Why have A level schemes for learning?

“He who is best prepared can best serve his moment of inspiration.”
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Or, you know, her. Over the next half term at school I’m going to be focusing on preparing for the new A levels in September. I’m reasonably confident that we are going back to AQA, but hopng to get confirmation next week. Have been teaching OCR A for to years, AQA previous to that.

Schemes for learning a A level are something that have disappeared over the last few years at my school. We had some set up when we taught AQA but they were little used. Teachers preferring to teach each topic in their own way, and so the schemes didn’t get updated and just sort of disappeared. I usually taught the same half of the course, so had my own plans I would update each year. And if teaching a new part of the course, I would just write my own plans and resource them myself.

This has worked ok. This year I’ve been teaching OCR A to year 12 and 13 for the first time. I’ve spent a great deal of time planning everything form scratch. It’s been fine, but I know there’s a better way.

So next half term I will be setting up some schemes for the new A level. Even if I am the only one who will end up using them. 🙂

Reasons for not having schemes set up are mainly based around them being too prescriptive. I refute this because I don’t think schemes have to be followed, I see them more as guidelines.

So what’s the point, if it’s not expected that they will be followed to the letter? Here are some of my thoughts about why having them is a good idea:

Long term planning is taken care of. Sitting down now and working out how long we have to teach each unit and roughly blocking out time to spend on each topic means everyone knows where they should be by certain times of year and there should be no surprises about how long each unit should take.

Technician support is easier. Especially if you are a last minute plan-finaliser like me. I always prepare well for my lessons, but usually not completely until the night before the lesson. This makes it more of a challenge to get any resources copied that I might need. In a world of having extreme personal photocopying limits, this is an issue. Having some resources already set up and with the technician would help. It would especially help to have end of unit tests etc set up in advance. Resourced practicals (especially with equipment lists) with the physics technician would help everything run more smoothly. No one is saying you have to teach in the order of the scheme, but having the ability to order Forces L4 when you want the extension questions associated with that lesson, or quantum physics L3 for a particular practical is helpful.

Setting work when needed is easier. This is inevitably required. Illness happens. Not usually a problem if a teacher is off short term, but if longer periods of cover are required then it’s useful to be able to point the cover teacher at the sfl and have that structure to follow.

Collaborative planning. The hope is that if teachers make a good resource, have a fantastic hook for a starter, find a good set of questions, anything extra! they can add it in. Everyone benefits.

Now that I’m jogging my memory thinking about schemes, I recall a teacher thanking me for writing a well resourced sfl for the AQA particle physics unit a few years ago.  So, I’m confident it’s the right way to approach the new A level. It also satisfies my (often unsatisfied) aim to have everything organised properly.  🙂

I’ve seen some fantastic plans recently via twitter that have been a real inspiration:


Several others have shared places on the internet they get resources from and this has been incredibly helpful. When I get writing I’ll happily share what I come up with. Watch this space!

This entry was posted in A level, planning and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Why have A level schemes for learning?

  1. IanH says:

    I’m working on some similar ideas at the moment (and some resource lists for the new specs will be appearing at the national stem centre eLibrary sooner or later) but in the mean time, my planning for the old AQA spec is on Evernote.


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