Neil Ogden, Maths Subject Advisor
In the nine years I’ve spent supporting OCR’s maths qualifications, rarely have any two days seemed the same! Through all the qualifications developed, the conferences attended, the resources published and the training delivered… all of it continues to bring brand new challenges each day and constant variety. It’s fantastic!
Hopefully this blog will give you a good picture of the range of support a subject advisor delivers in a single day, but I’m sure tomorrow will be completely different!
As we all know, ‘A Day In The Life’ will involve at some point waking up, falling out of bed, finding your way downstairs and drinking a cup... Back in the old-normal, it wasn't unusual for me to spend a morning travelling across the country to talk with centres, but right now my morning travel is limited to the short commute to the table in my front room.
I switch on the laptop and eat some fruit. At the same time I look for a soundtrack to get the day moving, browsing for some suitable post-punk, or perhaps serialism, or gqom, or no wave, or maybe it’s a Motown morning. With some music on, it’s over to business…
The first task each day is checking the maths team’s email inbox for queries from teachers that have come in overnight. Alongside this I check our social media channels, to see what’s being said online, respond to any queries there and offer advice. I also quickly scan internal emails to check for anything urgent.
Responding to all the queries and various social media comments might take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours, so the path of the day can really be shifted here. I’ve found that one of the best skills to have in this role is to be reactive!
This morning we’ve received a query about whether GCSE (9-1) Maths students should know the conversion factor between miles and kilometres (it’s not required) and an invitation to speak at a Heads of Maths conference in a couple of months (which I accept). There’s also a social media post that we’ve been tagged in, asking what qualification might be suitable for a learner needing some support prior to GCSE. I share a few details of our Entry Level Maths qualification and invite them to get back in touch if they’d like more details.
If you have any queries, you can send them in to the team at email@example.com, call us on 01223 553998 or tweet us @OCR_Maths.
I then turn my attention to internal emails from colleagues and collaborators, while enjoying a bit more fruit.
Later in the day I’ll be delivering a CPD webinar online to teachers, which I always enjoy. It’s one of our regular Switching to OCR GCSE (9-1) Mathematics sessions, which introduce the qualification and our support to teachers new to OCR (or any more experienced teachers wanting to check that they’re getting the most from the qualification). I review the booking list, then make sure that the presentation is ready to go. There’s still a few hours remaining for centres to get themselves a place, so I post a quick tweet to @OCR_Maths as a reminder.
At 10:00 I have a catch-up scheduled with the wonderful members of the maths team, Ruth, Caroline and Steven. We check in with each other as to how we are, then look at the tasks coming up and where we need to prioritise our time. We know that Ofqual and DfE have proposed some changes to maths assessments in 2022, so we plan the communications we want to put in place to ensure teachers have all the information they’ll need as soon as things get confirmed.
With everything sorted we close the meeting. I grab a quick fruit snack and search for a soundtrack for the rest of the morning, unsure whether to go for afrobeat, or cold wave, or dub, or Gospel Yeh-Yeh, or avant-garage, or disco.
I’ve now got a few hours free to dedicate to reviewing some resources. We’re currently producing a series of GCSE (9-1) Maths worksheets with Cambridge University Press (you can already download the first batch!). It’s a great collaborative project, directly supporting students at the Foundation tier. I have the draft worksheets for the next batch from the author and go through these, ensuring that the material is consistent with how topics might appear in our question papers.
Once the clock reaches noon, I recheck the maths team’s inbox plus the social media channels and respond to any queries that have come in through the morning. There’s a quick query about content to respond to, then I turn back to reviewing the worksheet resources.
Not long after one o’clock I receive a call from a head of department, who asks whether we can offer any way for them to analyse student performance in our Grade 1-4 Practice Materials. We discuss producing for the materials a variation on the analysis grids we’ve released for full-length question papers. It sounds like a great idea, so after the call I complete and submit an internal form proposing the grids be created, then treat myself to a piece of fruit.
Mid-afternoon I sign into the Switching to OCR GCSE (9-1) Mathematics webinar half an hour before the start time to make sure the system is loaded, set up and ready to go. At the appointed hour we kick off, dedicating an hour to covering all the unique and special features of our GCSE (9-1) Mathematics qualification, as well answering questions from the 15 delegates.
We close amidst many ‘Thank you!’ messages in the chat and I sign out. After refuelling with a piece of fruit, I once again check the maths team’s inbox and social media feeds for queries. The centre I spoke to on social media this morning about Entry Level Maths has come back with a question about the practical task, which I respond to and also direct them towards our online guide to the task.
Caroline from the maths team also gives me a call, to find out how the webinar went and to discuss a few queries with our GCSE (9-1) Maths ExamBuilder topic tests that she’s been working on. We’ve been producing these resources for a few weeks now and you can download them from our Planning and teaching page!
I recently volunteered to help out with appeals from summer 2021 and so currently have the extra task of reviewing reports written by our appeal assessors. I check through the latest reports submitted and ensure that all the required details have been covered in them. Once the reports are reviewed, I give the maths team’s inbox and social media feeds a quick check for any final queries that have been received.
Then that’s it! The day is done. I make a meal and enjoy the rest of the evening, before heading to bed looking forward to whatever the next day brings!
Leave your comments below, or you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.
Neil has worked in a variety of qualification lead roles at OCR for a number of years, having joined the maths team in 2012. He led the development of the current GCSE (9-1) Maths qualification (J560) and following its accreditation, most of his time is spent supporting teachers delivering the qualification. Neil also supports a range of our maths qualifications, as well as regularly publishing to the @OCR_Maths Twitter account. Outside of work Neil enjoys music and art, as well as fruit.