a scientist for the day".
  13. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    Well, we've not had much of a say in any of the other curricula.
  14. reader27

    reader27 New commenter

    I think you make some excellent points here meregton . I see no problem with pupils taking the CSE route, so long as that route is not deemed inferior to o levels. It is ridiculous to think that all children are equally capable of achieving academic success - even that they need to. Equally that all children have the practicality and aptitude for vocational work. More vocational training for youngsters can only be good for their self esteem and the economy. Some children just aren't academically minded and to force them through the system that they see as totally irrelevant to them is demoralising all round, for teachers and pupils alike.

    The other important point I would like to make is that efforts must be made to try to find the balance between assessing progress and knowledge of pupils and schools, and not being slaves to league tables, otherwise we will end up in a similar situation, one exam board or not.

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