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Tips of the trade: 6. Teaching GCSE

One of the most daunting aspects of the job for new teachers is teaching GCSE. This is where support from your department is crucial. But there are ways to help yourself.

Coursework is easier to teach if you have the mark scheme and the scheme of work. There should be some "old" coursework to use as a planning guide - ideally your school may have a top-mark example to use. Try also to get a low-mark piece of work as a contrast. This will show you the range of work expected at GCSE.

Examination courses are difficult to teach. Use an old pupil's book as a guide to see how the work was covered compared with the class you are teaching. If none is available, your Year 11 class will have Year 10 work somewhere for you to use.

Try not to look at individual lessons - this can make the content seem overwhelming. Instead, plan a week at a time, aiming at coverage and, if you're brave, a key skill focus (note-taking is useful).

Get as many past papers as you can - from the exam board if your department has none, and use these to see how the subject is examined. Another useful document sent to schools each year is the examiner's report for each GCSE paper. It analyses pupil responses nationally to the exam, and highlights good answers and bad technique and gives teachers advice on areas that the board believes need attention. It can be useful when planning work.

Teaching GCSE is challenging - aim high for your pupils and seek advice when it is needed. Good GCSE teaching is a team effort.

Roy Watson-Davis

Roy Watson-Davis is an advanced skills teacher at Blackfen school for girls, Sidcup, Kent

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