## Wednesday, 17 June 2015

### Hannah's Sweets - Combining topics

The recent question about Hannah's Sweets on the Edexcel GCSE maths paper caused much angst and discussion on Twitter. Those students taught to answer previous exam questions seem to have been those complaining the most. However, the future direction of maths GCSEs means that more questions like Hannah's Sweets will appear. Unfamiliar contexts requiring problems solving will become the norm.

One of the issues with Hannah's Sweets is that it combined probability with quadratic equations, two topics not usually seen together. I wondered what might happen if two topics from other areas of maths were taken together at random and a question generated from it.

I created a grid of topics and considered the intersections:

 Percentages Sequences Angles Pythagoras Ratio Averages Percentages Sequences Angles Pythagoras Ratio Fractions Averages

So what might these questions look like?

Angles & Ratio
A triangle's angles are in the ratio 1:3:6. How big are the angles?

Angles & Sequences
A triangle's angles are in an arithmetic sequence with common difference 20. How big are the angles?

Angles & Averages
In a right angled triangle, the median average of the angles is 54.How big are the angles?

Ratio & Average
Three numbers are in the ratio 1:4:5. Their mean average is 40. Find the numbers.

Sequences & Average
Four numbers form an arithmetic sequence with common difference 2. If their mean average is 40, what are the numbers?

The potential for this type of question generation is huge. If you create any questions using this system, I would love to see what you come up with.

ps I had great fun considering right angled triangles where the sides formed an arithmetic sequence.

## Sunday, 3 November 2013

### A Year 7 parents' evening after levels are abolished

A Year 7 parents' evening after levels are abolished: A play in one Act.

Act 1: A cold school hall in October

Parent: Yes, I'm a little confused.
H: Why is that?
P: Well, last year, in primary school, my son was blue for maths but this year he's been told he's a circle.
H: Well, yes, we don't use colours, we use shapes.
P: So is a circle better than blue?
H: Err, I don't know.
P: So how can I tell whether he's doing better?
H: Err, I don't know.
Parent 2: Excuse me, I couldn't help overhearing but my daughter was a giraffe last year for English but they tell me that, this year, she's a rocket.
P1: Oh my son is a satellite in English.
P2: I think a rocket is better!
H: I'm sure both your children are doing well.
P1: But mine is doing better, surely?
H: Err, I don't know.
P1 & P2 (together): Whatever happened to levels?
H: They were abolished for being too confusing.
P1 & P2: ????

Curtain falls

## Monday, 30 September 2013

### We've had enough of League Tables

This is the text of a letter I want to send to my local newspaper.  I don't know if the Governors will support it but I would like to ask them to:

Over the last two years we have changed our curriculum in Years 10 and 11 to allow students to take their Maths and English GCSE exams at the end of Year 10 and then again at the end of Year 11.  We chose to do this because giving students two opportunities at these important qualifications gives them the best chance of achieving the best grade they can.  Those students who do very well at the end of Year 10 can progress on to more advanced courses such as GCSE statistics or even begin their A-Level courses in Year 11.  Our plans are about raising attainment and increasing progression.

However the government has announced that this is 'cheating' and has made it almost impossible for a school to follow this curriculum without being badly affected in the school league tables.  They have decided that only the first attempt at any exam will be published in the tables.  This means that we could see 70% of our students leaving with higher passes at the end of Year 11 but only 40% being counted in the league tables.

We have been placed in the impossible position of doing what we believe is right for our students or doing what is right for the league tables.  It is wrong for a school to prioritise a league table position at the expense of student achievement.  So from this point on we will do what is right for our students and ignore the school league tables.

We realise that this will mean that the school will fall down the league tables and may come under pressure from the DfE, Norfolk County Council and Ofsted to change this policy.  We also know that parents would want us to do the right thing for their children.

Schools have been pushed about by the government's use of league tables for too long and it is time to say, "enough is enough".  Education is far too important to worry about where you are in a made-up league table which no longer reflects what students actually achieve in schools.

## Sunday, 9 June 2013

### PRP: One school's suggested way forward

We want to make PRP as fair, open and transparent as possible and allow all to progress where they can.  We have based our policy on a points system.  The details are given here for information and further discussion.

Points are calculated by putting a tick in each column and adding up the total score.

NOTE: APS is calculated by giving each observation a score 1=Outstanding, 2=Good, 3=Requires Improvement, 4=Inadequate then taking the average of the last four observations.  This helps to smooth out the data to get a better picture.

• The rate of progression will be differentiated according to an individual teacher’s performance and will be on the basis of absolute criteria.  Progression will be determined by allocating points according to the table in Appendix A.
• Teachers will be eligible for pay progression of £800 (pro rata for part time staff) if they achieve a point score of 140 or above.

• Teachers will be eligible for pay progression of £1,600 (pro rata for part time staff) if they achieve a point score of 250 or above.

• Teachers will be eligible for pay progression of £2,400 (pro rata for part time staff) if they achieve a point score of 350 or above.
Appendix A

## Friday, 31 May 2013

### Can all get 5A*-C Inc EN&MA?

Some teachers tell me that not every student can achieve 5A*-C in EN&MA.

I disagree.

Try this experiment.

Think about any mainstream student you know currently in Year 9 or lower who you believe CANNOT achieve 5A*-C inc EN&MA.

Now imagine I give you £1m to spend on that student.

Imagine also that I promise you another £1m to keep for yourself if that student achieves 5A*-C inc EN&MA.

Do you think you could get them to achieve it?

I do.

The issue is not whether every student can achieve 5A*-C inc EN&MA but whether they can within the resources that are available.

It makes you think, doesn't it?

## Thursday, 30 May 2013

### Collaborating: How to do it

I wrote in a blog recently about the importance of collaboration but I want to go a little further and discuss the conditions that make collaboration possible.  The hope is that others may decide to work together and do so successfully.

So here are my key features for successful collaboration:

1) Identify at least one other person / organisation who wants to collaborate
OK, this is just stating that you can't collaborate with yourself but it is important.  There are many people / schools who do not like collaboration, they see it as a waste of their time, or, at least a diversion from the important tasks they are getting on with.  There are those who might like to collaborate, if they can find a good reason to and those who will collaborate with anyone over anything.

The best way to identify who will and who won't collaborate is to talk to them and find out their views.  If they are not interested then don't waste your time, you need them to be at least interested, if not enthusiastic.

2) Agree what you are trying to achieve
Collaborating without an aim in mind will just lead to nice, friendly but pointless chats.  Whilst these are needed in the early stages of building relationships, you need to identify why you are getting together.  There are many reasons, here are a few to think about:
• Widening curriculum choices
• Raising attainment
• Developing joint CPD
•  Sharing resources
The best approach is to discuss issues you are each struggling with and see whether any of them are common to most partners.

3) Build trust through openness
If the people involved do not trust each other then it won't work.  The best way of building trust is to be open about successes, failures, strengths and weaknesses.  This will take time and it is worth taking the time to get right.  Some partnerships establish a broker role, to liaise between the partners.  This is a very useful role when things don't work out as they should, though it is not vital.

4) Don't get too legalistic
It's very easy to spend a long time making all sorts of agreements and then trying to write them down so that everyone agrees etc.  Whilst you are spending time doing this, there are few actual results.  Get a few basic principles going and work to those.  One successful collaboration I worked with had the following:
• Put your best foot forward. (If offering something to the partnership make sure it's your best resource, don't fob them off with rubbish)
• Before reacting, listen to the other side. (This was the best way to resolve conflicts between partners)
• Do the right thing.
5) Be willing to compromise
There will come a time when the needs of the partnership clash with your own needs.  You need to be willing to solve that dispute.  If every time a clash occurs each partner does what is in their own interests, the partnership won't last.

6) Work on maintaining the relationship
In the early days this will involve getting key people together and giving them time to bond.  (This does not mean a raft-building workshop!  I would walk out of any collaboration that required me to do something like this.)  A day out of school in a hotel for key people on a regular basis really helps.  When key personnel leave and are replaced, work on rebuilding the relationships.

Whilst writing this I realised that the best sort of model for a collaboration is a good marriage: find yourself a partner, woo them, get hitched and stay hitched.