Great to see around 40 geographers gathered together at Exeter School on Wednesday to examine the new exam specs for GCSE and A Level. Still not sure what the correct collective noun is for a bunch of geographers – I will stick with a ‘brewery’ of geographers – but you may want to make other suggestions.
The draft GCSE specs provided the focus for the morning, and with small groups allocated a spec each, the content was dissected with gusto, using the table of prompts downloadable here:
Each group then fed back their findings to the rest of the meeting. I have complied the responses from the day, and will arrange to have them e-mailed to the delegates as soon as possible.
Comparing the content and structure of the seven specs proved to be an interesting exercise, made easier perhaps by the fact that all of the specs have moved much closer to each other than in the past. However, a lot of discussion time was also devoted to associated issues such as degree of support offered, quality of marking, different assessment styles, and three year GCSE programmes. General concerns common to all of the specs, such as the amount of content to be covered, fieldwork requirements, and the effect on middle/lower ability students were also aired by delegates.
At the beginning of the day, all delegates declared their current exam board, and many shared experiences from recent exams, both good and bad. At the end of the morning, a straw poll indicated that a good number were likely to continue with their current choice, but an overwhelming majority suggested that they are likely to change exam boards when the specs are finally approved – with a clear drift towards one particular awarding body.
In the afternoon, the 4 A Level specs came under scrutiny, and proved to be far less controversial. There was a clear message that delegates felt far more comfortable with the forthcoming changes here than those to be faced at GCSE. There was a general agreement that all of the specs followed a clear path of progression from the GCSEs, and few delegates could see any issues should schools choose a different exam board for key stage four and five. There was however, some discussion about the role of AS levels, and the different ways that schools are attending to this matter. The final straw poll suggested more people were likely to ‘stick’ with their current exam, rather than ‘twist’ and consider moving to an alternative provider. Again, I will e-mail the results of the group analysis to all delegates as soon as I can.
One really positive outcome of the day was to give teachers the opportunity to network with fellow professionals, and consider establishing local area consortiums or links with partner schools to help divide the workload that will be an inevitable consequence of the years ahead. When individual schools make their final choice of specs, it would be helpful to inform David or myself of your decisions. We can then compile a list of schools using the same exam spec and circulate to you all. If anyone reading this was unable to attend the meeting, but would would like to add their name to this list, please feel free to get in touch.
Finally, on behalf of everyone who attended, I would like to thank Helen Sail for organising the venue, and David Weatherley for getting us all together in one place for some particularly valuable collaboration and discussion.