Wednesday, 8 February 2017

When do we start the GCSE in RS?

Key Stage 3 Religious Education is largely unregulated, just like most other Key Stage 3 subjects. I obviously don't mean internally, or by SLT, or by Ofsted, but since the removal of Year 9 SATs (which only concerned a small number of subjects), the first external examination of a child's achievement in secondary school comes 5 years in, as a GCSE.

The new GCSE specs, across the board, are more rigorous, academic, challenging and content filled. I think this, in the main, is a good thing. However it poses some serious questions for teachers and schools. When do we start the GCSE course?

Some of the options:
  1. Keep the status quo - GCSEs are designed as a two year course, therefore they should be teachable in the given time frame, as long as you are given sufficent hours in the week (and some RE teachers have not in the past).
  2. Erase Year 9 - Start the GCSE a year early, giving over 50% more time. This caused problems with new specs as they were not finalised until late in the 2015-2016 academic year when some had been teaching since September 2015.
  3. Shorten Year 9 - Start the GCSE at some definable point such as January or after the Easter holidays. 
  4. Start in Year 7?

Now some subjects lend themselves to less definable start points - some have suggested the Maths GCSE starts in pre-school and just builds and builds... likewise with English. Academies with the freedom to not teach the National Curriculum have tweaked current schemes of work and assessments to work towards the new GCSE with little issue.

As always RE is more complex with it's local determination, Locally Agreed Syllabuses, faith school curriculum option etc. However my aim as a Subject Leader is to try balance our offering to students. I feel there is much to be achieved in Key Stage 3, building a strong foundation for the GCSE by covering a range of topics - and crucially for us - covering other religions. 

The choices I have made are as follows:
  • To modify assessments to ensure students focus on knowing key information from their units of study.
  • To modify assessments to ensure greater literacy and essay writing skills with longer answer questions, aligned with the structure of GCSE questions.
  • To introduce terminology such as SoWA (Sources of Wisdom and Authority) into lessons and tasks. 
I feel this is a compromise. It feels like you are doing students disservice by either getting rid of Key Stage 3... yet also a disservice by ignoring the demands of the GCSE which (as a Catholic school) they will all sit.

What are you doing?

Year 7 Assessment SAMPLE [You can view only via GoogleDrive]
SoWA (Sources of Wisdom and Authority) Poster [You can view only via GoogleDrive]

Image courtesy of Pixabay

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