Analytical writing

October CPD at Joseph Chamberlain Sixth Form College

Linear assessment and independent learning

Andy Homden leads two day October  training sessions  in Birmingham

All change in the UK

IMG_2451 (640x427)There’s no shortage of change in the UK at moment. Testing at age 7 is coming back. National Curriculum Levels are gone. Modular assessment at A Level is on the way out. And, of all the government led initiatives, none is more important than the re-introduction of linear assessment at A Level.

Not just another adjustment

This is not just another course or syllabus adjustment: preparing students for “the big tests” after a significant period of study is quite a proposition. There is nowhere to hide in the final exam, no short cut to success. At the invitation of Joseph Chamberlain Sixth Form College (JCSC), Andy Homden was in Birmingham before the mid – term break to lead training which focused on independent learning and linear assessment in Years 12 & 13.

Staff from JCSC were joined by colleagues from a number of Midlands – based colleges.  With the first new specification assessments due to take place in May and June 2017, Homden stressed how important it was for schools to consider adopting a consistent approach to the new requirements, suggesting that particular attention be paid to the development of three language skills across the curriculum: building vocabulary, developing independent writing, and adopting a school wide approach to building the necessary body of knowledge required by the new courses.

IMG_2441 (640x427)“Linear assessment has really forced the issue of independent learning” Homden commented. “Students are perfectly capable of  taking charge of their own learning in each subject, if they have learned how to plan and write independently, developed their academic vocabulary and built a systematic body of knowledge. Students prepared in this way will be at a significant advantage when they find themselves in the exam hall at the end of a two year course”.

The power of “Purposeful Practice”

Drawing on his IB and pre-modular assessment, Homden considers that  “Purposeful Practice”, an idea neatly developed by Olympic Table Tennis player and journalist, Matthew Syed in Bounce: the myth of talent and the power of practice is the key. If students are clearly shown what to do and then are allowed time repeatedly to practise the skill, under conditions that gradually become more demanding, and finally reproduce strict exam conditions, they can do it. Thjs is particularly true, in Homden’s view for writing. The approach also works for longer pieces of work, such as the IB’s Extended Essay.

“There is no reason why students, of varying abilities can’t write relevant, well-substantiated essays, even under the most trying of exam conditions, if they have been shown how, and have been allowed to practise”.

Students join two sessions

IMG_2445 (640x427)A novel aspect of this training is that, wherever possible, a group of students join their teachers for parts of the course. Having explored with them what they do well and what they would like to do better, a teaching session gets under way in which key aspects of the pedagogy are used. The 12 A2 students who attended the JCSC training  for 90 minutes on both days expressed their ideas about where they thought they needed to improve: confidence in public speaking, the use of more formal academic language, avoiding slang and condensing their notes were just four ideas to emerge that can be directly addressed by the methodology that Andy advocates.

Teachers were able to reflect not only on what they learned from the trainer, but also (as always) what they had learned  from each other, and in this case that included the students.


For a sample outline of Andy’s Linear Assessment and Independent Learning CPD courses, please click the picture

For more detail about developing the three language skills sets, see

To contact Andy, please e-mail




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