Steven Walker, Maths Subject Advisor
Thank you to everyone that made it to our online teacher network for A Level Maths in November. Here’s a summary of our discussions for anyone that missed the event, with details of the action plan I have taken away from the insight gained.
The primary role of subject advisors is to answer your questions about OCR’s qualifications. Obviously, the best person to answer your questions would be the Principal Examiner responsible for that exam paper, but regulations mean that anyone that has sight of future live examination papers cannot be involved in direct discussions about the qualification, so we act as intermediaries.
We try to have a good presence at conferences and are happy to attend departmental meetings via virtual links to discuss issues with the specification, assessment and support.
We provide a teachers’ perspective in discussions with regulators and other stakeholders, whilst sharing the outcomes of these discussions with teachers.
We work closely with the assessment and product support teams at OCR. Send us your feedback and we will share it with them to inform our future support package and help improve the qualification.
We looked at entry numbers nationally since reform. We discussed the issues around grade boundaries linked to the sawtooth effect common to newly-reformed qualifications and looked at the impact on face to face teaching over the past two years due to the pandemic.
The main focus of this network event was to look at the differences between the two specifications that we offer, and how the questions from one could be used with classes following the other.
Both specifications were developed and accredited against the same criteria defined by the regulators (DFE AS and A Level subject content for mathematics). There are slightly different interpretations of the content, but the main difference between our specifications is the exam structure:
Although the paper structure is different, the majority of individual questions are equally valid for either spec. You can find editable versions of past paper questions for both specifications on ExamBuilder.
During this session we looked at the similarities and differences between the questions set for each specification.
During this session I gave a run through of the support we offer:
We are in the process of migrating all support material to the Teach Cambridge platform (contact your exams office to sign up).
I also outlined the material under development:
Feedback on the current provision appeared to be positive, and I promised to forward the draft progress tests to teachers for their input before publication. The general feeling appeared to be that the next type of resource to be commissioned should be exam-style topic-focused tests, perhaps using a mix of past paper questions from both specifications (edited so that we are not just reusing the same small set of questions in a multitude of resources). This is the key action that I will take from this session. I plan to have draft material for teachers to review at the next teacher network in the spring.
We also discussed the upcoming CPD events, which you can sign up for now. We also have guest blogs from the presenters of the “Enhancing your teaching” webinars summarising the focus of each of their events:
We finished the meeting with a discussion of possible agenda items for the next network meeting on March 16. A spring network event lends itself to a focus on sharing ideas on revision activities. It was also suggested that some time should be set aside for looking at the efficient use of calculators, and it will be a good opportunity to discuss our proposed support package for 2023/24.
Sign up for spring A Level Maths network, 16 Mar 2023, 4pm – 5.30pm
Email us at email@example.com if you have any suggestions for any other agenda items for the network.
If you missed the autumn network, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy of the presentation.
For general queries, you can email us at email@example.com, call us on 01223 553998 or tweet us @OCR_Maths. You can also sign up for email updates to receive information about resources and support.
Steven joined OCR in 2014 during the major qualification reform period and now primarily focuses on supporting the Level 3 maths qualifications. He originally studied engineering and then took an extended period to work and travel around the world before completing a PGCE in secondary mathematics. Steven began his teaching career with VSO in Malawi and has taught maths in both the UK and overseas.