Of course, as a teacher of KS3, KS4 and KS5 often my exam classes become my priority when it comes to marking and planning, however I very strongly believe that KS3 matters. I have had lots of people tell me to not spend as much time on KS3 as they are not the most important key stage out of the ones that I teach. However, being a part of a small department, we do not have a KS3 lead or anyone who takes charge of developing KS3 in particular, and therefore I often take it upon myself to ensure that what is being taught to KS3 is useful and effective.
I see KS3 as three long years to prepare pupils for the rigours of GCSE, and a prime time to teach the skills as well as content to ensure that pupils are as well prepared as possible for KS4. KS3 lessons should be no less well planned than other key stages, and this year I have been working to ensure that the schemes of work and assessments for KS3 reflect the new GCSE. It makes so much sense to introduce the exam skills in KS3 and cover some of the content so that pupils have a head start when they begin the GCSE course. Obviously the content will have to be recovered in KS4 so that depth can be added, however why waste three years by not introducing some higher level content. This isn’t suitable for all pupils, however I believe that all GCSE content in my subject can be modified to be accessible for pupils of all attainments.
Additionally, as my subject does not have a national curriculum, but rather a locally agreed syllabus which has a lot of wiggle room, KS3 is the perfect time to foster a love of learning. RS is rich with opportunities to engage and capture the imaginations of pupils and as RS is an optional GCSE subject at my current school, it is essential to draw pupils in and expose them to what is so fascinating about RS to ensure that they are motivated to continue to study it in KS4. KS3 allows me to experiment with innovative pedagogy more than any other key stage and I love that.
KS3 should not be put on the back burner, and I am very motivated by the prospect of one of Year 7 pupils in the future complaining that they ‘learnt nothing in KS3’. I do not want to be that teacher that wasted lessons by ignoring the window of opportunity that arises in Year 7, 8 and 9. Why not teach key words and key themes and spiral GCSE exam technique into KS3? It gives stretch and challenge to the highest attaining and will support the lower attaining by giving them more time to learn skills and cover content.