Monday, 10 April 2017

GCSE 9-1 grading

This blogpost is focussed particularly on ML in the context of the reformed GCSE currently being studied by Year 10 but the principles and messages are exactly the same for
(a)    Current Y11 in maths and English
(b)   Other reformed GCSE subjects for current Year 10

People are asking how they can use the results of mock exams being taken by current year 10 pupils to estimate final GCSE grades.

Being fair to all the pupils of all abilities at a time of major transition and change (and by extension to their teachers) taking a wide range of GCSEs  in a real world of historical legacy and political realities, not starting from scratch, we need to be sophisticated and thoughtful and avoid simplistic solutions.

It's a complex situation but there are a few key principles to help through this transition period to ensure fairness for pupils.

There is a range of information available from Ofqual itself (the body responsible for ensuring the quality of standards in qualifications which have been written by exam boards within the constraints set by DfE) and from ASCL (the Association of School and College Leaders).

There is also much rhetoric around which is confusing the situation and so it is important to unpick some of the political rhetoric, failed logic etc. etc.  For example, 'the content is more demanding'.  Yes, the specifications do appear more demanding.  They have stripped  out any mention of what pupils can be expected to know understand and do at lower levels.  However, grades will be awarded according to 'comparable outcomes' (see below), not according to any statement-related criteria.

At a time of transition, change and uncertainty this can open a floodgate to discussion (e.g the value of statement-related criteria).  This may be very interesting, but it can unnecessarily distract from the task at hand,  It’s important to focus on what is happening in order to ensure fairness to pupils during this transition.


The Ofqual Blog has some extremely useful posts.  Here are some examples:

(a)    a 9-1 campaign including a chart to show how grades 1, 4 and 7 will compare with current grades G, C and A

(b)   Grade boundaries: the problems with predictions 3/2/17  This blogpost explicitly says that it is unhelpful to estimate grade boundaries in mock exams.  Three reasons are given for this, and I copy and paste the third of  these below:

Statistics will play a key role in making sure this year’s students are not disadvantaged by being the first to sit these new GCSEs. Exam boards will use prior attainment at Key Stage 2 for the 16-year-old cohort to predict likely achievement at the key grades – 1, 4 and 7. The bottom of these grades will be aligned with the bottom of grades G, C and A respectively so the proportions of students achieving these grades or higher will be broadly similar to the previous year. We, and the exam boards, will have the full national picture; other organisations will only have a sub-set of the cohort, which may not be representative of the national situation.

(c)    Setting grade 9 in new GCSEs  This post sets out how the number of grade 9s will be caluclated

 2.      ASCL ADVICE

ASCL has provided advice to students, parents, teachers and  headteachers.  Here is a copy and paste of the first FAQ in the Headteacher paper:

1 Can I give my governors an estimate of how our GCSE grade distribution in the reformed GCSEs will be this year? What about grade boundaries?

ASCL’s advice is not to rely on any predictions of grade boundary marks for new GCSEs next summer. Statistics will play a key role in making sure this year’s students are not disadvantaged by being the first to sit these new GCSEs, and the setting of grade boundaries will need to take account of the national picture which will not be known until all the papers are marked in the summer. In the School Inspection Update March 2017, Ofsted inspectors have been advised not to press schools for predictions of outcomes this year. It is possible to give an indication of the likely grade distribution because of the statistical linkage specified by Ofqual. ASCL will be publishing more guidance on this in the coming months.

One of the most common issues being raised on ML fora relates to other teachers or managers either expecting to be able to convert raw marks to grades or having managers who are putting pressure on them to convert raw marks to grades as a way of telling pupils about their attainment / progress. What can you do about this?

You have to assess what is or is not within your control.  Staff are in a complicated situation.  The ideal is to have managers who understand the situation and are not making unrealistic demands.  
What is in your control …
Following tests, give  pupils specific advice on how to  improve - in effect using the assessment formatively e.g.  'you have shown you understand how to form the past tense, but you do not do this consistently accurately.  Learn all the verbs which take 'être' in the past tense.'

What is out of your control ...
There may be requirements set by your management at school, and you have to follow their direction.  However, you could refer them to the Ofqual blog and to ASCL's advice.

I hope this helps,.


Saturday, 15 October 2016

Saturday, 4 June 2016

GCSE ML specifications 2016: overview comparison

Comparison document

Last year I spent a great deal of time putting together a comparison of the GCSE draft specifications for first teaching 2016.  The final specification has only recently been approved, and so I am afraid that the final version of my comparison is a bit 'rushed'.  However, it may be useful to those who have been waiting to select a specification from the three available now available.  (AQA, Eduqas and Edexcel).

Here is a link to the Google document which I will up-date as and when I find mistakes.

I suggest that you 'save as' a pdf if you want a printable copy, as this then retains the formatting.


The specifications are constrained by the DfE GCSE criteria and Ofqual has a duty to approve the specifications. 

The whole process has been interesting.  To be honest, I have been quite impressed at the way that Ofqual seem to have spotted areas which needed attention to bring specs in line .. mainly where criteria were far too harsh at foundation level or where criteria seemed a bit woolly.  There are several areas where I had to strike through my original rant and write that the issue had been addressed. 

The aspect which I will freely openly criticise is the ridiculous rule about speaking tests having to be presented in the target language. This is requirement set by DfE subject criteria.  The DfE should not have been involved in the way the content was tested, and this will compromise the validity of the test and the sanity of teachers preparing students to learn the tricks!.  Every time I look at those ridiculous ‘prompts’ I start muttering at the screen. (I just replaced the word I had originally written for ‘muttering’).   I wonder if there will ever be an authentic context where a native English speaker will find some French words and need to turn them into a sentence, hoping it is the sentence the author intended.

Dr Rachel Hawkes has done some fantastic work comparing specs.. much tidier than this .. but I felt I needed to do it to get my head around the differences, and also because I am interested in analysing Eduqas and French.

ALL London June Event 2016 - Saturday June 11th 2016.  SOAS.

I hope some of you will be coming to hear Wendy Adeniji talk about preparing pupils for the new GCSE speaking and writing terminal examinations.   Here is a link to more information. and here is a direct link to registration. 

We have booked in Dr Rachel Hawkes already for June 2017!

Sunday, 6 March 2016

ICT in Languages Conference

This Tuesday I am meeting with a few others to put together a draft programme for the Free ICT and Language Event, for all sectors and languages, which we are holding at The Ashcombe School on Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th April. [You pay £25, but get this back if you turn up.] 
We already have a great crowd coming, and excellent presenters, but there is room for more participants (65 have signed up, and there are 35 more places until we reach capacity) and if anyone is interested in presenting, there are some more slots to cover elements of using ICT - (e.g. establishing real contact with pupils abroad, training to listen, read, use grammar accurately, translate and pronounce).
If no one else offers, we can definitely cover these elements from our existing team, but it's nice to involve as many people as possible and to let the presenters attend other sessions! As it is an ICT conference, it will not have non-ICT sessions, but we are very conscious of the need to provide something for everyone, whatever their competence / access, so don't worry! 
 Here's a link to register, and within the description, there is a link to a google form where you can suggest something you could present .. even if only for 5/10 minutes! If you are not familiar with Google forms and you just want to pass me your ideas directly feel free to do so! Don't be shy! Thanks!

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Paris Study Visit 2016

Preparing for a school visit takes a great deal of time, but when you witness the students' enjoyment, it can make it all worthwhile!

If you are planning for a visit to Paris with students, you may find the following documents helpful.
They are all on my Google Drive.  You can view and download them.  If you cannot access them, it will probably be because your school does not allow access to Google documents.  In this case, I recommend you access them from a home computer.

The Ashcombe School Paris Study Visit 2016: Itinerary with comments and advice

Y11 and 6th form trip master details - including:
  • Accommodation
  • BlogSpot
  • Costing
  • Health and Safety Information
  • Information evening
  • Letters to parents
  • Master data
  • Medical consent form
  • Phone Chain and key details
  • Recommended items to take
  • Risk assessment
  • Travel
  • Visits planned in advance
Paris Study Visit Booklet - a booklet issued to pupils in a format which means they could 'roll it up' and put in their rucksacks.  Includes the following:

  • Key info
  • Les règles
  • L'itinérairie provisoire
  • Les jeux
  • Le guide alphabétique

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Thoughts on the new GCSE 9-1 MFL

It was an honour to be invited to speak about the new GCSEs at the annual ISMLA conference which took place yesterday, Saturday 30th January 2016.

When invited many months ago, I fully expected to be in a position to be able to do a thorough objective comparison of four approved examination boards specifications.  However, only one has so far been approved.

I therefore concentrated on outlining the following three areas:
1) The  context for the change
2) The subject content, subject conditions and subject guidance as laid down by Ofqual and the DfE
3) The possible 'variables' which may influence school choice of exam board once approved.

I have made a pdf version of the presentation here which you can download and I am doing a 'webinar' where I will repeat the talk on Sunday 7th February 15:30 - 16:30.

Once all specifications have been approved I will update a very detailed grid which I have already produced and share it.

I hope this is useful.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Minecraft: Douglas L Watkins recommendation.

Doug Watkins - DGBL (Digital Games-Based Learning) expert.
Link to his most popular work, Darkewater

I am overseeing the introduction of a 'Minecraft club' at school, along with Dale Evans, Teaching Assistant Extraordinaire!  As a Second Life user, I have a broad understanding of 'virtual worlds', but I quickly saw that pupils were way ahead of me, and I posted a plea for help in a Teacher's Minecraft Google Group, specifically saying that I'd like to 'try it out' as a user within a community and be able to ask questions.

Doug Watkins got in touch and offered to help by showing me the basics using his online server. I am so impressed with all aspects of the support he gave and it is without hesitation that I offer this recommendation.

Firstly, Doug was extremely thoughtful in his preparation for giving support. Via email, he checked carefully with me what my starting point was, and put together a very clear plan of what he was going to cover during our first online meeting. When we met, he had prepared the 'agenda', he had all documents to hand and made extremely effective and efficient use of the time we had.

He offered a Skype or Google Hangouts meeting, and I was extremely impressed by the 'lesson' he gave me. As well as learning a great deal about Minecraft, I experienced excellent use of technology for distanced learning as Doug exploited Skype, Teamviewer and Google tools. We greeted each other on Skype video and Doug shared links in the IM chat to his comprehensive and clearly laid out documents relating to Minecraft on Google Docs. We used Teamviewer to allow me to see Doug's screen as he explained Minecraft, and for Doug to see my screen as I made my tentative first steps into his Minecraft world. All aspects worked well throughout our 3 hour meeting!

Doug has a very clear understanding of the issues associated with using Minecraft in the classroom. He very enthusiastic about the educational benefits of using Minecraft, but can also understand why some teachers may hesitate from using it and can offer strategies to address this.

He has a superb, patient manner. Although clearly an extremely experienced Minecraft user, he was able to put himself in the place of a new user, and at any point I got stuck, he was quick to go back a step and start again in a patient way, not making me feel stupid, and going at an appropriate pace! It was lovely to be able to feel free to ask any question along the way. I can imagine that he would work brilliantly with pupils and teachers alike.

Doug explains things to a novice in a way that you could understand, both through clear verbal instruction, and through using 'screen share' and giving clear instructions about where to click and drag

Doug freely shares links to a folder on his Google drive which contains a wealth of information and practical help. His documents are clearly referenced and easy to read. I have downloaded and printed most of them!  Direct Link to his Education drive.

He was quick to follow up our meeting with a summary and links to his google drive documents.

In summary, I cannot recommend Doug strongly enough to anyone who is looking for guidance for using Minecraft in a school setting. Thank you Doug for your generosity in sharing and the quality of your work! I look forward to learning even more!

Doug's Drive:
A collection of guides (for teachers), activities (for individuals), and lessons (for classes or groups). Always start here if you are looking for new material or inspiration. Please send me the results of any lessons you try so I can incorporate your experiences.

Doug's Maps:
Maps (finished and in progress) by Doug Watkins

EduElfie's Youtube Channel: Learn about Minecraft in French!  This is my plan .. to switch it to French every now and then - de temps en temps!

A good place to start if you have questions about or problems with MinecraftEdu.
This is where Doug starts when looking for maps and hosting his own.  He reminds you that you should always check the content of the map before you let your students play on it.

Minecraft Crafting Wiki:
A helpful wiki that shows every single crafting recipe in detail.

BDouble's Note Block Tutorial:
Doug passed me this link  as I was curious about whether you could get soind in Minecraft!

Minecraft Command Wiki:
A helpful wiki that explains how to use commands and the effects of each command (think teleporting players/changing gamemodes/giving items and status effects).

Additional links:
The Anthill -
A really great adventure map (with little to no violence) that can be used with any class size. Should work for 1.7.10

The Tourist -
A Paris map Doug told me about  He said it's a good map for just exploring Paris, but he has a lot of issues with the story. Some of the students will like the plot, but most will ignore the story.

Dr. Wasteland's Minecraft Server: I have a direct link to Doug's server so that I can practise!

Edugaming I have created an account on Doug's recommendation.