You’d think the best way to guarantee success at GCSE would be to cover everything in the specification. I believe this is it not true, and when I asked an awarding body official, they agreed with me.
All content is not created equal. Instead, as in many areas of life, the 80:20 rule probably applies. 80% of the world’s wealth is owned by 20% of the population. Most likely, 80% of what students learn comes from only 20% of the content you teach. In other words, it pays to focus.
In science, the focus should be on Big Ideas. We know that students who really understand fundamental principles like energy, matter and ecosystems are better at applying their knowledge to unfamiliar phenomena than those who just have a broad, but superficial knowledge of the content.
From 2018, the GCSE assessment objectives will reward your focus on Big Ideas. 60% of the marks will be for Applying and Analysing. It is unlikely that students who have superficial knowledge but little real understanding will get many of these marks.
That is why we’re putting Big Ideas front and centre in the 5-year curriculum. First, we created a learning progression for 9 Big ideas which stretches across Year 7-11. This will let you build students’ understanding carefully over time. Second, for each topic we’re writing crystal clear objectives for Know, Apply and Analyse so students can get used to the kinds of demanding performances required by GCSE. But don’t worry, all the content in GCSE Combined Science will still be included, just given a lower priority.