When students signed up on 31st August, we had 16 students in our first class. A perfect first class size. The demographic have grades ranging from A-C at GCSE (majority A grade, only two C-grade students). Many of the A grade GCSE students opted for this course (as opposed to the traditional one) as they want maths “to be real and relevant”.
Over the course of the next fortnight, class sizes have fluctuated… bouncing from 16 to 19 to 21 to 23, then back to 21, before finally stabilising at 20! I have a few reflections to share regarding the early instability of numbers…
- New students arrived in the class on differing days – depending on when they reviewed how their other year 12 subjects were panning out. Due to the drip, drip, drip of new students – catching them up with missed subject matter couldn’t be done in one swoop, and was tricky to manage.
- It is fair to say that there is a really variable work ethic within the class, which is very easy to assess. Those who chose to sign up to the course from day dot have all been keen to do well. Those who seemed to opt for the subject as a “second best” preference when one of their other subjects proved overwhelming have had a less productive work ethic. I shouldn’t have been overly surprised at this – but worth noting all the same.
With regards to how the students are coping with their course, again it is fair to say “variable”. I have given the class their first assessment on: Arithmetic Progressions, Geometric Progressions, Recurrence Relationships and Spreadsheets (we covered a lot of work in the first three weeks!). In light of the title of the course, I ensured the assessment was fully “in context”, using our local parkrun as the theme (which brought some amusement from the students!). 19 students took the assessment (1 still to come) – I had to make theoretical grade boundaries. Using my perceived thresholds, here are the results:
The great news about this data is that the A & B grades are over double the percentage that was achieved nationally last year, and the U grades are under half the national 2016 figures (to say seeing the national 2016 picture gave me a few grey hairs, is an understatement!). For me I think this early assessment is going to see a double positive:
- Students who have achieved sound results have taken their assessment mark as a great ego boost, and reaffirmed their commitment to the course.
- Those who have achieved an A at their GCSE, and all of a sudden have achieved a D in their year 12 assessment (sometimes being surpassed by B grade GCSE students) have had a reality check of the demands of the course. I was encouraged by such students proactively asking me for the opportunity to resit the assessment, which is a really positive pointer to the future.
I would highly recommend an early assessment is factored in if you run this course next year.
Some other reflections…
- I am still finding it hard not to plan too much work for an individual lesson (maybe this is why each lesson is still taking approximately 3 hours to plan!?). Often a planned lesson will stretch out over two lessons. This is causing major concern, as with any AS course, there is advice of needing 180 guided learning hours for the course. By the time the exams come in May 2017, our students will have had less than 140 guided learning hours (with no revision period factored in) – so approximately 25% less than that advised. This leaves me concerned that we may not cover the specification as intended.
- Whenever I try to increase the volume of material covered in lessons to counteract the lack of guided learning hours, students then struggle with accessing their homework – meaning they need additional help, or risk them falling behind.
Last week I had my first formal selling of the course to year 11 students and their parents in readiness for September 2017. I am really happy with how it went. We are in the enviable position at our school that parents will really take on board advice that teachers give to students… and parents could really appreciate the rationale behind offering this course, and the advantages it will give our students in terms of:
- Assisting with the increased mathematical content of other A-levels.
- Assisting transition to university courses with mathematical content post A-level.
- Ensuring that students have the right skills to compete in a global marketplace.
A decision has been made to offer AS Mathematics in Context next year as a two-year course (not the current one-year model), as the school moves from students taking four AS levels in year 12, to the norm being starting with three A-level in year 12 to be completed in year 13. It is hard to predict what the knock on effect on AS Mathematics in Context numbers will be next year… we will get our first indications of numbers for next year in February 2017 – and I’ll update once these numbers are in.