What Ofsted said

Highlights From OFSTED Report

Psychology

The quality of provision in psychology is excellent.

Strengths

Excellent leadership and management of the department focus on raising standards and improving overall provision.

A rich, stimulating curriculum engages students’ interests and enthusiasms to a high degree.

Areas for improvement

There are no areas of any significance for further improvement.

The 2001 A-level results were very high with over half the students attaining A or B grades. The proportion of students obtaining pass grades was well above the national average. The results improved significantly in 2002 with the proportion gaining A or B grades rising to two thirds, and all gaining grades A to E. Over the past three years, results have continued to improve. Students who took the AS examinations in 2002 achieved very well and reached high standards. Over three-quarters of the students reached A, B or C grades on the first two test papers; students’ performance on the third test paper was not so good, but over two-fifths obtained an A, B or C grade.

Students have already obtained well above average grades at GCSE overall and they continue to make very good progress, achieving very well and reaching high standards. Higher attaining students and those with talent in the subject do particularly well and make excellent progress. In 2002, based on results overall at GCSE, eight students were predicted to reach an A grade; however, 17 reached this top grade in the examinations, showing excellent achievement over the two years. The standard of work seen during the inspection was very significantly above what is expected.

Teaching and learning are outstanding. Students are provided with an excellent range of opportunities to advance their understanding, knowledge and skills. Teaching is of extremely high quality and staff take great care to advance learning through a thorough understanding of complex technical language. As a result, students debate and discuss issues such as ‘flashbulb memory’ or ‘post-traumatic stress disorder’ comfortably, with understanding and with authority. Students learn the skills of cause and effect by relating psychological research to real-life situations. They realise very quickly the ethical implications of testing on an unaware audience. Through the use of case studies and video clips, students readily appreciate the differences in responses of men and women to sexual advances, learning to relate this to ethical and gender considerations when assessing the validity of the research.

Teachers provide frequent opportunities for students to assess each other by performing simple yet relevant experiments on each other, even to the point of rewarding them with sweets. As a result, the theories and experiments of great psychologists such as Piaget or Vygotsky are brought alive. Higher attaining students are effectively challenged further by being given opportunities to read more widely or to research from a broader field. This gives them a deeper insight into the risks and consequences of experiments and research.

Teachers have excellent subject knowledge. They use this very effectively when challenging students’ thinking in the frequent question and answer sessions in lessons. The teaching methods are especially successful. A very extensive range is used frequently, keeping students on their toes and stimulating their interest and imagination. The frequent use of case studies, video clips, opportunities to interview each other or to present their findings, all encourage better learning while promoting key skills of listening, reading, speaking and measuring.

The department is a centre of excellence. Staff work as a team and meet regularly. All discussion centres on improving students’ learning, and on helping them reach better grades. The head of department observes all her colleagues teach regularly and provides effective feedback on how to improve. Work is very carefully marked with very helpful annotations on how to improve. An excellent range of resources ensures students are constantly challenged and moved on in their learning. The adaptation of the curriculum has also made a significant contribution to enhancing students’ learning. By ensuring that learning is active and draws upon a very wide range of information, current and historical, students’ enquiring minds are further stimulated.

The teacher and students drew the conclusion in one lesson having looked at some recent research, that learning is greatly enhanced if participants enjoy what they are doing. That is the hallmark of this department and accounts to a large degree to its great success.