Home > Achieving Grade C, Books, Differentiation, GCSE Assessment, GCSE Maths 2010, Training > How teachers decide which tier to enter

How teachers decide which tier to enter

We asked 100-ish teachers recently about the techniques they use to decide which GCSE Maths tier – Foundation or Higher – to enter their students in. You might be familiar with the approaches they described but perhaps you’ve not seen them ranked before, in order of popularity.

1. Mock exams

Respondents used mock exams as the way in which they determined which tier pupils should be entered for. Some entered pupils into two mock exams, one for each tier, to determine which was most appropriate.

2. Teacher evaluation of past performance

Respondents mentioned using teacher assessment or evaluation, conducted through a number of means including formative assessment throughout the year and class observation. For some, the key thing to observe was whether a pupil was capable of achieving a B grade. If they were not, they would automatically be entered at the foundation tier.

3. SATS results

Many were using KS3 SATS results to judge which tier was best for each student. The level used as a benchmark varied from level 5 to level 6. In some cases, SATS were used to determine which sets pupils were put into. Their set then determined automatically which exam they would be entered into.

4. Attitude of pupil and / or parents / carers

The attitude of pupils was a key factor for many. It was important that pupils were prepared to work hard and attend regularly. It was also important that they were sufficiently confident and calm to cope with a more difficult exam without panicking. Some respondents mentioned taking into consideration what the pupil wanted to do next in their studies or career. It was also clear that there was pressure from parents for pupils to take the higher tier exam.

5. Performance in other modules

Those taking a modular exam often used the results of previous modules to determine the tier used for the next.

6. Skills in algebra

A number of respondents mentioned that facility in algebra was the main factor in success at the higher tier and it was perceived algebra skills that determined which tier a pupil was entered into.

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