I have been a head of department for the last 6 months, following on from being a second in the history department and, before that, running a small but very successful team of General Studies teachers.
I’m reading a lot about leadership online at the moment, and about reflection (working on second assessment for the MA I’ve started at Warwick). In the spirit of reflection I will therefore try to set down what it is that I have learned about leading, teaching and learning ICT in schools and myself during the really quite challenging time that has just passed.
The first thing is that the OCR Nationals in ICT are not the breeze that they might seem to be on paper, and they don’t offer an easy route to two C grade passes at GCSE that school leadership teams might think they do. The Nationals are a challenging qualification and, especially in order to access the higher grades, require teaching, learning and understanding on the part of teachers and students. Students cannot simply work their way through a tick sheet or to-do list in order to achieve the pass. Three part lessons, schemes of work, homework, ideas, discussion, activities should all be part of a department’s planning.
Marking OCR Nationals work needs to be done little and often – maintenance of student portfolios and checking of progress is difficult, time consuming and vital, especially for the lower attaining students.
External moderation of OCR Nationals marking is thorough and valid. This means that internal moderation processes must also be thorough and valid. At LHS we’ve been working on a 6 week process – which includes two weeks to moderate, followed by two weeks to correct before entries are made.
The process of entering folders for moderation is a b****r. Flipping forms after forms, hundreds of initials, hundreds of grades… sigh.
Three Four things follow from this:
The first is moderate as you go along – make sure that students know that they’ll be entered for unit x and y by a strict deadline. Don’t be tempted to keep large numbers of students working on units because they might get a distinction. You’ll run out of time for working on later units, and you’ll end up entering too many units at once – increasing the likelihood of clerical error and putting all your moderation eggs in one, overfilled basket.
The second: Devise a checking system. Gather entries from teachers, get them to check your list before entering the data on a form. Get them to check again before you internally moderate. Get someone else to check the form. Check the form against the entries again. Make sure your staff know that when they check their entries they’re really helping you ensure that the right students have been entered for the right units at the right grade.
The third: After the moderation is done, check the return from the board. You might have missed a student or a unit, they might have lost a CRF – students might be entered with mis-spelled names. All three of these will happen during the two years you run the course, don’t get caught out.
The fourth: Have a late backstop moderation, a basket into which you can put the stragglers, the administrative errors and the cock-ups.
Keeping your pecker up and trusting your team.
There were times in the last 6 months when things looked a bit bleak. Trusting the professionalism of the team of great teachers working with me helped us pull things out of the fire. Being honest with students, teachers and parents helped get everyone behind the project of resurrecting their ICT qualifications. I was amazed at how hard the teachers in the ICT department worked, and pleased when ‘project phoenix’ paid off at the last moderation.