Pathways for all: supporting your lower attainers

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Elise Reece, AQA’s Curriculum Manager for Science, looks at the reasons why some students struggle with GCSE Science and how to build their confidence so that they can experience success in the subject.

KS4 Science has changed significantly over the past few years. The removal of single-award GCSE, and changes to performance measures, have reduced route options for foundation students. How do we keep these students motivated, and help them to achieve?

There are a number of reasons why some students can struggle to meet the challenges of the new science GCSEs. There might be those who have struggled to grasp the key learning from KS3, there may be some who have lost their confidence due to a constant feeling of failure, as they struggled to cope with seemingly never-ending assessments, and there will be those  students who, for a variety of reasons, have become disengaged with school completely.

For some of these students, the attainment predictions based on their KS2 performance can appear unrealistic and an impossible goal for both the student and the teacher helping to deliver them. So what could help to re-motivate and engage students and put them back on track to reach their goals? Is there an option which will give students a qualification they value, while providing an accessible and relevant course of learning?

Co-teaching ELC and GCSE

The Entry Level Certificate (or ELC),  co-taught with either combined science or one of the separate sciences, is an approach being used by some centres for this group of students. ELC covers the programme of study at KS4 and provides an assessment structure where students can gain marks, experience success, and build on their progress. The content and skills are the foundations for the combined science  specification, so by carefully choosing the parts of the GCSE course that are suitable and accessible for your students, they can also access a GCSE course in an appropriate way.

What resources are available from AQA to support this approach?

The teacher’s guide provides some background information on the ELC course and illustrations of the specification content, as well as advice on developing the necessary practical skills. The co-teaching documents show how the content and skills progress from ELC into combined science. The Sample TDAs (writing frames) are an editable resource to help structure the Teacher Devised Assessments (TDA). When you come to plan your route through the two courses, you will see that the externally set assessments cover from more than one section of the combined specification, unsurprisingly, as less content is covered in ELC. As there are 3 versions, you could use the first two flexibly as practice before using the final version once the content of each ELC component has been completed.

Free support for co-teaching ELC and Combined Science: Trilogy is available in your AQA GCSE Science Kerboodle subscription. An AQA Approved co-teaching Student Book, and a student workbook, are also available. Find out more.

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