This was originally an email to someone who contacted me through the TES website. It might be useful to someone else, so I’m sharing it.
The mainstream school I used to work at has a low ability, low attaining group of pupils and many disaffected learners. I shall try to answer your questions.
1. How do you use the entry level course?
We run the course alongside the OCR Gateway Core. Most (but not all) of the Science Plus modules (12 bio/chem/phys) map into the core course, so we taught the science plus first – recommended four or five lessons on one module, revision and test and then added in additional, appropriate content from the core. (e.g. only really teaching the section on the spec marked ‘foundation’. The same logic was applied to exams/past papers – don’t worry about those bits we haven’t done, concentrate on what we have). The course was as practical and discussion based as possible, with as little permanent writing as we could get away with (poster work, mini-whiteboards) but obviously some practical recording skills need to to practiced – and the ‘can do’ tasks are still in the Science Plus course.
2. Does it work?!! Do the students enjoy it?
On the whole, it’s a great motivator. My last class (7 students regularly attending) where all predicted F/G for Core, all exceeded target by at least one grade, and one of them got D! There’s certificates once they have attained so many points – keep on top of the points, fortnightly updates for the pupils (or whenever you do something) and once the level has been achieved award certificate as soon as possible. We asked the HT to come over from his office to sign and present certificates in class, needs to be someone more ‘important’ than just the class teacher so pupils do value it. A letter home doesn’t go amiss either. Once the HT was ‘busy’ and kept forgetting, so two of the girls actually went to his office and demanded their certificates. He never was ‘busy’ again!
3. How realistic is it to hope that students following this course will be able to track across onto the Core Science GCSE?
No problems at all and the added benefit that poor attenders can have something to take away at the end of the two years even if they fail to turn up for the GCSE. The only change recently is the coursework. Science Plus coursework used to be similar to Science in the News, so one piece of work covered both, but that’s not the case any more. You can though use the Science Plus coursework as ‘practice’ for the Core coursework.
4. How well resourced is it?
There are textbooks available which are very good, and aimed at the poorer readers, with simple questions, but a lot of what you have for core will be relevant anyway. Not so sure about worksheets, I tend to avoid reading/writing tasks unless class receptive to them. Tests, certificates and markschemes available on interchange. We tend to teach the topic for four weeks then a lesson of revise and test (using similar questions to that on the test for revision!). It’s all administered in house, so you can read the test to the whole class if necessary – I sometimes need to change the wording to make sure question is understood. Mark the test at the end of the lesson with the pupil there – helps if they’ve missed a question or you can’t decipher an answer and then you can annotate – also gives pupils instant feedback as to how well they have done. Pupils can also have someone else write the test for them – I get the TA to sign the front just so the moderator knows there have been a range of people involved in writing.
5. How much curriculum time do you give it? The same or less than the rest of the cohort get?
For ease of timetabling they had the same science lessons as the others, in our case 6 a week (2 bio/chem/phys). It helps, in that although you’re doing core + Science Plus over two years you can take coursework slower, fit in the extra units, go back and revise, etc
6. Any other lessons that you’ve learned and that might be helpful for us?!
Don’t give this class to staff who are rubbish at keeping on top of paperwork. The number of times I’ve rummaged through other staff desks to find tests that the pupils claim to have done, mark them and add them to the spreadsheet so that pupils have the points for a certificate….You’ve got one of those, I’m sure! For the pupils to really engage, the response has to be pretty much instant. No point giving back test scores a month later. They’ve forgotten, or they aren’t bothered. Keep up to date with can do tasks and a running points total – I’ve got bar charts on the wall up to 40 which is bronze for the pupils to fill in as they get points, then those who are on silver get a new bar chart – they like to see where they are at and how many more to go.
Make sure you catch pupils who have been away with tests, as every test gives points towards the end result. Even if they get half marks, it still counts!
Get yourself and the other teachers for that set onto the OCR Entry Level course – it’s invaluable for the logistics of the course, it’s free and all three teachers will need to be aware of the recording side. Or, if you have a TA who is with them for all their Science lessons they may be able to help with the tracking/recording?
Oh, file the tests in the right order so you don’t have to waste time rearranging them to send them off for moderating!