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Please help - Secondary English teachers

(9 Posts)
Icarustoohightofly Thu 12-Nov-20 08:24:57


If you teach or have taught GCSE I plead most humbly for your help.

I'm a (very) long time lurker but have never posted here before.

I teach Secondary English in a country NOT in the UK.

One of my classes (14 years old) has recently sat their school mid-term exam. The Head of English could be described as toxic - as could the workplace. As class teachers we were not allowed to see the exam or know what was in it.

The exam was extremely difficult. One half of it involved reading 2 pieces of texts and then answering questions on them. The texts were:
- an article from The Guardian by Aditya Chakrabortty - 'The Shard is the perfect metaphor for modern London' and
- an extract from 'The Uncommercial Traveller' a non-fiction essay describing late night walking in London by Charles Dickens

The students were very upset when they came out of the exam as they couldn't even understand the Dickens, let alone answer the questions asking them to compare it to the other text.

I believe it may be taken from an old AQA GCSE Reading Part 2 exam 'compare two works of non-fiction on the same topic' (London).

I also believe that the exam was set to be deliberately difficult so students would fail and both myself and the other teacher of Year 10 could be accused of not having taught them properly.

But it seems that the exam was meant for students at least a year older who had been prepared for the structure/questions/expectations. And also students who would have heard of Dickens.

IF anyone has come across this particular version of the exam (with the two texts named above) AND/OR could provide me with a link that explains the AQA GCSE English set up (what age it is aimed for and how long students prepare for it) I would be most eternally grateful as this would be evidence for me to take to SLT.

thank you so much if you've got this far.

OP’s posts: |
MrsHamlet Thu 12-Nov-20 10:34:42

Bloody hell! I don't recognise the paper (I mark AQA paper 2) but it sounds very like that. Have you had a rummage on the AQA site?

MintyGirl Thu 12-Nov-20 16:43:58

I’m an LSA and our English Department has used the Dickens passage with another for a Lang paper 2 gcse practice. They didn’t use the Shard passage but these were the 2 passages they did used :

Icarustoohightofly Thu 12-Nov-20 17:09:38

Thank you so much for your responses! It helps to be heard!

Yes I dug all the way back to 2012 on the AQA website (I couldn’t figure out how to go further back than that). And found a lot of good evidence eg the same phrasing as the questions in our exam (which is v different to how our exams should be).

@MintyGirl Thank you so much for the link.

I’m heading in to school in a couple of hours so will see how the meeting goes.

OP’s posts: |
Elderado Tue 17-Nov-20 22:33:15

This is the kind of thing they would encounter on AQA English Language Paper 2. It’s not unreasonable for Year 10 students in the U.K. to have attempted this in Year 10. We start teaching with this in mind in Year 9, so they gain familiarity with different types of texts.
I don’t understand why you have such an issue - it seems quite reasonable to me.
The issue might be that your Head of Department has not given you sufficient notice or guidance regarding the types of assessment they (and you) will encounter and when they are taking place. In this case - yes, you have a right to be somewhat aggrieved, Complaining about the paper itself to SLT will serve you no purpose - it sounds very much in keeping with the exam itself.
Obviously the students will not perform as well as they will do in Year 11, but if the aim is just to help them gain familiarity with the paper and have an early attempt, then that makes sense, IMO.

There are many examples and papers on the exam board website - Dickens is a popular choice for this board, by the way. Maybe you should ask your HOD for a bit of assistance with teaching for this exam: I’d running something similar for my mess experienced team members.

When things are not so toxic, you might both have a look at the IGCSE, which is better suited to overseas students.

Cat0115 Thu 19-Nov-20 06:22:36

I recognize the Dickens from a, practice pack produced by a school in the UK. It's probably a made up paper. As a HoD myself I find it odd that this was sprung on you and the students.
Which board do you usually do? Are you a British Curriculum school abroad?

Piggywaspushed Thu 19-Nov-20 19:42:21

Yes, that's from an AQA /TeachIt pack.

Original sample papers had quite tricky and long passages in. They have become a little more accessible. But the actual exam has a standard format as it were. Basically, it's v dull but you have to drill them in how to answer each question. I hate paper 2.

Piggywaspushed Thu 19-Nov-20 19:43:27

(which is v different to how our exams should be)

What do you mean by this?

kezziethecat Sat 21-Nov-20 13:42:13

Will your students be doing GCSEs in a year or two? I don't really see the problem, every school I have worked at has begun to teach students gcse exam skills from year 9. I guess the issue is that you didn't seem aware that this would be the paper or even structure of paper that they would be sitting and therefore haven't been able to prepare them. It doesn't sound like a department that works well together.

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