UNDERSTANDING THE UK CURRICULUM
Types of Schools in England
You will be employed in a state secondary school teaching pupils aged 11-16 years or 11-18 years. We also have private or independent schools in England but typically recruitment is for state schools. Just to confuse you, some of our better known private schools, such as Eton and Harrow, are called Public Schools. They are in fact very expensive and exclusive private schools!
The vast majority of children move from their primary schools at the age of 11 to secondary schools. In most areas, there is no selection test for secondary school and all children go to the same schools, these are comprehensive schools and take children from the ages of 11- 18 or 11-16. At age 16, pupils can remain in their current schools if they have a sixth form (Years 12 & 13) or move to a Further Education College where they can study for A-Levels or work related qualifications. In a few areas, children sit an entrance exam called the ‘11 plus’ and if they achieve a high enough score, they are able to attend a grammar School; those who do not achieve a sufficiently high mark attend an upper school.
In addition, there are different types of schools according to who is responsible for running them.
New teachers are likely to be given a teaching timetable which covers classes in years 7-10 (11-15 years of age), though teachers with a strong subject background and some teaching experience maybe given classes in years 11-13 (16-18 years of age). We do not teach a single year group in England but teach in several years. Each teacher has some non- teaching time during the day to give them time for planning, preparation and assessment. Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs) are those in their first year of teaching and for their first year would have a reduced timetable. The amount of non-contact time varies slightly between schools and is something you might ask about at the end of your interview with a school. Teachers also usually have a tutor or form group; a class you would see for a short time once or twice a day to take their register, oversee the progress of the individuals and possibly lead some more general learning activities with them.
National Curriculum, Key Stages and Examinations
State schools in England follow the National Curriculum to ensure that all children study the same subjects and schools work to the same standards. There are four Key Stages of study; Key Stages 1 & 2 relate to primary education while KS3 covers the first part of secondary education from years 7 to 9 and KS4 for years 10 and 11.
The KS3 Programme of study gives details of the subject content pupils are expected to cover during years 7-9. The KS4 Programme of Study gives details of the subject content pupils are expected to cover during years 10-11. This together with the content studied at KS3, will form the subject knowledge tested in the GCSE exam.
Each subject department will have their own scheme of work which will outline what topics will be taught and when, and give details of assessments such as end of unit tests and/or end of year exams. Teachers use the schemes of work to plan the individual lessons. The school will share these with you once you have a job and your teaching timetable has been finalised.
All students sit examinations at the end of Key Stage 4 in the Core Subjects of English, Mathematics and Science as well as their optional subjects. These examinations are GCSEs (General Certificate in Secondary Education) and are written nationally by one of three examination boards. The examination boards are regulated by Ofqual to ensure that standards are maintained and are comparable across the different exam boards. GCSE exams are graded from 1 to 9, where 9 is the highest.
Each school can choose which exam board they choose for each subject and are likely to use different boards rather than every subject using the exam set by one of the boards. You Head of Department will tell you which exam board they use; you may also find this information on their school’s website.
After KS4 and GCSE
All subjects are not compulsory subjects beyond the GCSE examinations, which are taken when students are 16 years of age. Although if they fail to achieve a GCSE pass in Maths, students are required to re-sit this exam.
Years 12 & 13, are also called the ‘sixth form’ from the days when the year groups were numbered differently! The examinations taken during these years, are also referred to as level 3 qualifications (GCSE is level 2).
Students will either complete Year 12 & 13 in their school or move on to a Further Education or Sixth Form College. As with GCSE, the examinations for 16-18 year olds have been very recently reformed and are now examined at the end of the course rather than through modules taken at various points during the two-year programmes.
Most teachers joining us from overseas will not be teaching at this level, though a few who have a strong subject background and relevant experience may have this opportunity at some point during their time in England. Even if you have no intention of teaching to A-Level, it is well worth having an idea of what and how your subject is taught – it will make you a better teacher at GCSE and we would hope your enthusiasm for the subject encourages students to consider studying it at a higher level.
What is different about teaching in England?
This will obviously depend on where you have trained and taught. Our programmes of study may well have much the same content as those you are familiar with, but this may be learned at different times and to different levels of complexity according to when it is taught. However, some of the main differences will not concern what is taught, but how it is taught and we will look at this in more detail during the induction week. We would not expect teachers to stand at the front of the class, lecture, explain a method and then ask students to work through some standard examples. In maths and physics in particular, the emphasis is on developing a deep understanding of the concepts so that this can be applied to a range of problems. It is expected that all students make good progress within a lesson and over time, and this is what will be considered when anyone observes your lesson and gives feedback.
You can also learn about each secondary subject and primary (Key Stage 1 and 2)
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