Sunday, August 28, 2011

Firing up the work brain

Got back from my holiday in Cornwall yesterday and the new term is looming. Time to crank up the work brain again and finish off that very over-optimistic To Do list I compiled back in July. I need to make sure I've got everything possible sorted as it's going to be a very challenging term. The school was given notice to improve last October and one of the main targets was to improve our A*-C including English and Maths. The target was 50% - our results came in at 41% - hardly any change from last year so it looks like the writing is on the wall re Special Measures. The fact that a massive amount of work has been done in the last year and the results hinged on less than 20 students cuts no ice.

That said, the only thing I have control over is the department I manage. We have made real progress in the last 12 months. If I'm playing the numbers game Year 11 results have improved from 74% to 98% for 1 GCSE equivalent and from 14% to 38% for 2 GCSE equivalent. However this is OCR Nationals options groups and students had 5 hours a fortnight for 2 years. Practically all should have achieved the 2 GCSE. Unfortunately when I started 12 months ago very little of the course had been completed in year 10 and we have had to cram most of the course into one year. A similar clear-up had to be undertaken with the year 10 core ICT groups who do not have ICT in year 11. So far 75% of the cohort have passed - not bad seeing as we have have had only around 35 hours to cover the whole course.

I've had less success in trying to find a replacement for the OCR Nationals. I've researched thoroughly and discussed endlessly and thought deeply  and blogged repeatedly and in the end I'm doing nowt this year. I can't find a KS4 course which meets the needs of my core ICT groups and given that the government have still not come up with any concrete decisions in response to the Wolf report there seems little point in compromising and spending time and energy developing a course which may need to be scrapped in twelve months time. I thoroughly dislike OCR Nationals and desperately want to see the back of it but for the next year at least stability and regrouping is more important than a knee jerk lurch to another unsuitable course. I found I couldn't overcome my embarrassment at the thought of delivering ECDL training and other qualifications I have considered would require a massive amount of work to make them into meaningful and engaging courses. So for now I've tidied up my new spec resources and am concentrating on ensuring that students have as meaningful a course as possible and are achieving the best they can within the constraints we have.

Things are brighter with the BTEC level 2 course which I implemented as the option course. The new year 10 course is oversubscribed, despite students having experienced a year of OCR Nationals and I have been able to implement both the Designing Computer Games and Computer Systems units which have gone down well. I've spent quite a bit of time over the holiday finishing writing several units so that students have a choice of units and can work more independently.

KS3 is what I need to spend some time on in this last week of the holiday. I've had to completely rewrite the curriculum over the last year as most of the stuff being delivered was still based on the old strategy lessons and was totally focused on MS Office. Given everything else going on over the last year I've been writing it piecemeal and for some of the topics running the same lessons for both year 7 and year 8. With OCR Nationals starting in year 9 it was my last chance to teach year 8 some interesting stuff such as Scratch programming. Also the majority of teachers for ICT in KS3 are non-specialists and I didn't want to introduce too many new things at once. I've written google sites for year 7 and year 8 but I now need to go back and map out the SOWs against the APP levels and get the big picture - what is missing and what didn't work? Also the duplicated stuff for year 8 needs to be replaced.  

On top of all this is the increasing debate over the ICT curriculum. I've been involved in #ictcurric and the related moodle and google sites resource banks for a while and there has been much debate on twitter using the #ictcurric hashtag. This week Google's Eric Schmidt has raised the profile of the debate further. In his  MacTaggart lecture he said he had been 'flabbergasted' to learn that computer science was not taught as standard in UK schools'

and stated:-

"Your IT curriculum focuses on teaching how to use software, but gives no insight into how it's made. That is just throwing away your great computing heritage,"

This has been picked up in this Guardian article today:-

Many blogs are being written looking at what can be done about the current state of affairs, these being two that have floated across my twitter stream in the past hour or so:-

But what does this translate into in a school like mine which is struggling to stay out of special measures and is desperate for the results that a course like OCR Nationals can deliver? A school that teaches KS3 ICT as a cross-curricular SOW with RS and PHSE, using non-specialist teachers? A school so under pressure from OFSTED that it felt unable to release me for the training required to run Apps for Good as an extra-curricular activity? A school that has yet to implement student email accounts? How do you implement the changes required, given such a background?

So far, step by step has been the answer. I've introduced game programming via Scratch in year 7 and 8 and the Game design unit in BTEC. I've introduced more impact of ICT topics such as one on social media:-

I have also introduced the BTEC Computer Systems unit. Budgetary constraints (ironically from having to pay for printing all the screen prints for OCR Nationals ) means that I unlikely to be able to fund the hardware necessary for the BTEC  Installing Computer Hardware unit that I'd hoped to run this year (unless some of my scrounging/begging efforts pay off). 

Going forward I'd like to run the BTEC software development units but my programming skills are very rusty - I was a programmer in the early / mid 90s but it's years since I programmed in anger. I've got my fingers crossed that I can brush my programming skills by getting onto this pilot:-

This link has also given me much to explore re introducing more programming into the curriculum:-

I already have Alice and Kodu installed on the currciulum desktops and just need some time to get to grips with the applications myself. However, given the staffing of KS3 ICT I think some of this is going to have to be extra curricular which will reduce the number of students I'm going to be able to reach. 

I have to get rid of OCR Nationals next year but am still no nearer to finding a replacement. I'd also like to introduce GCSE Computing but this would probably be at the expense of losing one of my BTEC groups.

So next step is to sit down with some flip chart paper and lots of coloured marker pens and start to map out what I'm aiming for next and how to get there. Hopefully by the end of the week I'll be able to blog about what I've come up with. Any ideas or suggestions gratefully received.


  1. Hi Donna,
    I am just about to start our ICT option group this September with the edexcel GCSE ict as it gives them a 40% exam on the topic of "Living in a digital world" and a 60% controlled coursework piece similar (but more engaging) to the ocr level 2. Although they must complete both parts of the course in 2years, we give them yr9 for teaching them the material for the exam and then they do the exam at the end of yr10 so that they can then complete the coursework over the two years too.

    In terms of ks3 - I have designed 3 term-long topics for both yeargroups where in yr 7 they have e-safety & web design, modelling & data handling and control and for the year 8's; further data handling, further modelling and information reliability & bias which all include using creating applications such as garageband for podcasts and Prezi to present there information which keeps it interesting. We use an excel app tracker to keep it all marked and uptodate to monitor assessment.

    Hope it helps!


  2. Thank you for the suggestions. I'l check out the Edexcel GCSE. Any chance I could have a look at your KS3 stuff?

  3. Donna

    You really have your hands full don't you?!?! Just remember that there are so many contributors/onlookers to the #ictcurric movement now that you can only be helped if you ask and as you know there is tons of stuff on the as well as supporting stuff on to assist you.

  4. Thanks Nick - yep hands full is one way of describing the current situation. Little I can do about the whole school issues so may as well concentrate on what I can do something about. Spent the day soaking up as much as I can from Twitter and other sources and will be spending tomorrow brainstorming and coming up with a plan. #ictcurric resources likely to figure prominently.

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