There are some jobs you miss in the profession when you move on (up, sideways or down) and some you don’t. I am ambivalent about missing UCAS references. At my school sixth form tutors do references and do them spot on (pretty well) – another of the sixth form pastoral staff polish, check etc. Over the last 20 years I have done all that, and I enjoyed writing and most of all talking with students about opportunities perhaps not enjoy because some , most are very stressed. I saw it as a bit of a privilige really. So it was always good to add a calm voice, a sensible view but of course not magic wand. It was also a collosal amount of work for me, for tutors and for students and a massive pressure pot for staff, students and parents. I daresay HE might feel the same.
Even with a new job as Head I still did three references and forms this this last week. One of those was a “Please Sir do you remember me, I left years ago but… can you lastminutereference help me out?”. Soft that I am I did – just by hours!
Meanwhile in another Universe I am trying hard with subject leaders and SLT to work out how we manage the ‘dogs dinner’of a curriculum for post 16. Whilst some changes feel bad (please don’t ask I’m a Chemist, we change to new specs, new assessment and no practical assessment but at least the spec for teaching in 6 months is now approved (as of December!). Some specs change so AS does not count in the end but at least remains coteachable, some do not. I think the staff are pretty clear on their own subjects but across the piste? Mmmmm. And what they need to consider, not much chance of that because you politician types forget we aren’t sitting around waiting your latest ideas we are…teaching a generation now.
I have always been bothered to explain to our Y13 that it is harder than Y12 because it brings the sharp end of A Level , stretch and challenge, and final exam chances, but also all those big decisions. I am also convinced those decisions can motivate and if we help students get them right they can achieve well, and aim higher than they might imagine. That has been my experience. Despite this here is my suggestion after 20 years as a Head of Sixth form
- Get HE to decide IF they want AS or not ( I do remember working with UCAS predictions before the advent of AS – I can tell readers it isn’t easy!) Maybe it doesn’t matter, we seem to be in a new world already whereby AAA or better gets you into most subjects in most places and probably AAB – and it feels like the rest get that same offer even if we know they may not make it. [don’t scream at me about medicine and English and RG Uni and Oxbridge I know I know]. However have these decisions clear. For example
- Give staff time to plan their schemes understand assessment and nuances, get to exam board training and have time to talk with each other to decide the very best way to carve up teaching and learning. Consult with SLT to design a great curriculum offer. Four subjects or three; extended essays or not, and please can someone look at the funding.
- Halt the AS/A2 changes now. Get the new specs for all subjects sorted for start in 2016 not 2015. Do AS and let it count or do AS and don’t let it count. Teachers and learners just need the rules ( and preferably the same rules to each subject!)
- Be radical on HE entry. I’ve never much favoured PQA ( post qualification application) because of the motivation I mentioned above but try this:
- Minimise Y12 AS exams – one paper ( maybe or maybe not cwk) whether it counts or not. Preferably forget them as we are abandoning predictions see below! [Save some time]
- Start the end of Y13 exams ( A2 +/-AS) at start of May. This drags exams on longer in school but staff can stagger their work in terms of revising with Y11 or 12 or 13 and all that means for schools and Colleges.
- It takes 6/7 weeks to results, replan this. These exams start May not mid June so can have results early July?
- After Y13 complete exams maybe mid June schools and colleges start all the practicalities of UCAS PQA. We help look at courses, we have Open days visits and we prepare statements and references BUT no predictions because the button is pressed mid July when we all know results. We will do background stuff but not forcing so many decisions so early on
- E. do not know need to think “how many will get the grade?” “how reliable is the referee?” The form arrives with grades.
- Over the summer there can be interviews and if not the time for HE colleagues just start term a bit later for first year UG.
I am sure readers will say what about medics etc BUT we all see many students who think they should apply for X or Y but their results make us think they may make it and it’s hard to say a definite you won’t for some. WE also see an element of immaturity at application time, uncertain ideas which is fair enough and we make some decide by October 15th. In this new world, this all evaporates, no student will apply for the AAA course with predicted AAA ( which might mean AAA or AAB ( stats show most grades predictions are correct within a grade or two overall I recall) now they apply with AAA. I can imagine many courses offering a range of grades and I suspect they could, surely they know students with AAA down to BBC do or do not cope with this course etc
As for motivation I do like my students to do some visits in Y12 – well they can do, they can visit and be inspired to aspire, they can be helped to understand the basics by which I mean to get into this course you need….. these grades/this interest/these skills. Entry profiles take on a new highly significant meaning, this is what you aim for. It might benefit a subject like mine Chemistry maybe others where Y12 still feels like we are teaching much basic stuff and some of the more interesting work comes late Autumn and Spring of Y13. As we now stand it’s a bit late for a student who having had few ideas of what to study but been badgered by home and school to decide, and now finds a real interest in Chemistry. In fact we might all have that responsibility in our Y13 work to trumpet our subjects even more with this is what HE looks like and being nearer than a present applicant we might get those choices right and get a few more young people into the right courses and see better progress in HE.
There I’ve said it
You might like to read other posts from my timetable of teaching – each is set out from lesson in the school week, before or after school or at the weekends, appropriate to the time of day. I have also started a class lists or “set lists” which was to answer the questions: “why be a teacher?”or “why have other responsibilities in a school?” Shortly I am starting a new area about progress from one role or experience in teaching to another with hints and tips about successfully moving on in the job and your teaching career.
Q1 Might this make an optimistic call over what feels like an unwealdy future for post16?
Q2 HE Univeristy Providers what do you think?
Q3 SChools and FE Colleges what do you think?
Q4 Most important, Students what do you think?
Push University Guide
Telegraph article on choosing HE
Guardian choosing University – ideas from students
Unistats support data for making informed choices
The Student room advice
For those in a Church school:
Psalm 25:5 Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Saviour, and my hope is in you all day long.
Psalm 139:10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
Romans 12:6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.
2 Timothy 1:6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you
1 Peter 4:10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.