A silver lining of the cancellation of A Level and GCSE exams has been the chance it gives teachers to explore techniques and topics that inject fun and excitement into Senior school learning.
It is deeply disappointing as the Headmaster has written in this month’s head’s blog that our GCSE and A Level students have ‘lost the chance to prove their skills and knowledge in the examination hall’. But a silver lining of the cancellation of public examinations has been the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity it has provided for teachers to replace last minute revision classes with topics and teaching techniques that do not normally fit within the confines of the curriculum.
It gives me a wonderful opportunity to introduce them to characters they've never heard of and event they ought to know about
Rohit Benjamin, History Teacher
Harrodian teachers have jumped at this chance. History teacher Mr Benjamin, has laid the foundations for students taking History A Level with a special pre-Sixth Form China course. ‘I’m expanding their knowledge on the eve of our course by taking a really close look at 19th century China and its dealings with the outside world,’ he says. ‘Each week I have set them a long chapter to read on a particular topic – The Opium Wars, Missionaries in China, The Taiping Rebellion – and I have followed up with a lecture and a Q and A.’
Mr Benjamin, a passionate Sinophile, has also taken on more esoteric subjects too. ‘It gives me the wonderful opportunity to introduce them to characters they might never had heard of – Cixi, Robert Hart, The Boxers – and events that they should know about. They will be the best-prepped group of L6 I've ever had!’
Ms Arnold, Head of Politics, has also found exciting ways to introduce GCSE students to British politics in the run up to A level study. ‘The 15s have researched and presented on political scandals this week looking at “cash for questions” and the Cambridge Analytica affair around the Brexit referendum,’ she explains. ‘We then discuss the impacts these scandals had and what they tell us about our political system.’
Ms Arnold has also found memorable ways of introducing how Parliament operates. ‘I asked each of the 15s to research the layout of the House of Commons and House of Lords and to use things from around their home to create a labelled model of both,’ she says. ‘In the next lesson, we discussed what the layout tells us about how they operate and voted on our favourite. Lucas’s Lego versions, above and Sophia’s model, top, with her cat as speaker were the winners.’
For their lessons on portraiture, Harrodian’s Art and History of Art teachers both drew on Grayson Perry’s lockdown ‘Art Club’ on Channel 4. ‘The first episode was about portraiture and challenged us to choose a portrait and dress up,’ says Laura Caldecott, Head of Art, above as the Girl with a Pearl Earring. ‘So that’s what the Upper 6th and I did.’.
Teacher in charge of History of Art, Hannah Kroes was similarly inspired in her lessons with 15s and Lower Sixth students. ‘We often take portraiture for granted, without examining how the pose a sitter takes influences the way we see that person,’ she says. ‘By posing themselves, students are able to have fun and become familiar through personal experience with the processes that are at play in portrait painting.’
By posing themselves, students are able to have fun and to become familiar through personal experience with the processes that are at play in portrait painting.
Hannah Kroes, Teacher in Charge, History of Art