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Field notes- Tipton


Period One

This is a media lesson and is one of the GCSE/BTEC options available at year 9. Daniel Attley, an ‘average’ pupil from our sample is in the class. The teacher is welcoming of our presence in the class and lets us roam around. Gareth and Ruth are collected by some other pupils from the sample and taken to different classrooms.

The media room is very high-tech. nearly all of the pupils are working on Mac desktop computers. They are set out in rows facing the ‘front’ of the class. There are three round tables at the front of the classroom and one of these is occupied by a group of boys. They are analysing the front page of a newspaper- analysing the purpose of the different headings, the intended audience, etc.

There are only two female pupils out of approximately 20 pupils. I spend much of the start of the lesson with Daniel and his friend, Tom, who are sat at the back of the class, each on a Mac. Both pupils are well engaged in the lesson, putting together their powerpoint slide show on a film of their choice. The task is to address issues such as the target audience of the film, etc. both seem very competent at the task in hand and at using Macs. We talk about year 9, how it has been so far. Both Daniel and Tom feel that so far it has been enjoyable. There is a sense from both boys that the work that they are doing now they are in year 9 ‘matters’. They are aware that they are working for grades now. They both shared a fear prior to entering year 9 that the work would be quite difficult and that they would need to be more independent as workers when compared to OM. Despite this they  said that they found the work at KS4 easy and for the most part interesting, and they had found that although they did have to work more independently, they were okay with this.

Their major concern about year 9 appeared to be a social issue- the separation from their friends made at OM level. However, even this appears to be overcome with the discovery of new friends. This concern was echoed by almost all pupils in the class, with pupils having differing experiences as to how well they had coped with the social aspect of the transition from OM to KS4.

Talking to the boys sat on the table at the front of the class, they feel all too aware that their work now counts towards their final grades in year 11. A concern voiced by one pupil was whether or not they were mature enough to do GCSE level work at year 9 age. He referenced a friend at another school who wouldn’t be doing GCSE style work until he was in year 10 and this worried the boy with whom I was speaking- he worried whether or not this would adversely affect his grades. Nonetheless this pupil greatly enjoyed the current lesson and seemed content with much of his other lessons- except maths. This group of boys felt ‘stressed’ that their work was now ‘important’, in contrast to the perceived un-importance of the OM years.

All pupils in the class, male or female, were excited by life in year 9. They enjoyed undertaking lessons that they had chosen. A common comment when pupils contrasted KS4 with OM was that they felt they had clearer direction in their lessons now that they were only doing just the one clearly defined topic in the 3 hour lessons (also perceived positively by the pupils as they felt they could achieve a lot in this time period). OM they, almost unanimously, felt confused them as to what subject content they were studying- OM was seen by one male pupil as ‘chaos’. OM was seen as competency, not content driven by pupils.


Engagement in the lesson was very high on the part of all pupils, with everyone working fairly hard at the task on hand with slight nudging from the teacher to keep them on task. No major disciplinary issues or classroom difficulties were observed. The teacher instructed pupils in quite a formal tone but would then wonder around the class spending time with each of the pupils checking their progress, helping them, and because she had only met them once before, getting to know them.

A number of pupils commented that they felt the biggest difference between OM and KS4 was that they now had to work as individuals and that the work was ore serious and required them to be mature. Any concerns that they seemed to have had about yr9 have largely been overcome. The pupils seem to be very resilient and adaptable. Especially when taking into account the move into the new space.

Throughout the lesson conversation with the teacher revealed that she had never taught yr9 before, or OM. This was her youngest class because of the restructuring of the school. She felt that the pupils were more mature than her yr10 classes, more able to work independently and could research better than her yr10s. she found that they were more mature than she expected and although there was always a murmur of noise pupils generally seemed to get on with their work with a bit of guidance now and then from her.

The teacher favoured the 3 hour lessons- though she did find this very tiring. The teacher used the competencies to guide her lesson but admitted that she wasn’t too sure what OM was all about as she had no experience of teaching it. Both teacher and a number of pupils find that this continuity between OM and KS4 helped to keep things ‘familiar’ for the pupils.

Daniel and Tom claimed that they had noticed a shift in teaching style, that teachers were more strict – but that this was necessary given the seriousness of the work. However, such strict teaching was not observed in this lesson.

Speaking to the two girls in the class the pupils said that they were worried about starting yr9- they were worried about the amount of work, nature of work and independent learning that they would have to undertake.  But, both said that they were glad that they were no longer doing OM- they were ‘bored’ of OM.

Period Two

At lunch before the lesson the  pupils said that they felt that OM was ‘nursery stuff’- it was seen as simple, although those seen as G+T pupoils said that they could see value in the competencies and that it has helped them. Other pupils are a bit more sceptical but they cant articulate why they dislike it. Likewise those who like OM cant quite articulate how it has been of use to them.

Maths lesson with second set. I am with Tom from our sample.

The teaching style in this lesson is extremely didactic. I have no real opportunity to speak with the pupils as the teacher expects silence from the pupils. The teacher is constantly marching back and forth from his laptop podium to the smartboard. There is very little interaction between teacher and pupil except for him to send instructions their way from the smartboard at the front of the class.

There is a lot of disruption throughout the whole lesson. The teacher insists on constant silence etc that that this lesson is impossible in places.

Tom informs me that teachers like this maths teacher don’t understand what pupils are asking of him. He says he doesn’t really like the didactic teaching style but it does allow him to get work done, but he would do it anyway because he enjoys it.

The maths teacher puts a competency up on the board and but unlike the earlier lesson he doesn’t real signpost this element too well so the pupils do not see this as a guiding principle in the lesson as they perhaps did in the lesson observed earlier.

Some pupils are struggling- the content is decimal points and the class spends nearly three hours going over the same two mathematical issues. The teacher comments that the pupils are ‘supposed to be OM people’ it seems with the implication that he feels they should be able to think for themselves and not keep asking him questions.   

Those working are doing so quietly- they are engaged well. Those who aren’t engaged are making it clear through constant disruption.