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A cluster is a group of local schools all doing the same OCR science specification (Gateway or Twenty First Century). They are a mutually supportive group that meet together as often as they feel they need to. Managed at the local level by cluster co-ordinators, they rely on the wisdom of crowds or collective wisdom. If you have a question that you cannot answer within your school science team, it is very likely that someone from your cluster can.
OCR has been using science cluster groups to share our support, information and advice since 2006. We believe that they are an invaluable and unique resource, a grassroots network of schools that support each other and draw down the support from us that they want. In the scheme’s 10th year we want to expand this further to include all schools that wish to join in.
Groups have helped each other with six-mark questions, scientific language, and controlled assessment internal moderation. Teachers have had less formal meet-ups to share best practice, formulate questions for us to answer, or just to meet socially.
Anyone is welcome to attend. We do not restrict the numbers to one per school. It has always been the case that generally the head of science or a lead teacher attends.
Clusters are a grassroots network and we encourage centres to consider sending a younger member of the team, possibly even an NQT, who can report back at a departmental meeting. Representing your school at a cluster is an ideal development opportunity for members of a science team with time and energy to focus on getting the most out of professional networking.
An inner London cluster arranged for one of our Science Subject Specialists to run a CPD session on delivery of practicals that brought together teachers, science technicians and support staff from seven schools.
One of the members of the cluster group is the cluster co-ordinator. They arrange the meetings and typically provide the venue. This means that they have some work to do in contacting centres, booking rooms (and often refreshments).
The advantage is that they have the least distance to travel to the meeting. Many cluster co-ordinators are junior members of science departments with the time and energy to devote to networking and peer support between schools. We are developing a toolkit of resources to support the cluster co-ordinators and once a year cluster co-ordinators meet up with the GCSE Science Subject Specialists for updates and to share two-way feedback.
Contact us and we will check our database. Most schools that ask find that they are already attached to a cluster but have lost contact, typically as a result of changes in staff.
Simply register online for a cluster group near you.
Contact us and we will check our database. Then we will give you the name of you closest cluster co-ordinator. Please feel free to contact them and ask to join.
Of course. For example, if you are part of an academy chain, then why not set up a chain for your academy? If your cluster is becoming too big then feel free to split into smaller, more local, clusters.
With the advent of social media you can get many of your questions answered by our Twitter feed @OCR_Science. We are developing a Facebook cluster that you will be able to join, where we will be able to provide many of the advantages of the cluster group. We have already had a virtual cluster of remote and island centres that used email and video calls for meet-ups.
Once a year you can request a visit from a Science Subject Specialist from OCR to answer any of the questions the cluster cannot. Clusters have also been used by teachers to feedback comments directly to OCR. We do listen. Comments from OCR science teachers have led to a number of different research projects. They have influenced the design of our new GCSEs to give pupils a more positive “I can do science” exam experience and the need for a Year 9 transition to GCSE has led to the STEM resource project..
As our Science Subject Specialists go out to events around the country we will send out invitations to informal ClusterMeets. Look out for a ClusterMeet near you on our Twitter feed @OCR_Science and emails that we will send out to science contact teachers. ClusterMeets will provide you with a chance to meet informally with us, other teachers of OCR GCSE Science and perhaps set up a cluster group in your area.