DfE consultation on GCSE Business

Way back in the summer holidays, I got an email asking me to respond to a DofE consultation on the new GCSE subject content. It’s been sitting lurking in my inbox ever since,getting closer and closer to the deadline of 24th September. Being a last-minute merchant, I’ve ignored its nagging until now, but I’ve finally sat down and done it.

The consultation page is here if anyone wants a go too – with the subject content here.

Interesting things I noted:

  • The list of quantitative skills includes calculating Average Rate of Return. I normally do ARR with the Y13, so that will be an interesting addition
  • The document refers to Net Profit, whereas a lot of the company accounts I’ve looked at recently don’t use this term. Given that the A-level course is using Operating Profit and Profit For The Year, it would be good to have some consistency (not least for the pupils who have to learn new terminology from one course to the next!)
  • It’s going to be assessed through 100% examination. There will need to be a lot more focus on quant skills in lessons so that they can do the data manipulation and interpretation in exam conditions. This does concern me, as number-crunching inevitably takes valuable time in exams, but I don’t know where the solution lies. Thank goodness I’m not an examiner!

Business competitions

As a new HOD, one of the things I’d like to do is get pupils in the department more involved in national competitions. I became aware of the BASE competition last year, and thought it would be a good way to raise the profile of the department within the school. I’ve finally got offical permission to take a team, and have registered for a local heat. I know nothing about it, so will be quite happy if we manage not to make utter fools of ourselves; thoughts of winning can come in future years when we know the lie of the land!

Two other competitions I’ve been investigating are Tycoon in Schools and Coca-Cola’s Real Business Challenge, both of which focus on start-ups and therefore have some good resources to solve the ‘money’ problem. From the very start of both GCSE and A-level courses, I want to make the distinction between revenue/costs/profit/capital absolutely clear in pupils’ minds, so that they can write accurately from the outset. One of the sides of the A-level SoW starts with the topic of profit, so hopefully an amalgamation of these two resources will give a clear understanding of the differences between different sorts of ‘money’.

The GCSE course starts with enterprise, and it makes logical sense to build profit/capital into this. In previous years I’ve spent a week getting the pupils to write business plans for their own business; last year I used the Real Business Challenge as a structure for this. However, I think Tycoon In Schools might be better for a class in the first two weeks of the course: the resources are a bit more structured and might work better for the teacher who will be taking our Y10 classes next year.

Moving from “what will work for me?” to “what will work for everyone in the department?” is quite odd but I guess it’s just part of the step between class teachers and HOD. One of the things I really value about the department is that we all teach in different ways, which gives lots of variety for pupils. However, it does make it harder to have shared resources. I certainly don’t want to go down the route of having very prescriptive teaching materials, so I hope this ‘money project’ won’t be an intrusion too far into my colleagues’ planning.

Legacy exams in a linear world

I’ve spent the last couple of days trying to sort out my classroom – it’s a slow work in progress! – but I’ve felt a bit odd filing things back into my Y12 teaching folder. After all, the course is radically different next year: how will my folder of resources, built up over several years, be of use next year?

While the topic headings are pretty much the same between legacy and linear specifications, the approach is going to be very different: I suspect that a lot of the things I’ve developed so far are eventually destined for the big recycling bin in the sky. One thing that should transfer between specs are the past exam papers for BUSS2 and BUSS3: although the question style is different next year, there’s a wealth of data just waiting to be mined. In the linear course, most of ratio analysis appears in the second year, but it should be possible to use the BUSS3 papers with only minimal tweaking, particularly for the 34-mark questions which give a nice test of the interrelations between functional areas. The BUSS2 papers are a bit more tricky, but there is certainly enough data within them to meet the “10% quantitative” rule, and I envisage using the same case-studies but writing different questions that reflect the more theoretical nature of the new spec. BUSS1 papers are predominantly going to be used for quantitative questions – we might even sack the stories and just use the numbers!

We’ve decided that we’re going to use the 2016 AS paper(s) for our end-of-year internal exam (although school policy is that no-one does AS exams) as most of the questions will be of a similar style to those on the A-level paper. This means that we can use all of our legacy papers during the course without having to retain any for mock exams. I want to avoid using the AQA specimen papers for internal exams at any point during the first year of the course, so that they’re available for mocks in the run-up to the real thing. Besides, they’re all on the internet already, and I suspect that some pupils might perceive this as a revision short-cut!


I’ve been looking over the specimen papers for the new Business course and I think we need to do more explicit teaching of quantitative skills, in particular to do with interpreting graphs as well as data in tables. I’m in two minds about how to approach this: should it be a ‘skill of the week’ approach, or just slotted in as and when it’s appropriate? The former means that it’s less likely to be overlooked, especially as there will be five of us teaching the new course. On the other hand, the latter might help to put the skills in context – using them in the way that pupils might find them in an exam paper. Either way, I think there needs to be a lot of practice of looking at data (A LOT!), possibly as part of each fortnightly ‘nothing new’ lesson. I must remember to add this in to the Scheme of Work.