Approval for AQA GCSE PE Specification

I’ve just heard that the new AQA GCSE P.E. specification has been approved and that copies of the specification and sample question papers are available on the AQA website.

First thoughts are that much of the material has a look of AS level. This is the case for all the exam boards – the subject content has to include the following:

• Applied anatomy and physiology – the structure and functions of the musculo-skeletal system; the structure and functions of the cardio-respiratory system; anaerobic and aerobic exercise

• Movement analysis – lever systems; analysis of specific movements; planes and axes

• Physical training – health and fitness; fitness tests; data collection; principles of training; different training methods; preventing injury

• Sports psychology – skill and ability; goal setting; basic information processing model; guidance and feedback; arousal; aggression; personality; motivation

• Socio-cultural influences – engagement patterns; factors affecting participation; commercialisation, sponsorship and the media; influence of technology; conduct of performers and spectators

• Health, fitness and well-being – benefits of exercise; consequences of a sedentary lifestyle; somatotypes; energy use, balanced diet, nutrition, hydration

• Use of data – quantitative and qualitative data; presenting data; analysis and evaluation of data.

Much of the content is new and/or different to the existing GCSE specifications. And that’s another thing – there is only one specification, not three! AQA has produced a guide to the changes – found here.

The course has 60% theory and 40% coursework (now called NEA!). The theory is examined in two 75 minute exam papers that have a range of questions – multiple choice, structured and extended. The NEA is concerned with performance in three activities and a written component that analyses strengths and weaknesses. The practical NEA is only available through a very narrow range of activities, which is the same for all exam boards.

The other big change, apart from content are the assessment objectives. What we now have is examinations where less of the marks are for ‘knowledge and understanding’ (40%), some are for ‘application of knowledge’ (33%) and (27%) are for ‘analysis and evaluation of factors that underpin performance and involvement in physical activity and sport’. That analysis part is new to GCSE.

These changes are going to affect all teachers, because there is a need to spend more time in the classroom delivering the theoretical content and less time delivering the reduced practical content.

The AQA specification is summarised as:

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So where do you go from here? Many centres have begun their GCSE classes with their year 9 students, ready for the first exams in 2018. They will be desperate for resources.

AQA have selected Hodder as the publisher of its approved textbook.

The book is due to be published at the end of March (it is on schedule!). Hodder are also producing a variety of other materials for their ‘dynamic learning’ bank of resources, and these are also on schedule for a late spring publication.

The NEA presents its own problems with the restriction to performing – no coaching, officiating and a limited number of acceptable activities (33). Will you be able to deliver an activity to the whole class in the same way as you did with circuit training or aerobics? Will you try to develop skills in relatively ‘new’ activities that can become whole-class activities because they are played indoors/unaffected by the weather – table-tennis, netball, basketball, badminton, volleyball, handball, etc ? Some activities that could fit into that whole class idea demand specialised teaching expertise and/or equipment, for example trampolining or rock climbing. Will you leave some students to ‘get on with’ their own practicals – the footballers, rugby players, cricketers, hockey players, swimmers, athletes, etc?

The written component of the NEA has the same weighting as a practical activity. How will you deliver this? Presumably it will be predominantly classroom based as students will need guidance as to what to include and how to go about developing their training programmes. Note that this can be presented orally, rather than in a written form, but still needs evidencing though dvd recording and production of notes. My suggestion would be to go with a simple word document that can be added to/corrected as time goes on. Note also that this is very different to the previous controlled assessment; there is no need for the level of isolation/security previously used.

So, initial thoughts tend to be based around such things as:

• Additional content – how to deliver, possibly needing extra classroom-based lesson time?

• Practical activities – do you need to change emphasis? Have some of the activities/roles you delivered disappeared from the specification? Do you need to think about alternative activities? Will you reduce the number of activities that you currently offer for GCSE in order to produce more classroom time?

• Resourcing – what do you need that’s new? Obviously specimen questions would be a good start. Some examples of the written NEA would also help. Many teachers would also be happier with a suggested scheme of work. So far as I am aware, AQA are producing all of those resources.

• Raised standards of knowledge – there is no doubt that the new GCSE is more demanding than previous specifications, but that’s the same across all GCSE subjects. Because of the greater theoretical knowledge needed for the course, and the much more dictated practical activities, may there be a need to review the entry requirements onto the course?

As a couple of pointers, Subject Support are offering face to face training for the new GCSE PE specifications, including events that look specifically at the different offerings of the different exam boards. Subject Support are also looking at providing a bank of specimen questions of various types to cover all aspects of the specification.

As a teacher whose main interest/involvement has been at A-level, may I finally add that teaching what is effectively AS level physical education, is quite stimulating and hopefully, for those who have not delivered at this level before, enjoyable.

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