My previous post was about reviewing the sequencing of the Key Stage 3 schemes of work in my school. If you haven’t read it, it might be best to take a look before reading on from here.
The next task we were asked to complete was a review of ‘benchmarks’ that we would be able to measure progress against. Again, this is something that Steve and I set out to achieve early in 2014 in response to the removal of National Curriculum levels. The result then was the ‘BAM Indicators’: a set of 13 concepts that, if mastered, would enable smooth progress in the next year. Why 13? Well, it is impractical to measure progress against every single thing we teach, and it seemed manageable at about one every three weeks on average. And I can’t deny that there is something about refusing to be superstitious that appealed to both of us.
Alongside these indicators we listed ‘Essential Knowledge’. Ultimately it would help students to memorise these things, but we wanted the focus to be on students making progress in the big ideas for mathematical progress. Too much focus on memorising risks using up valuable brain space! There are other ways to help students learn facts.
And at this point I really need to digress and say thank you to Mr. Mobbs – my Maths teacher for four years at high school. He hand-wrote the basic trigonometrical equations on (badly faded) sugar paper and stuck them on the wall. I still see that in my mind when I’m teaching today. For that reason, I also have posters on my wall (see below) – and lots of the essential knowledge items also have classroom posters. I had grand designs to make posters for everything on this list but I’ve just never found the time.
Anyway … benchmarks. In school, the whole Maths team reviewed the list of 13 BAM Indicators for each of Stage 7, 8 and 9. We wanted to take every one of them and consider whether they fitted what we wanted for our students. Most of them stayed as they were, but bearing in mind the fact that we have swapped some units around it isn’t surprising that a couple of them had to move. Three of the 39 have been modified; for example we have removed ‘original value problems’ from 8M6. And finally, another three have been replaced. You can find our full list amongst the linked files below.
There was a really interesting consequence of this whole process. What emerged in our discussions was the fact that there appeared to be some ‘pervading themes’ running throughout the collection of 13 indicators in each year. As a result, our list now looks like this:
Having finalised Stage 7, 8 and 9, we then turned out attention to Stage 6. We have decided that all students in our school will start at Stage 7, and this means that the Stage 6 BAM Indicators needed more attention than anything else. Why? Because the existing list caters for students who are following that scheme of work. But we wanted a list of 13 ideas that formed some ‘Entry to Key Stage 3 Benchmarks’. Having thought this through from scratch it turns out that this draws on skills from Stages 4, 5 and 6. We will need to come with a way of assessing this early on and then offering intervention to those students who need it. Please don’t ask me how – I don’t have an answer … yet.
So, does this mean we need some new BAM Tasks? Probably, yes. And for me, the best part of the day was yet to come. At some point soon there will be a ‘curriculum review: part III’. Keep your eyes peeled. Or, in this day and age, follow us on Twitter.