Image courtesy of Geograph
From 2016 there will be a new GCSE and a new A-Level in Religious Studies. Both will look dramatically different to everything in existence at the moment. Over the last few weeks, there have been conversations happening about what resources people will need. I have been thinking about this from both a personal and wider professional point of view:
1) What will be my priority to seek out to ensure my own teaching and resources are ready for September 2016?
2) What will be a priority, budget wise, to invest in from a department point of view?
Obviously the other thing that I am considering is that I run a non-profit resources website for Catholic RE that does cover parts of the GCSE and A-Level in RS. I am always wondering what, if any, future the site has? See www.CatholicREsource.co.uk . I also run the RC Dropbox and A-Level Dropbox - do these have a future? Will they come in to their own as teachers desperately look to share their new resources in exchange for others? Or will more teachers look to create and then sell their resources (cf TES, Sellfy, Resourceasaurus etc) rather than contribute for free? Will many teachers (due to their over-worked, over-stressed lives) remain as takers rather than givers?
Meeting with colleagues, there is a real fear about the new qualifications. There will be more content, and it will be more demanding. Some new topics entirely, and for many, a second religion at GCSE for the first time. The backdrop is an ongoing lack of time and a lack of money. September 2016 will come around very quickly and where there are so many subjects facing exam reform, as well as budget cuts in general (see <here> for more on this), what will RE departments be able to afford?
I began to really think, what is it that I will really want for September 2016. What would relieve the stress and make life easier for me personally?
Days out of school are really tough. Everyone may soon be wanting them... exam boards will be trying to 'woo' us all with their new qualifications (Have you heard about the exciting sounding AQA bus tour?). These will be potentially a whole day off, with travel, to look at the specifications; could you do this 3+ times for each board? It's a vital decision so it makes sense to pick carefully. But then, another day or more for more training once you have picked? More days off to brush up on subject knowledge? Also a key question, will it just be for Heads of Department/Subject Leaders? How/when will they disseminate the information? It may be okay for all these days off if it were just one subject. I can see schools limiting heavily what they allow staff to do. 'Rarely Cover' was well-intentioned but poorly realised.
Evenings and weekends have become more 'popular' with the TeachMeet style CPD as well as an increasingly number of other courses, sessions and conferences (ResearchEd, Pedagoo etc). However how many want to give up their precious evenings and weekends? It is a lot to ask already over worked teachers struggling with a work/life balance.
A compromise that I envisioned at a conference that I recently ran, The London RE Hub, was that we should record all the sessions so that people could watch or listen in their own time. In department meetings / INSET, in their car (audio recordings), in their spare time. It really puts the teacher back in control of their CPD and their work/life balance. You can see what I've tried to build as a legacy <here>. This comes off the back of videoing and sharing things like the Culham St Gabriel's weekend RE TeachMeet <here>, various TeachMeet events, and even CPD sessions that I've run for other schools <here>.
These always sound like the future. Some schools have got rid of libraries, they have 1:1 iPads, BYOD, wifi everywhere. On the other hand, I know of plenty of RE teachers who are based in a ‘temporary building/ Portakabin’ without a projector. I also think it is difficult to assume all students have access to a range of tech at home. Provision varies widely. I love technology, but I am still not sure how these are the future of education, in or outside the classroom just yet.
These for me, remain a key to secondary teaching. They provide a body of input that can be relied on for cover, non-specialists, exam practice, textual references etc. I also refer to the textbook more than the specification in order to make sure I have all bases covered. However on the other hand, I don't think I have ever found a textbook that I have loved that has done everything for me. For GCSE, I currently use a mixture of two. They are also expensive.
I often worry about 'death by PowerPoint'. I have also seen so SO many bad PowerPoints; garish colours, silly animations, information overload.
On the other hand, I realise that these are essentially my lessons plans. The majority of my lessons are sequenced and detailed with my PPTs. They are my guide to the progress and development of the lessons across a unit. However fear not, they are often in a constant state of flux as I change things, (hopefully) improve parts and tasks.
Yet rarely do I just use someone elses. PPTs need to be editable for anyone to make a lesson their own.
Lesson Plans / Schemes of Work
As above really, an outline can be great to see where you need to cover what, but the teacher needs the freedom to use their own strengths, adapting as fit for their own classes.
YouTube has changed teaching. However not all of it is great. I am a massive fan of Andy McMilan (see <here> ) and I hope he remakes videos for the new GCSE and A-Level specs. I am also starting to use other sites such as TrueTube and this often make a great syllabus. I am trying to collate many of my favourites on CatholicREsouce.co.uk. Students do increasingly expect something professional looking, however they also get a lot of personal videos such as those made by David Webster <here>. Everyone better get busy as soon as the specs are out!
A good worksheet can be hard to beat. A good worksheet takes ages to make...
So, what do you think you will need most with the new GCSE and A-Level RS?