Listen

Mike echoes my thoughts on this manner. We have had unprecedented change in education in the UK since I became a teacher (the same time the government changed and Gove, Gibb and Teather started their plans).

Do read :

Distant Ramblings on the Horizon

Listen.

We have the cancelled baseline tests, an entirely predictable (and predicted) mess.

We have KS1 spelling tests uploaded to the governments own website and left there for months. Causing the subsequent cancelling of the national test.

We have exemplar materials for a new testing regime delivered late and requiring correction and further explanation. Not once. Not twice. But five times.

We have the departments accounts effectively qualified by the National Audit Office in a stinging report.

We are still waiting for exam specifications to be signed off that teachers are expected to start teaching in September.

We’ll pass rapidly over their novel interpretation of the laws of physics and cock a blind one to the ministerial obsession with the minutiae of exclamation mark theory.

Then there’s the farcical approach to teacher training place allocation that was only changed because a Cambridge course had under-recruited and could have closed.

This…

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Have I got precision for you!

I know I’ve got a bit of a reputation for pedantry, especially when it comes to DfE curriculum documents. I promise you, I don’t scour them all looking for mistakes. That would be petty. But when they’re physics bloopers or causing a ruckus, then I like to look into things a bit more.

What follows isn’t a judgement on whether the DfE are right or wrong about exclamations, only that I think their instructions and definitions lack clarity and precision, and that this topic is likely to be very confusing for 10/11 year olds (and under).

Firstly, I fully accept that the exclamation debacle is not about whether students are only allowed to use exclamation marks after exclamations that begin with what or how. It is about the definition of an exclamation and in an attempt to calm the waters, the DfE have sent out this clarification:

Exclamations

Instructions in the clarification document

“The use of an exclamation mark does not change a sentence into an exclamation”. Of course it doesn’t! No one said it does (though some have had a joke about banning exclamation marks).

Let’s read the top line together shall we: The national curriculum states that an exclamation is one of the four forms of sentences.

Yes it does, here it is:

nc sentence forms

And the rest of the relevant detail (they discuss exclamation marks a lot too).

NC sentences

There’s the example: What a good friend you are! [exclamation]

So what’s the problem?  Well, one example is rather vague isn’t it? And looking online for resources that schools use throws up some anomalies. Let’s ignore English schools using American English resources (a troublesome situation perhaps).

Here’s the second resource in a google search for sentence types exclamation

http://www.primaryresources.co.uk/english/pdfs/sentence2.pdf

And a task from it:

Examples sentence types

How do we know which are the exclamations?

In a SPAG test the only correct answer is What a mess! [EDIT more on this later]

But depending on your definition then Stop! and Oh no! might be classed as exclamations:

an abrupt, emphatic, or excited cry or utterance; interjection; ejaculation

http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/exclamation

An exclamation (also called an interjection) is a word or phrase that expresses strong emotion, such as surprise, pleasure, or anger. Exclamations often stand on their own, and in writing they are usually followed by an exclamation mark rather than a full stop:

How wonderful!

Ow! That hurt!

Exclamations are also used to express greetings or congratulations:

Hello!

Well done, lads!

http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/words/exclamations

The DfE don’t really mean exclamation when they say exclamation. They mean exclamation clause.

The only clear definition I’ve found about exclamation clauses comes from English Grammar Today via the Cambridge dictionary website:

We use exclamations to express surprise or shock or a strong emotion about something. The type of phrase or clause associated with exclamations is called exclamative.

We usually form exclamatives with what or how. In writing, we usually put an exclamation mark (!) at the end of the exclamative:

What an amazing car!

How I love the summer holidays!

http://dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/exclamations

The suggestion here is that there are different forms of exclamations with certain exclamation clauses (exclamatives). But they don’t just include what and how forms as shown further down on that page.

There are interrogative exclamatives that appear like questions but aren’t: Have I got news for you! which is functionally the same as I’ve got news for you! but the I and the have are inverted. It’s not a question, you wouldn’t answer yes or no (it’s not even a rhetorical one). It’s an exclamatory statement (and a commonly used one at that).

So here’s the thing: the document that test developers are to use is very specific about what is and isn’t allowed for the test.

Exclamations2

Instructions to SPAG test developers.

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/439645/2016_KS2_EnglishGPS_framework_PDFA.pdf

Those weasel words are such a problem (for me as a parent): For the purposes of the test.

Everywhere there are resources children are using to learn to read and write from. And there are exclamations throughout them. I’ve just been through my daughter’s reading books. They’re everywhere. Some are interjections, some are what or how sentences. Some are imperative.

It’s confusing, and as my series of tweets from earlier this evening suggested – the DfE would have done well to define exclamation separately from an exclamative clause which is what they’re testing in the SPAG test.

(there are more below that one)

Anyway I leave you with an exclamation; how would you categorise it?

“Boy, do I hate being right all the time!” 

Dr. Malcolm in Jurassic Park

*Thanks @DiLeed for the retitle.

 

EDIT – Martin Galway has added a further twist in the comments below – I will summarise here:

I spotted something as I went to sleep last night, that was still bothering me this morning, and then Martin wrote to me on twitter asking if I minded him adding a comment – I said of course. What a comment [he wrote]!

You see, the clarification document at the top of the page in trying to make things better, adds another constraint:

Exclamations3

Wait a minute!

Let’s recap the new rules (from Martin’s comment  below). Perhaps a check list would help the students:

  1. Phrase begins with What / How?
  2. Does not take the form of a question?
  3. Subject + verb?
  4. Exclamation mark?

OK so lets look at the examples we’ve got [as pointed out by Martin]:

What a mess! (from the online teacher resource I found – and I thought passed the SPAG test)
This passes 1,2 and 4 but not 3 which was added in the clarification document! <- 10 points from Gryffindor.

What a lovely day! (example from the Test Specification document from the DfE!)
This passes 1,2 and 4 as well. Their own example doesn’t pass the requirements in the clarification document! <- 50 points from Slytherin😉

How exciting! (2nd example from the Test Specification document from the DfE!)
This passes 1, 2, and 4 – but this has neither a subject nor a verb. Again the example they have given the test developments doesn’t pass the requirements in the clarification document! <- 200 points from Slytherin

Boy, do I hate being right all the time!
This doesn’t pass 1 or 2, but it has a subject, a verb and an exclamation mark:) <-20 points from Gryffindor

So let me spell this out for you: the examples for the test developers contradict the clarification document!

From Martin below:

The fact that the frameworks continue to linger online with examples that are not creditworthy strengthens your point. Contradictory materials have led to confusion, and have led to all sorts of inference going on – some inferefences complete/some not. For my part, until the writing exemplars came out, my colleagues and I thought this would only appear in the test. The framework said:”For the puprose of the test.” So it seemed a reasonable deduction. Now that it is required in teacher assessment of writing for KS1, somehow these constructions will need to appear in the range of evidence.

What a total and utter stupid mess [this is]! <- 100 points to Gryffindor:)

Public reminder – things I will write about.

Alex, you need to blog about your ideas on:

  • teaching the photoelectric effect with no equipment.
  • video resources for supporting teaching of astrophysics
  • mini coding projects for GCSE Computing.
  • why Hour Of Code resources are useful for supporting computing classes with non-specialist teachers – but beware…
  • The computing curriculum and digital skills (ICT, computer science and cross curricula)

 

Grades 9-1… a complex picture.

Damian Ainscough has written a blog post about the new GCSE grading system.

Ofqual have released digital postcards explaining it as well:
OfQual GCSE Grades post card

And in response to Damian’s question on twitter I had an attempt as well. Firstly I produced this tweet:grades twitter

It’s difficult to produce an accurate representation in a tweet, but I gave it a go.

But then I did this

Grade Changes

The middle section of this image needs some explanation, meaning that this example is probably too complicated – Damian certainly thought so when I showed him; however I reckon it is worth thinking about.

Ofqual state that broadly the same proportion of students will achieve a grade 4 and above as currently achieve a grade C and above. And the same statement is also used for 7+ and grade A (with the top 20% of those students awarded a grade 9). So I used the 2014 data for Maths and English (2015 is similar, but subtly different – I might redo this image with 2015 results). It is important to note that this is the percentage spread of of results nationally, not a guide for grade boundaries.

I think this image is important as it highlights a few things: for example that the expectation is that roughly the same number of students (perhaps fewer) are expected to get a 9 as the number of students that currently fail their GCSE. And that the new floor grade 5 is a large jump up if your school cohort is similar to the national picture – meeting it is going to be a very big ask if your school cohort results are distributed towards the lower end – remember comparable outcomes means that this spread is also related to the national KS2 data.* ***

Anyway please pick this apart. I produced this visualisation partly to see if it was useful and partly to see if I could**. Let me know via twitter or in the comments.

*Note: this is a fuzzy generalisation based on English and Maths results from 2014 (via Mike Cameron) – your mileage willvary subject by subject and year on year.
** The reason the grades aren’t equally spaced on the left hand side is so that the G1, C4 and A7 points line up. I had originally spaced them equally on both sides. Another visualisation I made last year is a bit simpler but doesn’t display the floor levels
image

*** I’ve looked into the 2015 and 2014 data and noticed the following: in most subjects roughly 25-30% of students achieve a C so if the bottom of a 5 (the new floor)  is going to be the top 3rd of a C, then 17-20% of students will automatically fall through the floor – as the same proportion of students who get a C or above will get a 4 or above. Under the new system up to an extra 1/5 of all students sitting most GCSEs will not get above the floor grade.

Hold the front page: Schools Week already spotted this in June – http://http://schoolsweek.co.uk/grade-changes-set-pupils-up-to-fail-their-gcses/

— Further edit – this one is quite special:)

If we look at the Additional Science results we have a further oddity – the plan is for the top 20% of A/A* to get a 9. And so the idea is that A* equivalent students are spread between the top  of 8 and the 9 grade but if we look at additional science result A-A* in 2015 add up to 10.8% of students – 20% of that is 2.2% but the number of students with A* s were 1.9% of cohort. So in science we might have the odd situation that we’ll get more students with a 9 than we used to get with an A*. 7 and 8 will just split up the A grade. I don’t think that this was the intention.

#ASEChat 21 Sept 2015 – Live (ish) Blog

Welcome to the #asechat evening session on 21 September. I’m your host this evening and I will be attempting to live blog the chat (If @MissMcInerney can manage the Edu Select Commitees this should be a walk in the park – HA HA HA HA).

Press F5 for updates.


Question 1

So, kicking off with supporting primaries (paraphrasing):
@cleverfiend says that the support needs to be really broad – this is resource intensive
@oboelizzy the north+east midlands ASE have strong support for primary
@MsSuperScience – good links but rural means lots of feeder schools.
@SteveTeachPhysics – do we support them enough. Probably not.
@feedthegoat1967 suggests that in his experience primary schools do not see science as a priority.
@stevethedoc1 it’s all about communication – visit primaries, set up a TLC and find out what needs and wishes are from primary and secondary.
@anhalf keen to do this: prim sci teaching trust PSTT.org.uk
@anhalf needs to be better comms and trust btwn pri/sec… but challenging to get to that #asechat
@teach_well I think subject knowledge support for pri tchrs much needed.

Question 2

@viciascience To help sec sci tchrs understand KS2 science, read the assessment framework just published by DfE. ow.ly/SuyVq
Be good if pri tetras could share good practice with sec on formative assessment, summative assessment and record keeping.
@stevethedoc1 commission says not about tracking but about making sure they are getting better. Less admin more learning!!
@anhalf New curriculum clear on outcomes..secs need to trust us that we will do that!! Tricky when they also have to prove progress #asechat
@stevethedoc1 partnerships NOT either phase DOING it to other

Question 3

@StevetheDoc1 must be share, so much from last thirty years still not seen or used by majority.
@viciascience Just back from Huddersfield teach meet where we were sharing ideas and resources. Inputs from Twig / Smart Learning #ASEChat
@a_weatherall brilliant but that’s just to a few. I mean much more widely and openly.
@alomshaha Suspect lot of informal sharing already happens. Problem is, if everybody shares, who pays for creation of resources?
@a_weatherall the associations who are so worried about science in schools being seen to be excellent should do so.
@stevethedoc1 that is the big question, always to so few, how do we get everyone, 23,000 Primary in England
@alby I’d rather share ideas than resources. The obsession people have with resources drives me nuts.
@secretphysicist I think ‘resources’ should be free. You tend to reap what you sew in my experience.
@alby I disagree.

@dannynic perhaps better use of local clusters supported by the ASE – local sharing/CPD
@ellieERussell Sometimes online (twitter, blods etc.)good as geographical neighbours might not be like-minded in style
@stevethedoc1 but we need to get at schools or depts more than individuals
@dannynic ASE could get involved in creating more accessible content – perhaps bite-sized videos and webinars?
@cleverfiend I would have liked SSR from @theASE to be this #asechat
@SAPS_News Personally think we need to be open about sharing failure as well as success – though it’s harder to do #asechat
@viciascience Section in SSR called sci notes exactly for sharing good ideas #ASEChat
@robbutler what do teachers want from the ASE that they can’t get from social media? Authority? Trust? Reputation? Ideas?
@oboelizzy SSR still an excellent way of sharing ideas also EiS, IMO online useful as well but not instead
@SAPS_news From personal experience – networks I can ask for local advice, exchange support, keep abreast of issues
@NeedhamL56 buddies! Like minded people who recognise the importance of subject specific interactions, wider than sch
@oboelizzy the more answers we can get to this q the better, so ASE can really move fwd and be the best!!!
@robbutler we find primary members engage more with our events. Is it lack of specialist knowledge? Being more open to ideas?
@stevethedoc1 identify and nurture presenters from teachmeet thru pop ups into workshops, mentoring needed.
@viciascience Conferences allow in-depth conversation and sharing of ideas. Want more teachers to present
@a_Weatherall this is a good idea. And maybe video TMs more #asechat – youtube excellent way to share ideas
@hrogerson Has any mention been made of the quality of the practice that can be shared? Sometimes it might not be that good. runs and hides
@viciascience Remember one size never fits all. Need multiple ways to support teachers
@Dr_hern we’ve benefited from the Ogden Trust getting us working with other local physics teachers. @ogdentrust

GCSE Science specifications are released

Here are the draft specifications for GCSE Science from each of the exam boards – they are due to be ratified by Ofqual before end of the summer holidays. Officially for first teaching in September 2016, but some schools run a 3 year GCSE so they will be teaching this from September 2015.
Please could you comment below if your school is doing this – we could do with getting heads together over the summer to formulate an appropriate scheme of work – see below.

This table has links to the relevant webpages (click on each exam board) as well as direct links to the specification as PDFs.

AQA EdExcel Eduqas OCR Gateway OCR C21
Combined Science
(Trilogy)

Combined Science
(Synergy)
Combined Science Combined Science Combined Science Combined Science
Biology Biology Biology Biology Biology
Chemistry Chemistry Chemistry Chemistry Chemistry
Physics Physics Physics Physics Physics

keep-calm-it-s-only-gcse-science-5I will study the physics specifications in more detail and report back, but here’s a comment: the content for these GCSEs has changed greatly. There is little resemblance to the topic structure that existed before.

They all cover new subject criteria as defined in the DfE GCSE Subject Content for combined and single science but aside from the order it’s more or less the same content as the DfE document on first look.

My initial advice would be to study the sample assessments and make a decision on exam board based on accessibility of assessment as the content is all but identical.

 

 

 

TODO:

  • Comparison of Proposed Exam structure
  • Identification of key descriminators between each course
  • Practical requirements.

 

Please comment below with your thoughts and advice – I will collate any pertinent tweets.

It is important that the DfE publish correct science content in their GCSE subject content

Yesterday I posted this reaction to the publication by the DfE of the GCSE_combined_science_content (copy taken – original link here). Others, including @alby and @hrogerson have written and commented about this as well.

[Another update: in the comments Richard Needham from the ASE has reminded me that over the next few weeks QfQual will be using these documents to ratify the Exam Boards’ science GCSE specifications. Not a good situation.]

[An update: the DfE released the GCSE_single_science_content in another document (original link here). Some of the errors below including the kinetic energy formula have not made it into this document and the space physics is obviously only considered interesting enough for the triple scientists. I will check the rest.]

I thought it relevant to post some specific points (just from the physics section – which didn’t even appear correctly in the table of contents). Now some of these are more pedantic than others but there are essential aspects of the physics curriculum which are just wrong.

What annoys me more than anything is the thought that this collection of subject specific requirements for exam boards to assess and therefore for teachers to teach has been put together in such a slap dash way. Perhaps I’m being unfair, I’m sure a lot of thought has gone into this extensive re-write of the GCSE curriculum, but for this final draft to contain the same mistakes as a year ago, even after correction tells me that the quality control on these important documents just isn’t good enough. It’s not rigorous, nor is it outstanding. In my opinion, for these mistakes to have happened in the first place meant the document definitely required improvement; but this final draft is inadequate.

Let’s start with the clanger:

wrongagain!!!

If you want to know what is wrong with this read my post explaining the problem. Why this is such an issue is that the DfE fixed this, but they clearly aren’t running any sort of version control on their documentation. For this really bad mistake to make it back in is astounding.

This section doesn’t appear in the table of contents, and going by this first paragraph, this is probably a good thing. Let’s however concentrate on the broadest issue described and ask ourselves why then does neither the big bang, nor the lifecycle of stars appear in this subject content? The exam boards are not allowed to add to this content, just make it broader or deepen the topics within. Shameful really. (How do we spell bullet?)

[Update: Space is in the separate science content. Shame the poor combined scientists don’t get anything about space but hey, I’m not writing the curriculum, just proofreading it.]

science_introduction

This sentence is senseless. But lets add the missing to after that and ask what they want to assess. When we teach Hooke’s Law we talk about stretching the spring by applying a force (singular) to it. I think this needs clarification.science_bendcompress

The second part of this bullett [sic] point is a bit odd.science_nm

Mathematical skill 1c is the use of ratio in converting units. In this case the ratio to convert between Nm and J is 1:1 as the joule is a unit given to the energy transferred or work done calculated by multiplying force times displacement along the line of force (dot product of two vectors) – this would give the units of newton metres but we use joules instead. The reason Nm is rarely used as a unit of energy is to avoid misunderstandings where a torque or turning force (also calculated by F × d but as a cross product, not a dot product – vectors Mr Gibb) is mistaken for an energy or vice versa.

I must teach how fast the wind blows – is this using the Beaufort scale or miles per hour or knots? How very odd. Also the speed of light would be a good thing to add here. I’m not sure of the point of the transportation systems but hey.

scence_windspeed

Acceleration in free fall on Earth due to the Earth’s gravitational field. Are we going for 10 or 9.81 m s s to be more rigorous? More on this later.

Now this one is good:

science_areadistancetime

The enclosed area of graphs is a graphical representation of the integral of the function of the line on the graph (thanks Newton). We integrate velocity with respect to time to get distance, but what happens when we integrate distance with respect to to time. I’ll tell you what happens: the last 40 minutes of Interstellar – i.e. nothing to do with Physics!

Danger Will Robinson. The danger of reading the last phrase here and taking it literally is dangerous. science_earth

Of course in a plug this would be a problem. But the accidental connection between the live and the earth in an appliance is what could save your life. If there is no connection between live and earth, but there is a connection between live and you, then you’re scuppered.

Let’s deal with these two clangers in one shall we. Gravity force no! Let’s call it weight shall we, as that’s the main cognitively dissonant aspect of this whole section of physics at GCSE. Gravity constant (g) No! No! No! This should be the gravitational field strength at the Earth’s surface. It’s anything but constant! The gravitational constant is given the symbol G and is a very small number, and is a constant. It is not used in these equations. Just wrong, wrong, wrong!

science_gravityconstant science_gravity

Charge flow is a rarely used term and just confuses matters especially in this second equation. Current is the rate of flow of charge. The charge flows in a current. Charge is measured in coulombs. Charge flow is kind of synonymous with current. It’s confusing. Charge will do.

science_chargeflow science_chargeflow2

Why is this equation here, but the transformer equation from unit 3 of the current GCSE not included. [An answer my own question. The transformer equation is in the seperate sciences document.] This simply states that, assuming 100% efficiency in the transformer (never happens), power is conserved. Where’s the useful stuff, that shows how a transformer works. I think they’ve put the wrong equation down here.science_transformerpower

Cough. T not B.

science_tesla

Here’s the practical list we’ve been awaiting with this final draft. The phrase appropriate apparatus pervades. Thanks for that. Very useful information – so glad for the wait.

science_practicals

Here’s the full set.

science_practicals1

science_practicals2

Now, DfE please remove this draft of the GCSE content and fix all the mistakes in it (again), then republish.

Thanks!

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