A-level essays

I wrote my first 25-mark essay this evening, all about mission statements. I’ve made my pupils do it; it only seemed fair that I could provide them with my attempt as a model.

I worked on 1 minute per mark, and it was really, really tough to get through the points I’d wanted in the depth I thought was necessary. The essays appear in Paper 1, alongside 15 multi-choice questions and 35 marks of short-answer questions – it’s 100 marks in 120 minutes. Given that they will need time for choosing and planning their essays, 25 minutes writing struck me as being about the right allocation of time. I’m now reassessing this in the light of this evening’s efforts. The only solution is that they’re going to have to whizz through the multi-choice really quickly to free up time for the essays; this is going to make deep learning all the more important, so that recall is instantaneous.

I’m also struggling with knowing the depth that the examiners will expect – there’s a big difference between the existing BUSS4 40 marks and the new Paper 1 25 marks, but will this be reflected in the marking? Without exemplar material, I’m finding it really hard to know what standard is an A, and what is a B. This uncertainty makes me worried about predicting grades for school purposes, let alone for UCAS – I know we’re still a long way off that point, but there will be a time when we have to allocate a letter to each of our pupils. We’re hoping to get an examiner in to run departmental INSET focused on marking (I’m really happy to open this out for other local centres, if people would find this useful), and I’m sure there will be courses over the next few months, but until them I’m stabbing in the dark.



We started back on Tuesday. Actually, that was only yesterday, although it feels a lot longer ago. There have been meetings, discussion groups, seventeen versions (and still counting!) of set lists, half a bazillion emails, and we’ve still not got any pupils!

Lessons start tomorrow morning – I’ve already counted out textbooks, file dividers, copies of The Oracle (the student handbook), and wrestled with the timetable to work out who is teaching which classes when. I’ve still not had chance to re-arrange my classroom, but I’ve a free lesson before I start teaching so hopefully I’ll survive.

In good news, though, the arrival of the pre-released materials for both BUSS4 (for our Y13) and A293 (for Y11) has cheered me greatly: once the dust has settled from the start of term, I’m looking forward to getting my teeth into those. I’ve also received a couple of Tutor2u resources for the new Business spec, so they’ve been uploaded to the shared folder on the network. I love it when a plan comes together!

See you on the other side…

Department development day

We all had the morning off-timetable today for departmental inset, focused predominantly on the new linear course. We’ve done this in previous years, although not for some time; the last time was probably when the syllabus last changed! The first part of the morning was spent discussing the scheme of work with some good suggestions of tweaks to improve it. This led naturally into discussion about how we’re actually going to teach, how to use the text book, and other broad questions. It was very productive, and feels like we’re all singing from the same hymnsheet.

After break, we looked at assessment styles, and divided up the topics for next term so that we can all write multiple choice questions and share them. Department lunch (in the pub, naturally!) was followed by a session doing development planning with the new Head of Economics. Lots of discussion ensued.

As an inset session I thought it was excellent. It worked for us because Y11 and Y13 are on study leave, and the Y12 timetable has been collapsed to allow for a few days of enrichment. All we had to do was chat to the bloke who organises invigilation to keep us off the rota for today. There was no cost to school (we even bought our own lunch!) but massive benefits in terms of quality of discussion and range of outcomes. I suspect that it will become an annual event.