The simplest way would be to select only the option 1 OCR example activities for PAGs 1 to 12 (i.e. PAG 1.1, PAG 2.1, PAG 3.1 … PAG 12.1); however most teachers will want to choose different options and incorporate some favourite experiments. The practical activity groups (PAGs) are organised conceptually and designed to make it easy for you to find an activity to support the course content you are teaching. We give you at least three example activities in each PAG; using the activity selection spreadsheet in the tracker you can check that your selection will cover all the required skills. In the planning your practical scheme of work chapter of the practical skills handbook we identify multiple opportunities for you to incorporate practical activities in the OCR A Level science specification you are teaching, see Biology/Chemistry/Geology/Physics sample planning table.
No. These activities are provided as supporting materials to assist you to whatever extent you require. The activities have been cross-referenced to the practical endorsement criteria, trialled, and reviewed by CLEAPSS. You may use the activities 'as is', adapt them to suit your situation, or use them as exemplars in your planning. Alternatively, you may select other activities provided by third parties or that you have developed yourself, as long as these cover the requirements of the practical endorsement. However centres should trial and risk assess practical activities themselves, even if they have been reviewed by OCR and CLEAPSS, before undertaking any activity with students.
Many of the required skills will be covered routinely using any practical activities, e.g. following instructions, making observations and measurements, and keeping records. Select the activities that you wish to undertake and then check these against the assessment criteria (CPAC) and the skills, techniques and apparatus listed in 1.2.1 and 1.2.2 of the specification. Check that students have opportunities to routinely and consistently demonstrate the competencies described. If you are unsure whether the practical activities you have selected meet certain criteria, you can ask OCR for advice through email@example.com.
No. You may check yourself whether they are suitable by cross-referencing against the assessment criteria as described above.
Yes. You can adapt the activities provided by OCR and make sure that they are still mapped to existing assessment criteria or if your activity is assessing a different set of skills map it yourself to the relevant criteria.
Yes. You can map them against the assessment criteria. You may also find that some existing centre activities work better, so use them instead.
No. There is no need to report every change in your planning to OCR. If you decide to change the activities that you will be doing then just continue as normal and ensure that you have recorded the competencies that have been met in the new planned activities.
If a student misses a practical activity through absence then there is no requirement for that activity to be repeated as there may be other opportunities in the two year course for the student to display some of the required skills and competencies. However if near the end of the two year course you feel that there are students who have not achieved all the competencies as required by the assessment criteria (CPAC) then you can arrange a mutually convenient time to allow that student to display appropriate skills and techniques.
Centres are required to have the following records available for the monitor to review:
The OCR activity (PAG) tracker spreadsheets available on Interchange can be used to meet records two to five in this list. When planning a program of practical work the OCR activity tracker will allow a centre to check that their plan includes all the required skills and techniques (i.e. module 1.2.1 and module 1.2.2) of the specification. The finalised plan must be documented showing where practical activities will be used. For example the planned activities could be incorporated into your program of study or detailed schemes of work. Where circumstances require the approach to be changed the documented plan should be modified accordingly to show the revision required to meet the requirements of the practical endorsement.
No. There is no requirement for centres to use the OCR activity tracker however this free resource is provided to simplify record keeping for teachers and reduce the their administrative load. The tracker comes in three sizes (30 students, 100 students and 400 students) and we suggest using the smallest size that meets your individual need. For example if you have a large group the speed advantages of keeping separate trackers for each teaching group may be more useful than holding the records of all 150 students in one tracker.
The fixed PAG tracker allows you to add mapping for an additional 12 activities, while the flexible activity tracker allows you to amend the mapping of the 36 OCR exemplar activities or add up to 84 centre-designed or third party activities. Another advantage of the flexible PAG tracker is that by selecting activities in the order they are carried out by students it can be used to monitor progression and more easily identify gaps in individual student competence demonstrated.
Yes. If you have switched to OCR from another exam board or are using third party activities (such as OUP Kerboodle), there is no requirement to use the OCR PAG tracker. If you do choose to change to using the OCR PAG tracker part way through the two year course you need to retain the old tracker and add a ‘carry over’ activity as the first activity in the OCR flexible tracker; tick off all the criteria statements that have already been demonstrated by each student on their record, which will allow you to see which competencies remain to be demonstrated.
You should note that some third party trackers (e.g. the Pearson ‘lab book’ for OCR Biology/Chemistry/Physics) do not keep a record of the practical skills and the apparatus and techniques specified in the DfE subject criteria. If you are using such a tracker (or your own spreadsheet does not record this information) then you will have to keep an additional paper or electronic record for each student recoding their competence against the criteria in module 1.2.2 of the specification.
No. There is no requirement for students’ work to be marked, and there are no mark schemes for the PAG activities provided by OCR.
Teachers may wish to mark students’ work in the context of providing feedback, or to comply with the centre’s own marking policies. That is fine, but it is a centre decision to do so.
There is no requirement for student work to be securely held or formally submitted. We actively encourage students to be responsible for it. The only point at which centres are required to hold student work is in preparation for a monitoring visit, as it will form part of the evidence for the practical endorsement being implemented appropriately.
During the course, it may be advantageous for students’ records to be kept centrally. However, at the end of the course students will need their work for three reasons:
To reiterate, centres do not need to keep the work of students who have completed the course and gained the qualification. However, centres should retain the data tracking student progress in the practical endorsement for the lifetime of the qualification.
The practical endorsement does not require students to ‘pass’ practicals. As part of tracking student progress, you are recording student competencies in the specified skills and techniques. There is no requirement for students to re-do practicals if they do not demonstrate all of the competencies identified first time around, as there are likely to be other opportunities in other practicals you are carrying out for them to demonstrate these competencies. If, near the end of the two year course, you feel that there are students who have not achieved all the competencies as required by the assessment criteria (CPAC) then you can arrange a mutually convenient time to allow that student to display appropriate skills and techniques.
Students should keep records that are appropriate to each activity. This should as a minimum include the title and date for each activity, and relevant observations and measurements. Students would not be expected to copy complete sets of instructions out in full, though they should record any modifications or additions made to a basic method provided. Where students are making decisions about which practical work to carry out, for example in investigations, they will need to make a note of their methods. It is important that students record their practical experiences in their own ways. Their records could be in lab books, ring binders or an electronic record. It is up to the centre how they want the students to record their practical activities and observations. Over time, they should demonstrate that they are able to make decisions about what information to include, and how to present it.
These skills form part of the assessment of the practical endorsement, through CPAC4. For this reason, OCR does not provide exemplars or templates.
No. The format of the student record is not prescribed. It may be a lab book, but could also be a folder or ring binder to collect loose pages, or a collection of records stored digitally. They do not have to be ‘perfect’ lab books – they should be a record of on-going lab work.
Yes. Each student must keep a contemporaneous record of their practical work, and it must be their personal record.
The teacher must be confident in the ability of their students to successfully complete a practical activity and meet the minimum requirements as stated in the Common Practical Assessment Criteria (CPAC). The OCR practical activities are already mapped to the appropriate skills, techniques and apparatus and hence allow teachers to easily identify students who are routinely and consistently displaying them skills. This is easily achieved through the use of the OCR PAG tracker to log student activities.
Appendix 3 to appendix 6 of the practical skills handbook for each science includes suggestions about how this process of skills development can be managed. They provide guidance which teachers can use to assist how they teach the required skills, as well as things to look out for in assessing whether students are performing the skills competently. However, they are not intended as a ‘mark scheme’, or statement of the minimum standard required for a pass in individual activities.
The cross-board working group developed a series of pen portraits, which are used as the basis for the on-line training. These CPAC pen portraits are available on the OCR Science positive about practical page. A separate document on making the final judgement as to whether a student should pass or be not-classified is available on the positive-about-practical page.
We do not provide unlocked versions of the OCR PAG trackers, nor do we provide the unlock password to teachers. When the tracker is unlocked there is a significant risk of accidentally removing a link, function or reference and thereby removing students’ records of competence. If you contact the OCR science team by email at firstname.lastname@example.org we can provide support to help you resolve issues using the OCR PAG tracker.
The practical endorsement is assessed by visiting monitoring. The purpose of the visit is to ensure that the centre is implementing the requirements of the practical endorsement appropriately and applying the assessment criteria (CPAC) correctly. The monitoring process will not moderate or adjust the results of individual candidates.
The monitor will:
The monitor will be able to offer support and guidance, and answer any questions.
No. The monitor will look at the approach taken across the subject in the centre. Experiences from the practical activity observed may be used as a starting point for discussions with students and teachers.
The monitor will not determine or adjust the results of individual students. The teacher will make the judgement as a professional by direct observation at the time the skill is demonstrated.
No. The monitor is looking for practical activity taking place as a normal part of teaching, and for assessment to be taking place within that context. The monitor is not expecting to see ‘perfect’ practical work; rather, they would expect to see a level of achievement appropriate to the point in the course.
The centre visit by the visiting monitor is the only quality assurance conducted. You do not need to send any evidence of students’ work or detail of your assessment to OCR. At the end of the A Level course the Lead teacher for each science will have to specify a ‘Pass’ or ‘Not-classified’ for their students. These judgements will be based on the record of the on-going judgements made by the teachers against the assessment criteria either in paper format or through the use of the PAG tracker, which is designed to help with this process.
In addition your head of centre is required to provide a written practical science statement; this is done using the NEA centre declaration form which can be downloaded from any of the OCR Science qualification pages. By signing the NEA centre declaration your centre is confirming that reasonable opportunities have been provided to all students, being submitted for entry in that year for assessment, to undertake at least 12 appropriate practical activities. A digital copy of this form is emailed to email@example.com by 15 May in the year of entry. Failure to provide a written practical science statement may lead to an investigation into suspected malpractice.
Examinations officers will receive contact from OCR to notify your centre of the need for a monitoring visit. Centres which will be monitored in the first half of the two-year monitoring cycle have already been notified. The monitor will make contact with the registered lead teacher two-to-four weeks before the monitoring visit. A mutually convenient date and timetable for the day will be agreed.
Each centre will receive one monitoring visit for one science (Biology, Chemistry or Physics) in the period September 2019 to May 2021. (Large centres, who have more than 140 students for any one science, will receive visits in that period for all sciences.) Where a centre offers Geology there will be a separate Geology monitoring visit in the period September 2019 to May 2021.
Examinations officers at centres receiving a monitoring visit in the two-year monitoring cycle, September 2019 to May 2021, will been contacted by OCR during the last week of October 2019 for the first year of the cycle or October 2020 for the second year of the cycle. If you have received a monitoring visit in for any science in either the first or the second year of the current two-year cycle then this means that your next monitoring visit will be taking place in the next two-year monitoring cycle (September 2021 to May 2023). If you have neither been visited nor contacted in the current monitoring cycle then you should email OCR at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Centre monitoring visit allocations are based on candidate entries in 2019. If all of your A Level science entries were with OCR, then you will already be on our list of centres requiring a monitoring visit. If you make A-level entries with different awarding organisations across the three sciences, you will receive a monitoring visit from one of these awarding organisations. Large centres, who have more than 140 students for any one science, will receive visits for all sciences from the relevant awarding organisations.
If you have switched exam boards, you will likely still be contacted by your previous awarding organisation to arrange a monitoring visit. They should be notified that you have switched. You should also notify OCR that you have started teaching our qualifications by emailing email@example.com with the subject ‘Switching to OCR’, including details of your centre name and number, the qualifications with which you are switching to OCR, and when you expect to be making your first examination entries with us. We can then arrange your monitoring visit.
You will be given details of what actions need to be taken. There will be a follow up visit to confirm that the remedial actions have been taken. The other sciences at your centre will receive a monitoring visit from their exam board(s).
You will be given details of what actions need to be taken. There will be a follow up visit to confirm that the remedial actions have been taken. The exam boards used for the other sciences at your centre will be informed, however these sciences will not receive a monitoring visit from their board; as this is the first monitoring cycle for Geology.
The work done for the practical endorsement will be excellent preparation, but not necessarily completely prepare students for the exams. In terms of skills, the practical endorsement will prepare students well for the implementing skills and to an extent for planning skills. However, bear in mind that students may be asked to demonstrate these skills in any practical context. Analysis and evaluation skills are not assessed through the practical endorsement, but they can easily be developed through the practical work done towards the endorsement. Many of the OCR PAG activities contain sections of analysis and evaluation questions which can help with this teaching and learning. Additionally, there are some areas of practical work that are not covered in the practical endorsement, e.g. redox titrations in chemistry, which also need to be taught. The practical planning tables in the practical skills handbooks can be used to fully plan a practical scheme of work.
If a student moves centres halfway through a course then they can take their current lab work with them as the practical endorsement is a cross-board requirement. The former centre should make arrangements to transfer their record of judgements to the new centre. Their new centre may require the student to undertake some further competences in their practical activities to ensure that the student has routinely and consistently been observed displaying such skills and techniques.
No. The practical endorsement will not contribute to the A Level grade and will be reported as Pass or Not Classified. Thus this will remain the same whatever your final A Level grade. A pass in the practical endorsement may be carried forward and used alongside the grade achieved in re-sitting the exams, even if this is with a different exam board (using the appropriate entry code).
The majority of universities will ask for a Pass at offer stage for STEM subjects and this will be made clear in their entry criteria for a specific course. Admissions requirements are under the control of universities, and vary by course and institution. The universities will take on students at their own discretion and hence this should not be a deterrent to students when applying.
The practical endorsement is a required component of the qualification and all students will be entered for it, although the grade for the practical endorsement is reported separately from the written exam grade on the student’s A Level certificate. A student cannot choose not to enter the practical endorsement nor can they waive their requirement to complete this component.
It is a regulatory requirement that centres entering candidates for science A Level qualifications make reasonable provision for their candidates to access the practical endorsement. ‘Reasonable provision’ could be carrying out practical work at your centre, or having an established agreement with another centre where students can carry out the practical work necessary to obtain the practical endorsement.
Centres which do not make reasonable provision for their students to access the practical endorsement cannot enter them for the qualification. If they do so, they will be in maladministration. This will result in penalties for the centre, with consequences including being barred from making any AS or A Level entries until the centre is compliant with the regulatory requirements.
Candidates cannot waive their right to access the practical endorsement, and subsequently there are no circumstances under which a centre can avoid making reasonable provision for candidates to access the practical endorsement.
Centres are required to have a lead teacher for each A Level science (i.e. Biology, Chemistry, Geology and Physics) that they offer. The lead teacher is required to complete the mandatory exam board lead teacher training and to cascade this down to the other teachers of that science to ensure that all teachers of that science are applying the national standard in the practical endorsement.
In the preparation for and during a monitoring visit the lead teacher is the main point of contact at the school.
The term lead teacher only relates to their role in delivering standardisation training within the centre and acting as point of contact at the centre for monitoring visits. There is no regulatory requirement for them to be a senior science teacher and centres are free to allocate this role to any appropriate teacher of science.
No. While it may be desirable to refresh your familiarity with the contents of the Moodle online training, your certificate will be valid for the lifetime of the specification.
Both the paid for face-to-face training events and the free online lead teacher training on Moodle cover the common content that is required by the JCQ for all lead teachers irrespective of their exam board, and meets the regulatory requirement for a lead teacher of an A Level science (Biology, Chemistry, Geology or Physics). The face-to-face training is a paid for course and offers additional exemplification, advice on the use of the OCR PAG tracker and opportunity to clarify issues with a trainer who will be a principal monitor.
If your other colleagues want to complete the training as part of their CPD or just to have a better understanding of the practical endorsement then they just need to register for an OCR Moodle username using the following link.
Once a teacher has familiarised themselves with the aims and approach of the practical endorsement, and viewed the six short training videos on the OCR Science positive about practical page, it will take between 50 to 70 minutes to complete the Moodle-based online training.
If you have completed all the modules for one subject, the system will automatically tick off some of the other modules for the other subjects as they have common content. The content is actually almost identical bar the contextualised examples used in the different subjects. So if you happen to be the lead teacher for more than one science, only modules 2, 3 and 4 need to be completed for the other subjects as these contain the contextualised examples.
If you have completed all the modules for one subject, the system will automatically tick off some of the other modules for the other subjects as they have common content. A certificate is generated after the completion of one subject and the system will not generate another for the other subjects, even if they are undertaken. It is simply electronically recorded.
Once you have registered for the practical endorsement online training then you have to wait up to 30 minutes before you get an email with your login details. Check your spam filter or school server security settings; the confirmation emails are automatically generated by Moodle and it may be that your email server is holding it back. If you still have not received confirmation after 24 hours then please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The OCR Moodle requires its own username and password. You will need to register for a new username and password here. Scroll down the page and you will see towards the right-hand side instructions for creating a new account. Click the button create new account to continue.
If you just click on Forgotten your username or password and follow the instructions that follow you should be able to reset your username or password.
You can complete the training over a number of days or in short intervals. The training system will remember the module you completed and start you from where you left off.
This problem is likely to be caused by your browser: if you are using Internet Explorer try CTRL+F5 to clear the cache. Chrome, Firefox or Safari are all compatible with the lead teacher training on the OCR Moodle. If the problem continues then please email email@example.com.
Yes. You are required by the regulator to complete the lead teacher training for the exam board that you are currently using. The core content of the course is common to all four exam boards, and the standard required for a Pass is a national standard. However each board takes a different approach to the freedoms that centres have to use different practical activities and other details such as the specifics of record-keeping.