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This has intrigued me for a while.
It is clear from other threads that some departments/schools think of KS3 as running from Yr 7 to Yr 9, while other schools have KS4 running from Yr 9 to Yr 11.
What is the difference for the Yr 9 pupils, now that there is no longer any opportunity to do a modular exam?
I suppose it might affect whether you report levels or grades at end of Y9.
I have worked in schools with both systems and it makes little difference for most kids.
Ability-wise, there is a huge overlap between what is on the curriculum at the top end of KS3 and bottom end of GCSE, so it doesn't matter whether the transition takes place at the start or end of y9. Obviously as soon as GCSE is officially started, grades are used instead of levels, but NC levels are still reported at the end of year 9 to government.
In terms of motivation, again it's a case of six of one and half a dozen of another. A 3 year KS3 can leave students unmotivated, a 3 year KS4 can leave students unmotivated. I genuinely don't think it makes a jot of difference. Think of the curriculum - the same things are taught at KS3 as KS4 on the whole, but the difficulty level increases year on year. Whether a teacher is teaching a KS3 or a KS4 curriculum doesn't really make difference - the objectives would be the same. the main difference I would say is resources - you'd tend to start using a GCSE textbook.
Obviously for very low ability y9 students (ie below level 3) starting GCSE isn't appropriate and you need to get up to level 3 before tackling grade G GCSE stuff, which I suppose is very roughly equivalent to level 4. The same isn't true for more able - it's perfectly possible to extend very bright year 9 students working beyond level 8, in readiness for a 2 year Higher GCSE course.
In terms of motivation I will reiterate that I don't think it makes a huge amount of difference. When I taught a completely 3 year GCSE it was a delight - you left the annoying SATs style behind, but could go at precisely the pace of students and you could insert lots of enrichment-style work and consolidate properly, meaning that at the end of y11 students were genuinely well-prepared mathematically for their exams. This system has by far given my students the best results. When my school started doing mass early entries, motivation, effort and results started to decline.
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