Blimey!

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…

The detailed SoW for the first term

After a very hot few days spent away on DofE expedition, I’ve enjoyed spending the morning in my (air-conditioned!) classroom finalising the L6th Scheme of Work for next term. I’ve uploaded it here, should it be of interest or value to anyone.

Over the next 10 days, I’m going to get the L6th handbook (a.k.a. “The Oracle”) written and some context cards made (ready for applying topics to a range of business situations). The most important job, though, is sorting the Schemes of Work for the legacy courses; that will be this afternoon’s job, provided the pub doesn’t call too loudly…

The evolution of the Scheme of Work

The process of writing next year’s Scheme of Work is nearly complete, and I thought it might be useful to have a record of the process (not least for next year when I have to start planning the second year of the course!)

I started with getting topics in a logical order, rather than syllabus order, so that the topics were split fairly evenly between the two teachers. I used the AQA scheme of work and a tutor2u resource as a starting point  but neither really split the course in the way I wanted, particularly if using two teachers, so I had to make a bespoke option rather than an off-the-peg solution. This teaching order was to become the Programme of Learning.

The tutor2u resource

The tutor2u resource

I then started putting rough timings in place – lots of maths working out how many lessons in total, and therefore how many hours, and comparing those answers to the AQA recommended timings. Some of this was guesswork (I’ve never taught some of the stuff so have no idea how long it will take!) but some was based on previous experience. How a new HOD who’s only been teaching a year or two can do this is beyond me!

My bespoke teaching order, with timings

Once timings were in place, and I was pretty sure it would fit into the time available (!), I then started to add the assessment structure. At first, I put assessment points at the end of each section, but that was then tweaked by the department last week, who felt it should fit in more closely with our schedule of internal reports. I’m not sure how I feel about this from a teaching point of view, but as the assessments are cumulative, it doesn’t really matter when they’re scheduled.

Programme of Learning - first draft

Programme of Learning – first draft

Programme of Learning - second draft

Programme of Learning – second draft

From the Programme of Learning came the Schemes of Work: one for each teacher (imaginatively titled Side A and Side B). I’ve added columns for spec guidance (to help ensure we cover the right things), calculations/stretch/support (to identify areas that may need differentiation), and resources available. The plan is that this becomes a working document stored in the shared folder, and anyone can add resource suggestions as we go through the year. We’re getting a new VLE (firefly) next year which should make it even easier to share resources. No doubt more of that on another day.

Schemes of work for each teacher

Schemes of work for each teacher

Having tweaked all the assessment points (and taken out the week I’d allocated for January exams: school policy is now to do these within lessons for linear subjects rather than suspending the timetable), it might almost be time to publish. Eeep.

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.

The textbook dilemma

We have received inspection copies of three different textbooks for (the first year of) the new A-level Business course. It’s been interesting comparing them side-by-side, and there was no immediate front-runner. I think, though, that we’re close to making a decision. Well, actually, I’m close to reaching a decision. I’m interested in seeing what the others in the department think when we all get a chance to discuss it next Wednesday at our department planning day, and what teachers from other schools think too.

For me, the ideal textbook for the new course should have:

  • clarity of explanation, particularly for the new theoretical concepts that are being introduced in the course. This is particularly important for our pupils with specific learning difficulties, who find it hard to identify the key information in our current textbook: the explanations are good but long, and they find it hard to sift concepts from illustrative example.
  • suitable language. I spend the first month of each academic year banning the word “you” (in the context of “if you cut prices, revenue may increase if you have elastic demand”): it immediately moves speech and work from an academic register into colloquial explanation (more about academic register here: lots of thought-provoking ideas for building literacy).
  • activities that reflect the assessment models used in the course. While I have no intention of encouraging teaching to the test, at the same time I’d like pupils to see topics covered in a range of different styles of questions. This is particularly important for the new linear course, where any topic could be assessed in any way. It’s also a better way of assessing understanding – not just about regurgitating a learned answer but having the flexibility of thought to use the information in a variety of ways.

We don’t have a consistent way of using textbooks in the department: some teachers use it simply for setting preparatory reading, consolidation notes and homework activities; others use the activities within lessons. I suspect that some of our Y13 have hardly used their textbooks at all. I’d like to use the textbooks more effectively, but this is something that we need to discuss further at department level; maybe a topic for consider for department day next week.

At first glance, there are quite a few differences between the three inspection copies we’ve received. At least one uses “you” in some of its explanations. One has completely the wrong graphs for correlation. At least one has an excellent set of explanations of a break-even chart. Only one has activities covering the full gamut of question styles found on the A-level paper. One includes lots of detail and extra theories that will help to stretch our most able pupils, but could cause no end of extraneous baggage for those who struggle. It’s not going to be an easy decision!

Term 1 SoW drafted – yikes!

I’ve finished the more detailed Scheme of Work for the first term. I’ve broken it down by week, although I suspect the timings will need to be adjusted every few weeks as we get into the course. I’ve started collating activities and resources for each topic, but this is going to be a work in progress: I’m hoping to keep the SoW on a shared resource drive so we can all add activities and links to appropriate websites.

I suppose I ought to tackle the existing SoWs for our legacy courses now!

Scheme of work – first draft!

Now half-term’s out the way, I’ve made a start on getting plans on paper. I had an outline of the whole Lower Sixth year – split appropriately between two teachers – with approximate timings, but nothing in detail. The outline of the year has gone to the department, and we’ve got a day off timetable in a couple of weeks to discuss it further, but I decided to jump the gun somewhat and start fleshing out the skeleton: it’ll only be minor tweaks, I hope, so nothing that a bit of copy’n’paste won’t sort out.

I’ve split it down by week, so I can monitor progress through the year, although with a linear course there are inevitably fewer time pressures. I’ve tried to build in ‘buffer weeks’, so that there’s flexibility (especially important for a new course that is significantly different to our existing course, I think). For each topic, I’m trying to identify key concepts (to help others in the department get an overview), say which quantitative techniques need covering, and suggest possible activities and essay/discussion questions. For some topics, I’ve also noted areas for stretch or support. In the department, we are all experienced teachers, so I’ve tried hard not to be patronising, but also wanted to make suggestions as a starting point: three of my team have significant other responsibilities and will have limited planning time.

My biggest concern is the allocating of time to each topic. I’ve used the AQA scheme of work and what we’ve done in the past as a guide, but there are some topics where I’m making little more than educated guesses. I’ve still to cross-reference what I’ve done with the inspection copies of the textbooks that we’ve received, but hopefully it should all tie up. Fingers crossed!