Initial thoughts on the changes to A-Level Maths that are on the way for first teaching in September 2017
From September 2017 new AS/A level Maths and Further Maths qualifications will be taught across England. This means that during the next 9 months mathematics departments will be need to think carefully about how they will implement the changes for their teachers and students. Simon Clay (MEI TAM Coordinator) approached the mathematics teaching team at Tudor Grange Academy Redditch, to see if they were interested in working together to think through the issues which are raised by these forthcoming changes. This blog will therefore document one department’s journey as they navigate preparing for the new A-levels through the eyes of the Curriculum Leader.
Over the last few years a number of teachers from the school have participated in professional development and other activities run by MEI, including the Teaching Advanced Mathematics (TAM) and Teaching Further Mathematics (TFM) courses. The school is part of the Tudor Grange Academy Trust and has 440 students on roll. Until recently it has been a high school, teaching students from years 9 to 13. This year it welcomed its first year 7 pupils. The maths department is made up of 6 teachers, all of whom teach some A-level maths.
In this initial blog I have recorded where we are as a department now and the initial thoughts I have for moving forward with the new A-level. This has been prompted by being approached by Simon Clay and MEI to work with them as we begin our journey towards first teaching in 2017.
As the Key Stage 5 coordinator for maths some key decisions need to be made over the next 6 months regarding the new A-level specifications. At this stage, with none of the specifications having been approved, I have not thought too hard about this. This is not a position I want to continue with as I am keen to start rebuilding our scheme of work while there is still time to do a good job with it.
We normally run two A-level classes in each year group plus a small further maths group and all members of the department teach at least one module. In our current scheme of work we have tried to include the use of activities which promote deeper thinking, such as those that are available through MEIs Integral website. However time pressures mean that these are rarely used. I see the change of course, coupled with the changes to structure, as an opportunity to totally rethink the way we are teaching and to promote this sort of activity further. This fits into the way the structure of the A-level is changing, with the new over-arching themes of problem solving and the increased use of technology – this is our opportunity to tear up what we have done before and start afresh.
AS levels, Specifications and Applied content
One possible barrier to a total rethink of the current scheme of work structure is that the school currently has a policy that students sitting the new specifications of A-level will all sit AS-level examinations at the end of year 12. If this policy continues it will impact on the amount of time we have available and the order in which we teach content.
This feeds into our need to think about which examination board we decide to use. We have offered Edexcel, which was the course that was offered when I joined the school last year. With the change to curriculum I thought it was unnecessary to make changes twice in quick succession. I have previous experience of teaching both AQA and MEI, but everybody else in the department has only ever used Edexcel. I have been reading specifications for all of the examination boards and have also attended an OCR Maths Network meeting. I am not in any rush to make a decision due to all of the content in A-level Maths being core, and again that specifications have not been finalised so we don’t know what the final examinations will look like yet.
Another consideration is how we split the teaching in the new courses. Historically we have run the A-level courses with a separate teacher for each of the modules. This has allowed everybody to build their own specialisms, but makes linking between content in the core modules more difficult. It does mean that we are in a position that we have somebody confident with all of the different areas required by decision to make all of the A-level content compulsory as we have offered mechanics and statistics in one or other of our courses previously. This is tempered by the huge change in the emphasis in the statistics module with the large data set.
In conclusion, the key questions that we need to address in the short term are:
– Do we continue to offer AS examinations for all students?
– Which examination specification should we use?
– How should we structure the course in light of the new linear format?
Bruce Hampton is the Curriculum Leader for Sixth Form Maths at Tudor Grange Academy Redditch. He has been teaching for 12 years, initially at a school in Birmingham, moving to Tudor Grange Academy Redditch in 2015. He completed the Teaching Further Maths course in 2014-15. He studied Mathematics at the University of Birmingham and has a Masters in Teaching and Learning from the University of Warwick. In his spare time he is a keen rugby fan and likes to get out on his bike.
Simon Clay is part of MEI’s Professional Development team where he is involved in a number of different aspects of MEI’s work including working with teachers on the Teaching Advanced Mathematics (TAM), Introduction to Mechanics and Head of Mathematics courses. Before joining MEI in 2012 he had taught Mathematics in schools and Sixth Form Colleges for 12 years, during which he had been a Head of Department for 5 years.