Maths and English – first teaching Sep-15
In September 2015, SAM Learning created new menu structures for the new Maths and English GCSE specifications. The alignments for the old specifications remain in place as a ‘Resits’ folder and will be retired in summer 2017.
New GCSEs for first teaching Sep-16
In September 2016, schools began teaching the new GCSEs for most other subjects, i.e. Science, Computer Science, Geography, History, French, German, Spanish, Music, Drama, RE, Citizenship, PE and Art & Design. SAM Learning launched a complete set of new menus for these subjects in summer 2016. These appear as parallel menus for the year when both specifications are in use (outgoing spec in a folder labelled ‘Final Exam 2017’, new spec in a folder labelled ‘Final Exam 2018’).
New GCSEs for first teaching Sep-17
In September 2017, schools will begin teaching new GCSEs in Design & Technology, Statistics, Business Studies, Media Studies and Italian. WJEC schools will also start teaching new specifications in History, RS and Computer Science (deferred from the previous year). SAM Learning will have new menus for all these new specs in summer 2017. As before, these will appear as parallel menus for the year when both specifications are in use (outgoing spec in a folder labelled ‘Final Exam 2018’, new spec in a folder labelled ‘Final Exam 2019’).
‘All’ menus for subjects that changed in Sep-16 will also be updated in summer 2017. For most subjects that changed in Sep-16, no resits are permitted, so the old spec will be retired in summer 2017.
Which exam boards does SAM Learning align to?
For all of the new GCSE specifications, SAM Learning will have menu alignments to AQA, Edexcel, OCR, Eduqas and WJEC. Most subjects are also aligned to the Edexcel iGCSE and Cambridge iGCSE, though we do not write any content specifically for these boards.
How do the alignments work?
The alignments are done by our subject experts. They align existing SAM Learning activities at topic level to the new specifications. The menus for each new spec will be laid out and named in accordance with the exam board. This may mean that individual activities contain additional material outside the spec. We aim for all our activities to be exam-board agnostic – i.e. useful for the the maximum number of students, regardless of which exam board they are taking. Activities do not seek to reproduce the exact assessment structure or phraseology used by a particular exam board, but instead focus on subject matter and key learning objectives.
Changing grade scale
Simultaneous to the change in GCSE curricula is the change in grade scales. SAM Learning is prepared for this too. All the new specification menus will feature exam paper and test question activities that give scores based on the new 9–1 grade scale. The ‘All’ menus will continue to use the grade scale that will be awarded to the current Year 11 in that subject and will be switched over as the old specifications finish.
All KS3 activities on SAM Learning have already been flipped over to the new grade scale, as students in years 7–9 will all be taking GCSE exams on the new system. In Activity Builder, our tool for teachers to write their own activities, both options are given, so teachers can choose whether to score their activity on the new or the old grade scale.
The 9-1 grade system used in SAM Learning activities is a conversion from the A*-G based on the advice given so far by the Department of Education. This diagram has been provided by the DfE showing the expected correlation: https://www.gov.uk/…596393/Grading_new_GCSEs_from_2017_v4.pdf As our activities are not formal assessments, the grades associated with each activity are a rough guideline. We will continue to monitor the boundaries as results for the new GCSEs start to come through. Revision style activities are not graded but give scores as a percentage.
Who writes SAM Learning activities?
All SAM Learning authors are professional teachers with experience teaching at GCSE level in the UK. Many of them also have extensive experience of working with the exam boards as markers or examiners.
We work closely with our authors to train them on the activity types and interaction types available in the system. All activities are carefully structured to ensure there are clear learning objectives, that the activity leads the student through and progresses in terms of difficulty, and that the pedagogy is sound. Once submitted, activities pass through a rigorous process of editing and testing, as well as adding the design elements that make our activities so visually engaging. We undertake regular analysis of our exam board alignments to identify gaps in our coverage for core subjects and work constantly towards improving the breadth and depth of our offering. Through Share, teachers now also have the opportunity to write their own activities, enabling them to tailor work to their own students and helping SAM Learning to offer more activities in more subjects than ever before.
What new SAM Learning Activities are being written?
The new activities that are currently being written are aimed at the subject content of the new GCSE specifications. These are a mix of revision-style and exam-style activities. For example, we have already published revision collections on A Christmas Carol, Jekyll and Hyde, Great Expectations and The Merchant of Venice to support the new English Literature specifications. We have also launched a new range of exam papers in English Language, History and Geography. These feature a variety of multiple-choice questions alongside short-answer and long-answer essay questions. For English Language, the new papers introduce the nineteenth-century content required by the new specifications, requiring students to analyse the passages and compare them with more modern texts. For History, the new papers cover topics such as Anglo-Saxon and Norman England, Elizabeth, and Henry VIII and his Ministers. For Geography, the new papers tackle a major geographical theme, using case study material to frame contextualised questions. SAM Learning has a rolling publishing programme, which aims to constantly refresh our activities and improve coverage, giving teachers as broad a range of resources as possible to suit their students' needs – these activities should be used not only for revision and exam preparation, but also set as homework for lesson consolidation, used for independent study or set throughout the year to assess progress and carry out targeted intervention.