How I… managed a new year 11 class – Clare Hawkins

This academic year, I took the leap. I moved schools in order to become head of RS. In my interview I was told that there were no KS4 or 5 RS classes, but I shared KS3 with citizenship (termly rotation).  I went away planning how could I encourage SLT to bring us in line with requirements, and how I could enthuse students enough to pick it.

Then came my induction day. The assistant headteacher who was running part of the program said to me ‘your year 11s are going to love you’. My line manager had forgotten about the year 10 class who, for two years have had any teacher they could throw into the classroom. The exact wording was ‘they need a lot of love’. Two whole years of learning lost. After a rant to my husband, I realised I had to put a plan together for the students and this is how I did it:

  1. I went back to the specification. This school does AQA, my old one does Edexcel. I needed to learn the technique and recap the content before I taught it to the students.
    I then made a booklet out of the specification. For each section there is: the spec, RAG table (Red, Amber and Green denoting their confidence or lack of in the topic) key word table, 20 questions and 10 exam questions. That booklet is now made, so I can use it from now on.
  2. I planned the first term – lesson 1 – RAG the whole specification. Lessons 2 and 3 – completed a whole exam paper. Lessons 4 and 5 – went through the exam papers. Lesson 6 – started the beginning (literally, Genesis)
  3. I created a lesson routine. First ten minutes are key words. Students know that our lessons start with 10 key terms, and we pick up where we left off last lesson, (an examiner recently told me that the students who get 1 – 3 in the exam clearly don’t know the key terms). Their homework is always 20 questions. Students know what they’re coming into, and what is expected of them.
  4. Spreadsheets, spreadsheets, spreadsheets. Some people’s worst nightmare. I’ve got all their marks logged. No grades, just marks. I’ve had them a full term now and they’ve completed three whole exam papers. I can see which topics they’re not as strong on, which questions they struggle to access. This then allows me to target intervention and work.
  5. Finally, contact home. I haven’t got the time to mess around. 15 of them decided to do very little work last week, I emailed every parent with how much they did (child X did two bullet points and four sentences instead of two 12-mark questions). But also to praise, students love to hear nice things about them!

I’m not saying they’re going to all get 9’s, or even all get 4’s, but I know that they now have access to the knowledge and exam skills, more than they did six months ago.

If you’re new to a school, or worried about moving to a new school, that’s fine. Have your panic then move forward. Those students need you to guide them in the right direction!


Clare Hawkins, new Head of RS at a school in Bracknell and member of West Berkshire SACRE

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