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One teacher one class - GCSE Science??????

Discussion in 'Science' started by j2mey7, Jun 17, 2015.

  1. I would really appreciate any feedback on the following...

    At KS4 we currently implement a rotation system in core/additional Science to ensure delivery of content and revision to students by subject specialists.

    SLT are pushing for a shift-change to a model that sees one teacher deliver the GCSE to one class (Biology, Chemistry and Physics). Their argument seems centred on 'increasing accountability' and whilst I can see some advantages to such a delivery model I remain convinced that improvement in 'T&L' (and not accountability) will be the driving force for improved attainment in the future.

    Does anyone have any experience/opinions;

    - Have you moved away from delivery by subject specialists?

    - Have you moved towards delivery by subject specialists (or would you if staffing permitted)?

    - Does anyone know of any educational research in this area?

    Cheers, JT
  2. wkclark

    wkclark New commenter

    What do they mean by accountability????? Does that mean they want to 'blame' one teacher for poor results?! That seems very ill conceived to me! I would argue that if (for any reason) a pupil and specific teacher don't get on, this would do far more harm than good! There is actually only so much that one can blame an individual teacher for. Are they also going to have the same teacher for English, History/ Geography etc...?

    It seems like they might be on some sort of witch-hunt, as it is highly unlikely to improve results based on subject specialists teaching within specialism. Or perhaps all of the Physics teachers have left?
  3. sparkleghirl

    sparkleghirl Star commenter

    Ask them if they're putting accountability before the quality of teaching and learning that would best be served by subject specialists.

    As them if they are prepared to be held accountable for any adverse effect arising from their decision to move away from subject specialist teaching.

    It's not just quality of teaching, it impacts on subject choice at A-level as well. Kids won't choose to continue with what hasn't been taught well or with enthusiasm at GCSE
  4. wanet

    wanet Star commenter

    I am probably unusual, went through this some time ago, actually a long time ago. Enjoyed teaching the combined subjects - they are not really that seperate. Taught 2 at A Level. however, when I saw examiners merged at a moderation meeting, it really concerned me from some of the questions asked that this was going to happen. It tended to be Physasists and Biologists that had problems.

    However, I have taught any of them for some time, but have only just retired as a teacher. during my career I have taught 5 subjects to A Level. I enjoy change.
  5. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    I was actively teaching GCSE until last year. We mostly had specialists delivering the subjects, especially for the triple award students. However several people taught two or three of the three and this made timetabling easier, especially where physics was concerned.

    The success of this depends on the confidence of your staff.
  6. alm721

    alm721 New commenter

    We always try and use subject specialists were possible. Unfortunately, due to lack of physics teachers this cannot be across the whole year group. We try to ensure the potential A-level students are taught by subject specialists, as this has a big impact on A-level uptake.

    Our results have consistently shown us that students taught by specialists outperform those taught by one teacher for all.

    To be honest, I'm not so convinced that it's the subject specialist bit that especially makes the difference (at least at GCSE) but more the fact the a teacher delivering a reduced content but to more groups, will become more familiar with both the content and how the exam board tend to phrase questions etc. I think this possibly has more of an effect than the specialist part. Also our more experienced teachers tend to get better results, again I expect as a result of familiarity with what they are teaching. To be honest it's not rocket science if you think about it ! The more you do something the better you get at it.

    If SLG want to move away from it and you can staff it, then I would ask the questions that sparkleghirl has raised. It sounds more about accountability then good teaching and learning. If however, it is in response to poor results with the rotations, then they would be justified in looking for another solution. We have had rotations in the past were staff have tended to worry less about final outcomes as the students 'move on' and don't return. We've solved this by rather then doing rotations, having 3 teachers across the whole year so each student may have 3/4 lessons of each science per fortnight so we all are responsible for preparing them for our exams at the end of the year. This seems to work quite well.
    drek likes this.
  7. ScienceGuy

    ScienceGuy Established commenter

    Surely accountability can still be measured by looking at student's scores in each of the three papers (assuming you go down the Biology, Chemistry, Physics paper route)
  8. Supertechno

    Supertechno New commenter

    This sounds like the usual drivel produced by the Humanities graduates who tend to dominate the managerial landscape in most schools. To them, science is science. Would they have a French teacher teach Italian based on the idea that languages are languages? Of course not, because they can tell that French and German are different. Sadly, they lack the capacity to do that where the sciences are concerned.

    What you could do is let it slip to parents that their children are going to be taught two of the three sciences by non-specialists. Ask them if they would they be happy to have their child taught geography by history teacher. They would probably be appalled at the notion. Then tell them that this is analogous to what management plan to do with science teaching. Stir things up.

    By having people teach outside of their specialism they are setting them up to fail, probably as a precursor to limiting pay rises and promotions. Get the Unions involved. Get the Unions to ask SLT would they be happy for someone to mess about with their children?s education in this way. Don?t stand for this nonsense.
  9. almostafish

    almostafish New commenter

    supertechno, I would strongly suggest that this is kept behind closed doors and that any reservations that are had are certainly held back from staff. I have moved from 1 teacher/group to rotations across the 3 but this was done constructively in meetings between me and my link. I also identified that 3 teachers/group enabled not only greater understanding of marking/key points, avoided conflict between staff and problem students, but also that if any staff left it would not lead to one group suffering massively.

    I also highlighted that you still have accountability through tracking, eAQA, triple groups. Plus, if you have a weaker teacher you can ask if they are willing to sacrifice a whole group's grades to highlight this.

    Certainly maintain a professional attitude throughout.
  10. Skeoch

    Skeoch Star commenter

    One more thought: it's often easier to timetable multiple teachers rather than having one teacher blocked in to a big chunk of timetable. Have they asked the timetabler if it will work?
  11. Thank you for the responses gang....

    I am certainly keeping an open mind but will need reassurance that the intentions behind such a plan are good (i.e solid evidence that it improves teaching and learning).

    Interestingly having looked at the latest extracts/headlines from draft specs I think the need for subject specialist will only increase within the new GCSE's - increased depth of subjects knowledge, practical competency within a subject and don't forget the maths (for all nervous Biologists out there)

    I would really appreciate further response from anyone with experience of such a change and the impact it had on T&L and attainment.

    Does anyone know of any educational research in this area?

  12. Supertechno

    Supertechno New commenter

    Dear Almostafish,

    As the parent of a student who has just completed his GCSEs, I can say for certain that I would be livid if he had been taught by a non subject specialist for any of his GCSE subjects.

    In my time in schools, I have seen English classes taught by Science teachers, and Science teachers teaching Music just because they happened to play an instrument.

    Allowing school management and governors to get away with selling our children's educations and futures down the river is unacceptable. Anyone other than a subject specialist is merely an enthusiastic amateur.

    In terms of 'professional attitude', teachers have a duty to ensure that the pupils in their schools are getting the best possible education. If that means blowing the whistle about pupils being taught by non-specialists, then that is what they should do. Otherwise, they are being unethical.
    drek likes this.
  13. Skeoch

    Skeoch Star commenter

    I'm afraid it's not that easy. Physicists are about as common as hens' teeth, chemists are hardly two-a-penny either. So not every school can find the subject specialists it would like to have. Then there's the timetabling issue - you cannot necessarily deploy staff exactly where you want. So there are reasons why your ideal may not be attainable.

    The other side of the coin is that there are some teachers - many teachers - who are perfectly capable of teaching very effectively in their specialist fields and outside them. They won't sell the pupils down the river.

    That said, I'd agree with your general principles. When in an emergency I was landed with teaching an exam class way outside my specialism, I think I coped rather than doing very well, and was relieved when a specialist was found. Apart from anything else, preparing thoroughly enough to do more than survive was very demanding.
    rugbylovingmum and drek like this.
  14. ScienceGuy

    ScienceGuy Established commenter

    To some extent it depends on what you mean by a specialist. I am not a physicist by any stretch of the imagination (I have a degree in Biochemistry), However, I do have an A level in Physics and I am confident in my ability to teach Physics to GCSE students of all abilities (including Triple Science / IGCSE) successfully. Ironically, this flexiblity means that I now rarely teach Biology or Chemistry to GCSE pupils, only to A level students
  15. Supertechno

    Supertechno New commenter

    You're right, Science Guy, it does depend on what we mean by the term 'specialist'. My objection is to management coercing people into teaching outside their comfort zones in order to meet the demands of the timetable (the old 'it will look good on your CV' idea). If someone feels confident enough to teach physics, and is competent at it, then fire ahead.

    However, all too often, people are railroaded into doing it to safeguard their career progression. If they don't play ball with SLT, then their careers may 'plateau' because they aren't considered to be 'team players'.

    Like yourself, my degree wasn't in physics either, but it was physics-related, and I was good enough to teach GCSE including Triple. My worry is when I see people with neither the background nor confidence (nor interest in many cases) being pushed into it against their will. That can only spell disaster for the pupils. If it were me, I would want a guarantee, in writing, that if it all went belly-up then I would not be held liable for a decision that was forced upon me.
  16. almostafish

    almostafish New commenter


    what I mean by non specialist is as a Biologist I make a damned good physics teacher, better in fact than I am a Biology teacher, at which I would class myself as average. English classes taught by science teachers etc is an extension of the argument to prove a point, something not entirely helpful if that was the way it was intended. By having rotations you allow staff to specialise, even if it's not a specialist subject for them. I believe that there is a right and a wrong way to express your opinions too within a school/professional post. Too many staff behave in a way they would complain about if their students did it that way because they are "whistleblowers".
  17. Robfreeman

    Robfreeman Occasional commenter

  18. Thejumpingjew

    Thejumpingjew New commenter

    TAs has been stated above there are many pros and cons of each method. I think it depends on the class, high ability need specialist teachers to push them in all areas. With the c/d borderline, disruptive kids, or low ability classes, I believe there is a lot to be said for one teacher teaching the class.

    1. You know the pupils better - my year 11 this year (low ability, FSM mainly, 2 statements, all SEN, but cheeky not badly behaved) will have had me for four years, I know them inside and out and tailor my lessons particularly to their strengths and weaknesses, including individual resources for certain pupils.

    2. greater parental rapour leads to a better teaching relationship.

    3. accountability is mentioned above, but in reality I think of it as the fact that I am not reliant on others doing a good job.

    4. it also means less marking in our school as books for every class are marked once a term with detailed feedback and improvements (so I mark year 11 five times , if a 3 way split that fifteen lots of marking).

    5. Finally for lower ability I tend to find non specialists break down subjects better than specialists for the lower ability as they are less inclined to go too far and lose pupils (this is of course the reason that the system does not work with higher achieveing classes).

    I appreciate some of these points may be controversial or even negatives to some.

    in summary I would ask to look at a teaching system that has some split and some one teacher teaching if possible.
  19. peterdevon

    peterdevon New commenter

    We expect all science teachers to be able to teach all three to the core & additional level, so whenever possible I timetable one teacher per group. Not for accountability, but because the students do better when they have a strong relationship with their teacher. Students that have chosen triple get three specialists.
  20. dogcat

    dogcat New commenter


    At my previous school we all taught all 3 subjects at Core and Additional, with subject specialists teaching the Triple route. At my current school I changed the model they had last year in my first year there as HOD as I think everyone should be able to deliver Core Science. Yr.9 have two teachers who begin teaching Core at the end of the year, teachers teach their specialism and then share the one they are not familiar with. We have a lot of resources in place to support people and the department are close and share a lot with each other. I also have some teachers who have taught other specialisms in other schools which helps.

    At Additional I think it is more complex and although we have some who teach outside of their specialism, this is only those that are happy and confident to do so. At Triple we only deliver specialisms.

    I think accountability is important, however I think that you can do that without needing one teacher per group. Exam results allow you to look at each component of Core for example for each group so you can see if their is a clear dip in one area within a class set.

    The advantages for me of delivering outside of specialism are; it helps people if they want to progress as many schools look for the ability to deliver more than one specialism, it gives me more people to deliver Core revision to free up specialists to deliver Additional/Further (I have only 3/16 chemists) and it encourages new ways of delivery and discussion around T&L.

    In an ideal world I would have even numbers of specialists but even then I would still want Core to be able to be delivered by one teacher if I could. At the moment we try to have two teachers on Core rather than three, there are some single teacher groups but these are taught by people who can confidently deliver it all and have taught all areas of it before.

    I would say it is not a quick process, I am in my second year of bringing this forward and it will take me another year still to have things how I would like them to work. Staff need time to be able to get their heads around what is expected from each subject, exam style questions, 6 markers etc before they can be expected to deliver it all.

    With the new GCSEs coming in I would be very reluctant to do it at Additional unless you had staff who were happy to do this.

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