This year we were delighted that just under 1600 schools took part in PMC. We received some excellent feedback from the schools, a process which has been made much easier since the full implementation of the on-line enrolment.
The comments about the administration were overwhelmingly positive and we know that you really appreciate how smoothly the paper can be used with a group of pupils and how easy the marking is.
The format has changed recently and whereas some of you like the new format, others preferred the previous layout as a few pupils did not see the final page. If we retain the new layout, please alert your pupils to the format of the paper before they start, so that they realise there are 25 questions to complete.
The consensus was that the paper was harder than last year’s and the data seem to confirm that. We try to achieve consistency from one year to the next, but of course it is not always possible to keep the level completely the same. Next year we are aiming to make the paper a little easier over all, though the ‘tough’ questions at the end will still be there to help us to select pupils who will take part in the Bonus Round. One teacher said, ‘This year’s challenge was a a lot harder and I had some pretty forlorn faces, which rather undermines what we are trying to achieve, building confidence through success,’ At PMC we couldn’t agree more. Our aim is that pupils should enjoy the challenge and that most pupils will be able to tackle most of the paper.
In the Cockcroft Report (1982) they talked of a 7 year difference of attainment at the age of 11. Trying to write a paper which can challenge children with such a range of attainment is itself quite a challenge. It seems sensible to advise pupils that they might not all complete the whole paper, but they should have a go at as much as possible,
In your feedback to us, several people asked for guidance about the levels for awarding Gold, Silver and Bronze certificates in school. We feel that this has to be a decision made within the school. Schools vary widely and we want the pupils in every school to be rewarded for their achievements as measured within their own context. We also noted that pupils prefer to get a ‘Took the Challenge’ certificate from the MA, rather than a photocopied one, so we will be sending one per paper next year. We try to emphasise that PMC is a Challenge, not a test or an exam or a competition. Ideally pupils will see this as a personal challenge, rather than a competitive event.
You tell us that PMC papers provide staff with ideas for extension activities to use with the most able pupils and that the pupils are buzzing with excitement when they complete the paper. That is what we like to hear and we hope that next year’s paper will be even more popular.
We ask schools to send in the marks that their pupils achieve. This year we failed to receive nearly 500 schools results. Please send in your results, even if you do not have any high attainers, as the data help us to analyse the level of difficulty in the paper. Lacking the results from schools with lower marks skews the results.
From the results sent in this year 8% scored 0-5, 36% scored 6-10, 46% scored 11-17 and 10% scored 18-25. These results confirm that the paper was indeed more difficult than those of recent years. Next year we will try harder to make it more accessible.
We very much appreciate the feedback we receive from teachers. We always read it and try to act on suggestions made. Thank you for taking the time to let us know how it went!