Superhighway to exam success

7th October 2005 at 01:00
A Scottish revision website scored 1.4 million hits last term with students keen to make the grade, reports Su Clark.

Standard grade students gobbled up BBC Scotland's Bitesize Revision before this year's exams, suggesting that if anything can alleviate the stress of tests it is an interactive website.

A staggering 1.4 million hits were made on the Standard grade revision pages in the tense few weeks before and during the exams, and another 300,000 were made on the Higher site. It was a record year for BBC Scotland.

Part of the BBC's remit has always been to provide resources for teachers and pupils and over recent years the broadcaster has extended its reach to include interactive resources on the internet. Many of the BBC education resources come from England, but there are important differences in the Scottish curriculum, not only in content but also approach, and BBC Scotland has been quick to fill these gaps.

As well as revision pages, it also offers a teaching resource for classroom or home study for all Standard grade subjects and eight at Higher.

"It is a free resource developed to support the curriculum," explains Moira Scott, education editor at BBC Scotland, who is responsible for broadcast, radio and internet educational activities. "We found that teachers, due to time pressure, often encourage students to go back to the site for independent study."

The site covers Scottish history and geography, modern studies and English literature. Other subjects, such as maths, science and religious studies, are covered by the English division.

But while the BBC has the broadcasting expertise that has enabled it to move into web design and presentation, it has always recognised it may lack the expertise to provide carefully crafted and focused teaching materials.

To overcome this, it collaborates with pedagogical experts in each field to ensure its coverage is comprehensive, up-to-date and accurate.

Mrs Scott says: "We look for people who can complement our broadcasting skills."

Most recently BBC Scotland added Higher English modules on two Scottish novels, The Cone-Gatherers by Robin Jenkins and Consider the Lilies by Iain Crichton Smith. With The Cone-Gatherers, the team worked closely with academic consultants Raymond Soltysek, a lecturer in English at Strathclyde University, and Shirley Jones, an English teacher at Park Mains High in Erskine, while for the other it linked up with Mary Ritchie, an English teacher now working with HM Inspectorate of Education. Both resources focus on specific extracts, covering style and structure, themes and characters with audio commentary, supported by photographs and imagery.

"Choosing which books to cover is difficult as there are no set texts here, as there are in England," says Mrs Scott, "so we picked books we thought schools may have a stock of. English literature is probably the least used within our site because of this. We've found teachers of history and geography use it the most."

Plans to extend the site are focusing on geography, history and modern studies. A section on South Africa, developed with help from Douglas MacKenzie, a modern studies teacher at Boroughmuir High, in Edinburgh has been added, as has a section on the social history of Scotland from 1945 to 1975, for secondary schools, developed with support from Tom Monahan, a history teacher at Stirling High.

The next move is to build a section on the United States, covering race relations and politics to complement a TV programme in production. A new site dedicated to William Wallace and Robert the Bruce will be added to the history section and the geography resource is also being extended, with a look at the coastline around Aberdeenshire. These are expected to be live by next year.

"We are making TV programmes that can be used by teachers and which can be supported with more in-depth study on the website," says Mrs Scott.

Information on BBC scheduling and website provision will continue to be disseminated via email and, for primary teachers, through its April Primary publication, allowing teachers to plan ahead. But for pupils, the wealth of the Bitesize Revision resource has proved the greatest draw.

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