Talking Points

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I’ve been talking about three things on Twitter this week: study leave, calculators and contact time. I need more than 140 characters! All opinions are welcome, either through Twitter or in the comments below.

Study Leave

At my previous school all Year 11 and Year 13 students would disappear in early May, returning to school only to sit their exams. It was a girls’ grammar school – the students were hard working, driven and independent. They made good use of their study leave, and the teachers made good use of gained time for projects such scheme of work development. I now work at a boys’ comprehensive where students are expected to attend school throughout the whole exam period. This ‘no study leave’ approach is fairly common. I think it raises really interesting questions about how schools can best support students preparing for public exams. What do you think? What’s best for students – studying at home or at school?

My school does Linked Pair GCSE and my Year 11s have one of their four maths GCSE exams in the afternoon, which is unusual. Three hours of maths revision at school has been scheduled for the morning of that exam. I’m worried that this will exhaust my students, perhaps to the detriment of their exam performance. Five hours of maths in one day doesn’t sound like a smart idea.

I’d rather they stay at home, but it’s not up to me. I will do my best to create a relaxing and encouraging environment at school. We’ll do a little bit of maths, but certainly not three hours of intense last minute revision. What would you do?

Thanks to all who offered ideas on Twitter – let’s hope it’s a nice day so I can take them outside in the sunshine!

Calculators

Last Sunday I attended the absolutely brilliant ‘Maths in the Sticks’ CPD event for A level teachers, organised by Stuart Price. I’ve already shared my initial views on the changes to A level, but in that post I deliberately didn’t mention calculators because I haven’t made up my mind about them yet.

I’m not a luddite, I’m not anti-technology, but I’m afraid I don’t get excited about calculators like some people do. I still use the same calculator that I used at school and university.

I like the fact that C1 is currently non-calculator and I will miss this element of A level. I’m also quite fond of statistical tables. I accept that statistical tables will eventually go the way of log tables and slide rules, but I do feel a bit sad about it.

I used to tutor a private school girl who was struggling with A level maths. One day she showed me a snazzy new calculator that she’d been sold at school. Although she didn’t understand the maths involved, she was very good at using the calculator. Clearly her teacher had spent a lot of time in lessons going through the instructions. I was surprised that this calculator was allowed in exams because it seemed to give her an unfair advantage over students who couldn’t afford an expensive calculator.

You could argue that learning how to use this kind of technology is a useful skill, but I’m not convinced it’s as important as people make out. I suspect that these skills will be forgotten within weeks of the end Year 13. Plus technology quickly becomes outdated anyway.

So forgive me for not welcoming the ‘use of technology’ aspects of the new A level with open arms. I’m already bored by it. There are also practicalities to consider. And don’t even get me started on ‘large data sets’…

Contact Time

Finally, thanks to everyone who replied to this tweet:

It was fascinating to see how much variation there is between schools.

As expected, it seems that larger schools are more likely to have a number of TLRs in the maths department. But this is not always the case – in some large schools the Head of Maths has to do (or delegate) everything (which is a lot!).

Answers regarding contact time were inconsistent, ranging from no extra time allocated to four hours per week. It seems that most Key Stage Coordinators are allocated between 1 and 3 extra non-contact periods a fortnight.

The job description of a Key Stage Coordinator also varies a lot – roles may involve running help clubs and interventions, preparing assessments, undertaking lesson observations and performance management, analysing data, processing exam entries, developing schemes of work, organising competitions plus a plethora of other duties.

Key Stage Coordinator roles are a good stepping stone to Head of Maths, so certainly worth having a go at. I used to be a Key Stage 5 Coordinator and really enjoyed it. I’m not sure I’d do it if I wasn’t allocated any extra time though.

Opinions are most welcome!

Please do let me know your thoughts.

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