Recording the new GCSE Science required practical investigations.

Since the introduction of the new science GCSE specification the idea of scraping the ISA has interested me. The ISA (Individual Skills Assignment) from the AQA exam board, changed in recent years from one exam to two and so increased the amount of time that teachers spent on the preparation for it. I tried to do at least two ISAs for each science if I could, for each ISA lets say 6 hours (minimum) was spent on it – with 3 sciences, and 6 ISAs this would be a minimum of around 36 hours spent on the controlled assessment. We could know use that time to fill the gaps to enable more to progress. The difference between a grade boundary?

To replace this the system has introduced ‘required practical’s’ after much debate (and I could be wrong here) these are practical’s in Biology, Chemistry and Physics that the exam board could test students on in the exams HOWEVER there will be no direct checking from AQA that the practical’s have been taught but THEY DO need to be recorded. I believe (and this is just my guess) these would be more method based questions, analysis of secondary data and extended answer questions. The practical’s are not new, in fact I have taught them all  during the course of previous specifications nonetheless we now put more emphasis on them.

The question is how much extra work to teachers need to do and WHY? as Sinek claims there is no point in doing something if there is no ‘why’. The why is of course for the students benefit in reminding them of the practical’s closer to the exam, so do you..

  • just carry on as normal – just record in a markbook or spreadsheet
  • create a more formal document with the AT skills
  • create a working required practical booklet
  • get students to write practical’s up
  • ignore advice and wait until we know more.

My current plan of action is to get students to write up some of the practical’s and keeping them in a folder along with other assessments, checking their understanding of their method and mathematics.

I did write an AT skills booklet for each science for use within my  department however they remain unused and unwanted. If other teachers/departments can make use of them, please do so. They can be found on my TES page on a free download.



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