As part of the A Level Physical Education enrichment programme, eleven sixth form pupils visited UCS (University Campus Suffolk) at the Waterfront in Ipswich on Thursday 13 February.
Firstly, the pupils were able to measure their respiratory lung volumes and capacities using a Spirometer and they used electrode leads to measure their Heart ECG. George Butt even volunteered to step on the treadmill to measure V02 max or aerobic capacity.
The session linked perfectly with classroom work on the heart and respiratory system for their A-level PE studies.
On 6 March Year 13 Biology students paid a visit to the Biology labs of University Campus Suffolk (UCS) to participate in a “Journey through the nervous system” led by Dr Federica Masieri and Dr Aida Rajic.
Dr Masieri described the basic structure of a motor neurone and then went on to explain how the actual structure of the nervous system is far more complex, with cells such as glial cells supporting the highly specialised neurones by carrying out their basic functions.
The students were shown many slides of different components of the nervous system including a cross section of vertebrae where the central canal was visible. Oliver, Henry and Rupert ably demonstrated the protective role of cerebrospinal fluid with a ‘tofu experiment’ and the students were interested to learn that the spinal vertebrae are thought to be remnants of body segments from a distant common ancestor shared with worms!
Finally the students were able to get hands-on with the UCS microscopes. These are much more powerful and finely tuned than school microscopes, meaning that a much clearer view of the tissues were visible than students had ever seen before. A series of microscopes had been set up in order to create a fascinating journey through the nervous system, starting with simple neurones and leading through the vertebrae to the cerebellum and cerebral cortex.
This was a fascinating opportunity to see what university lab-based teaching might be like, as well as to consolidate their knowledge of the nervous system in preparation for their A Level exams.
The Biology Department would like to thank UCS for their hospitality and is delighted to invite Dr Masieri and Dr Rajic back to RHS to give a MedSoc talk entitled “Stem Cells: It’s a kind of magic!” on 20 March, 4.30pm in the library.
The Royal Hospital School is a co-educational boarding and day school for 11 to 18 years olds set in 200 acres of Suffolk countryside overlooking the River Stour. http://www.royalhospitalschool.org
Thank you to everyone out there who has sent me encouraging feedback over the Headmaster’s blog and I thank you in advance for your continued support!
A small number of parents have asked why the Royal Hospital School has not submitted public examination results to media league tables. It’s interesting to note that the number of schools choosing not to submit has been rising year on year to around 30% of ISC (Independent Schools Council) schools. When asked the question, more than two thirds of members of the Headmasters’ & Headmistress’ Conference (HMC) representing the most prestigious independent schools, said they were in favour of the ultimate abolition of the league tables. Whilst I understand the point of view of many parents being given the choice as to whether they wish to consult these tables and compare schools like for like, I feel that I should outline why we have made this decision.
Firstly, as is the case with many boarding schools, the Royal Hospital School is not highly selective in terms of its entry requirements; which means that we have a mixed ability cohort taking examinations. I feel quite strongly that it is unfair to compare our pupils who have achieved their own personal best, with the headline results of very highly selective schools. We pride ourselves on educating the whole person and do not wish to be compared to exam factories that do not challenge the most able or realise the potential of every pupil. That is why the currency by which we measure academic success is value added. For the record, it is interesting to note that Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, has already muted the notion of having value added league tables. This is an initiative which I would fully support!
Furthermore, the accuracy of marking, and recent changes to grade boundaries, has resulted in a great deal of re-marking taking place and the results originally submitted and published are undoubtedly going to change for many schools, including RHS.
As you know, it is my aim to unlock the potential of every child at the Royal Hospital School, no matter what their ability. In order to do so, they must be looked at as an individual rather than as part of an overall statistic. Whilst one pupil may achieve a whole clutch of As and A*s, another will have done equally well for him or herself for achieving 5 Cs and a B grade.
The former school teacher and novelist, Alan Judd, wrote a very interesting article in Friday’s Telegraph in which he asserted that; whilst Michael Gove is to be commended for attempting to restore rigour and integrity to our discredited examination system, he also needs to address modern marking methods. The massive expansion of children sitting public examinations has meant that there has needed to be a larger number of examiners to mark and increased number of papers. It is interesting to note that when I started teaching, in order to be considered to become an exam board marker, you had to have had five years of A level teaching experience under your belt. However, in this modern era, most markers are young teachers; the requirement now being that they only have to have spent three terms teaching in the past three years with a degree or teaching qualification in the subject they are examining, to qualify for consideration for exam board marking.
Having been an examiner myself, I have long since argued that the dumbing down of our examination system has had a lot to do with the exam boards’ desire to create assessment criteria for the convenience of those marking the papers and flawed marking criteria have contributed to the dumbing down of our exams system.
In Friday’s Telegraph article Alan Judd cites a case at Eton College where a brilliant History candidate achieved a mystifying U in his chosen subject. Tony Little, the Headmaster of Eton, sent this pupil’s papers to tutors at Oxford and Cambridge who graded it a high undergraduate standard. The paper was then returned and marked by the History teachers at Eton, according to the exam templates produced by the examination board, and found that the examiners were right; he had used the facts to construct an intelligent argument, but that didn’t count!
Unless examining regimes change, Michael Gove’s new English Baccalaureate Certificate will not restore integrity and rigour to our examinations system. Education certainly is a complicated business!
The Royal Hospital School is a coeducational boarding and day school for 11 to 18 years olds set in 200 acres of Suffolk countryside overlooking the River Stour. http://www.royalhospitalschool.org