Last year, at Christmas, I went with my husband and children to see the Compendium of Reason at the Hammersmith Odeon in London. This is 3 hour extravaganza of music, comedy and science put on by Prof Brian Cox and Robin Ince of The Infinite Monkey Cage. Brian Cox is, of course, known for presenting Wonders of the Solar System and Wonders of the Universe, amongst other things. He is a gifted orator with a talent for sharing his love of science.
Would you, however, be surprised to know that Prof Cox got a D at A Level Maths? He is quoted as saying “I was really not very good…. I found out you need to practise”. As, a maths teacher, it is a quote I trot out time and again, to both students and parents.
Why do I do this? Because Prof Cox is right, you need to practise maths. It`s a bit like learning to drive. The driving lesson is only one part of the process, you need to get in the car between lessons and put those things you have learned into practice. Every time you drive the car you are strengthening and extending your understanding of your new learning. I suggest to parents that half an hour`s maths practice three to four times a week will greatly increase their child`s understanding of maths (and increase the chance of said parent`s investment in lessons bringing the required result). Often there is a reluctance to do this as far as parents are concerned because they don`t want to create unnecessary friction at homework time (as if it isn`t stressful enough) but if you can convince your child to practise between their tutoring sessions you and they may well be surprised at how this improves their learning.
The Department for Education has made changes to the Maths GCSE taking effect from 2015 (when the first teaching started) and leading to the first assessment against these changes in 2017. For students taking their GCSEs before that time they will continue to be taught and examined against the old syllabus. There are significant changes within this new programme of study that will challenge teachers and students alike.
Summary of Changes
The current, 2-Tier system, with a Foundation and a Higher Tier is retained but the content of these Tiers has changed substantially. In addition to a lot of new content there is also a large shift in content from the Higher Tier to the Foundation Tier. This is part of a wider pattern which sees some content coming down from A Level into GCSE and some GCSE work going down to Key Stage 3 and so on.
The grading will also change with marks awarded from 1 – 9 with 9 being the highest and the possibility of a U below the 1 so, effectively, 10 grades available. As previously there will be an overlap between Foundation and Higher Tiers with Foundation ranging from 1 – 5 and Higher ranging from 4 – 9.
There is also a greater emphasis on problem solving and mathematical reasoning than before, although at the same time there is an increase in the formulae that students will have to learn.
And last, but not least, these changes will have an impact on the decision about which Tier to take. This is an area where we have been able to advise and help students and parents previously. So don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss any concerns you have about this choice or these changes.
In Buckinghamshire the Eleven Plus ( 11+) tests are now officially referred to as Secondary Transfer Tests are two multiple-choice ability tests of about the same level of difficulty. Both tests assess three aspects of a child’s ability: verbal, numerical and non-verbal.
These tests are designed and administered by Durham University’s Centre for Evaluation of Evaluaiton and Monitoring (CEM).
The tests have been designed with a greater emphasis on working out a child’s potential and whether he or she can think problems through. It was also intended that the new 11+ should test a wider range of skills than the previous tests and it does appear to be more closely aligned to the work children carry out in class at Key Stage 2 (KS2).
- Verbal reasoning (1/3 of time): comprehension, cloze passages (missing words), synonyms, antonyms, comprehension and reading skills. A wide knowledge of vocabulary is a distinct advantage.
- Numeracy (2/3 of time): Mathematics, data-processing, mental arithmetic and recognition of mathematical patterns.
- Nonverbal reasoning (1/3 of time): This section eliminates cultural bias in testing and the possible bias against individuals who may have difficulty with verbal elements.
Each test is 45-50 minutes long and is divided into separately timed sections covering the three types of content. The child’s scores in the two tests are added to produce a STTS (Secondary Transfer Test Score). If a child’s STTS is 121 or more, they are qualified for grammar school. It is expected that about 30% of children will have a Secondary Transfer Test Score of 121 or more.
The 11+ tests are administered by Compact Disc in individually timed sections meaning a child cannot move forward or return to a section. They are effectively mini-tests and there is still a strong element of speed and many people won’t complete all questions.
There has been some press to say this new exam is “tutor proof” however we feel this misses the point of good tuition. Now the 11+ is more closely aligned to work being done in the classroom, the right tuition is aimed at building confidence, building the core skills, having the tools to find the answer more quickly. Added to that there is some exam technique to be learned. Therefore tuition aimed at the 11+ will have a positive effect in the classroom now and in the future.
We will posting more on this topic and how you or your children can be prepared, so do keep an eye on our site.