This new term has felt more like a new academic year and not just a new calendar one because our Y9s are beginning their GCSE subjects. Now I am not yet sure if this is a good thing.
I like the fact that I have extra time to teach my GCSE classes. I will have nearly 30% more lessons with them. The rush to fit everything in, especially around the 25 hours I have to give to controlled assessment will be a blessing. I will not miss the overriding necessity to get stuff completed which influences the way I have planned and delivered the content of the course over the last few years. The extra time can be used in so many positive ways; deeper learning could be happening. more investigations could occur and I could move the learning in new direction more led by what enthuses the pupils and me rather than just slavishly stick to the syllabus.
In many ways it will also improve my teaching quality of life to have only the y9s who chosen my subject in my classes. After all they should be more motivated because they went for my option. (should)
And for the school as a whole the move makes sense. KS3 SATS are no more and the one measurement that matters more than any other is of course the 5 A* – C grades including English and Maths so why should we swap over to a longer KS4?
But against these three points there is a nagging noise in the back of my mind. Will learning subject content in Y9 really help pupils answer questions on those topic later 2 and a half years later? Is there any point in doing anything except skills at this stage in their learning? And will my pupils lose momentum if there is less pace to my teaching? How can a 13 year old really envisage something happening so far in the future? (its about another 20% of their life so far)
One of the reasons the change was brought in was because of all the extra exams and the increasing modularity of most GCSEs. Now of course the wind has changed and terminal exams are all.
What about those who opted NOT to do my subject? They will have nearly a 1/4 less time doing a subject that is not separately taught at most primary schools. Where is there Geographical learning going to come from? Are we selling them short by focussing on exam courses earlier?
Of course the pragmatic answer to all these questions is that this is what I have been told is going to happen and so I should make the best of it for ALL my pupils whether they elect to study the subject at KS4 or not
The knock on effect for the whole school is that we have two timetables a year. Our poor assistant head has had to disappear twice in the last 6 months to work out the minutiae of who gets y9 on a Friday afternoon. No one deserves to have to do that. but the double change has other impacts too. A class I was just getting to know has been taken from me. That means there is an issue of continuity and pupil support. How can the parents evening be so well informed if the teacher doesn’t yet know the names of all their pupils?
Finally I had one of my new Year 9 GCSE groups today. They were lovely. They all wanted to be there. They felt special and that their work had a new impetus because it was GCSE. We took time over a couple of the questions, deliberated over the answers, I asked more than one pupil for their opinion and they felt (I think) more valued.