I have been musing over this subject for some time now – it is actually one of the main focus points for my final MA dissertation (that really should be finished now…am nearly there – honest!) As a part of my research I’ve found some interesting viewpoints on the way that students are recruited into KS5 level study – from the students themselves and thought it would be good to share.
There are so many elements of education changing all together that will impact on the current cohort of KS4 students; Raising the age of participation to 18, A level reforms (not set to be in place until 2015) as well as the other numerous changes that these students have already had to go through with their GCSE level study as the education system moves towards more linear assessment structures. I think it is underestimated how much the changes actually affect the students themselves – they have things done ‘to them’ rather than involving them in the process and allowing them to feel a part of it.
As a part of my research I used the opinions and reflections of current 6th form students to see what the current climate is before the changes to this area of education – how the students currently feel about their 6th form experience. The reflections were visual and written, it is the visual data that I find most interesting (what is the expression? – “a picture tells a thousand words!?”)
In response to how current year 13 students felt about their transition /options and induction process, a sample of students produced the following:
The first thing that I thought when I collated the data was ‘wow, our students were stressed!’ this is something that has maybe always been the case – after all, A levels are supposed to be hard work? right? Although, when you consider that this group of students should feel comfortable with the current system – its tried, tested and been in place for a while now (since I did my A levels in fact!) … that’s when the questions start. How do we improve the way that students feel about their transition from KS4-KS5? This is even more important when we take into consideration the changes that are imminent to the KS5 phase over the next couple of years – we need to get it right.
At the moment, I guess it is a bit of an unknown as to how the current Year 11 will deal with the transition to KS5 (whichever pathway they choose.) I do think that we need to learn from the current situation – not just the staff opinions of how they think students feel about their 6th form experience, but from the students themselves.
In some ways I suppose we like to treat 6th form as mature students who have a good understanding of how the education system works, this may be the case with a handful of individuals – but they are after all (for the initial term at least) pretty much year11 in their own clothes… They haven’t suddenly conducted a sustained period of independent reading on how A levels and KS5 study differs from KS4, researched the importance of self motivated study and having a good work ethic (although it would be nice if they had!) So it is down to us to make sure that the grounding is in place before they start. In essence, making sure that they don’t get ‘lost in the transition process’ and seriously underestimate what KS5 is about and the expectations that there will be on their level of commitment to their subjects after the summer.
In ALL cases through my research, the current 6th form students said that on reflection, they didn’t really fully understand the difference between KS4 and KS5 until they were fully ‘in the thick of it.’ ..Some even suggested that hey would have preferred to start their 6th form studies for a month before the summer (in year 11) to fully prepare them for year 12!
So, there is no great revelation to this blog entry – just a small part of the research really (and obviously just my humble perspective on what is such a HUGE subject.) However, hopefully something that might inspire people to ask their own students ‘how’ things can be improved, even just from an individual subject basis. Perhaps also from a wider viewpoint, some thought about what makes ‘good transition’ as we approach the exam season and plans for the new academic year draw near. I know that I have plans to improve the approach from my new year 12 group (within my own subject) for September – Maybe this could filter through to all subjects as a result of the research? … but who knows!
…and now – on with the dissertation write up!