With all the new changes that have come from both the Department for Education as well as the examination bodies it is tricky to understand what is actually required for assessments in GCSE rock climbing, kayaking and canoeing.
Below is what the new assessments actually mean and gives some guidance on what a high level performance looks like. Believe it or not some elements of the assessment have actually got easier! I hope that by reading this you will gain a better understanding of what the different examination bodies require and which of these can be done as a part of an intensive course at Bowles.
Overall the assessments are now more challenging but this depends on the examination board. It may still be possible to use these sports as part of your assessments.
Edexcel – climbing is harder but still achievable with access to many of the indoor climbing walls around. Kayaking is easier than before but would still require a good amount of training and practice.
AQA – AQA Climbing is more accessible than kayaking and most students will score well. Students with prior climbing experience will be able to score the top level marks.
Kayaking is now very elitist and not accessible to most. It is unlikely that many outdoor centres will have the equipment or staff needed to assess this. Learners who are part of kayaking clubs will already be able to find people to run the assessment for them within the club.
OCR – People will need to be taking part in these sports on a regular basis outside school/college in order to score highly. Again, I would be extremely wary of any outdoor centre that tell you they can train and assess in a short period of time as I don’t believe the results will hold up to the moderation process.
WJEC – You can still do well in orienteering or if your school does DoE you could use that as an assessment.
Rock climbing require a high level of skill but these skills can still be taught , although only students with the experience will be able to achieve the very top marks.
So what can Bowles offer?
This remainder of this post is split up into a more detailed analysis of the 4 awarding bodies that we normally come across at Bowles:
Edexcel is one of the awarding bodies that have produced a good syllabus which is easy to understand and gives good guidance about the different levels of performance.
The old syllabus was very much based around a criterion assessment but the 2017+ syllabus has moved away from this. There is now a choice of set skills (skills in isolation), such as knot tying, and the students can be assessed on four of these. This element has actually got easier as we now only need to train and assess in 4 skills. The fact that bouldering skills such as ‘spotting’ and understanding the grading system can also be assessed has made this section simple to teach and assess.
The other half of the assessment is based on rock climbing performance (application of skills) i.e. how well you move on rock.
Below is an adjusted table that outlines the assessment guide for application of skills. This table not only includes Edexcel’s description but also our views on how this should be interpreted when assessing climbing.
|Points awarded||Description of skills|
|1-5||Ineffective skills and techniques, no precision, eg. missing key holds, kicking and scraping feet.|
|6-10||Basic level of accuracy but with little precision, eg. using holds incorrectly such as wrong part of foot. Does not maintain balance leading to jerky actions.|
|11-15||Competent with some precision and control. Using holds correctly such as side pulls and correct part of feet (using toes on footholds not the whole foot when on large footholds; starting to use the edges of the shoes on smaller holds).|
|16-20||Good level of technical accuracy, accurate foot work on holds (edges of shoes used when needed), weight transferred with good body positions to remain in balance (center of gravity is over the stable foot when moving the other foot, evidence of twisting/backstepping/flagging in use).|
|21-25||Very good technical accuracy, control and fluency. Prise footwork on small holds (able to place big toe/edge on small foot holds). Movements are fluid (this is best tested on easy routes as hard routes often result in stops and rests as the climber plans to readjust the plan).|
As you can see, if a climber scrapes feet or has jerky out of balance actions they will only be able to score at the lower end of the scale. The top end of the scale requires climbers to move with precise footwork and fluidity. Climbing with a flow means that individual climbing moves link into each other (rock-over links to inside flag etc). This really means that climbers need to be able to perform a number a climbing moves such as ‘flagging’, ‘rock overs’ and ‘back stepping’. Not only should they be able to do the moves but they need to be able to choose when to do them and link them into each other. This is very high level climbing but can be achieved if the students have prior experience in climbing.
Kayaking and Canoeing
Believe it or not this has actually got easier. Again there are a number of set skills in isolation that can be chosen, but we now only need to choose 4 of these. So just like rock climbing the number of set skills that have to be taught and assessed have now been reduced. The very strange thing that has happened in Kayaking and Canoeing is that you can use a kayak/canoe journey or a slalom event to assess the application of the skills. K1 or C1 slalom requires a very high skill level but a journey not so much. If you look at the British Canoe Union syllabus or touring there is very little on it that is not already covered by the set skills in isolation. This means that the students will have access to high scores as long as the students can perform the skills and know when to use them, are able to avoid hazards such as motor boats/fishermen, have a good level of fitness and are able to plan a journey.
The table below shows some guidance on what different levels of forward paddling should look like.
|Points awarded||Description of Forward paddling|
|1-5||Makes progress via a number of zigzags and correction strokes, often loses control|
|6-10||Make progress with many correction strokes but regains control quickly|
|11-15||Few correction strokes, good posture and connectivity, vertical paddle strokes which catch section starting near feet|
|16-20||As above with good use of core, triceps and anterior deltoid. Few correction strokes|
|21-25||As above but with no correction strokes needed.|
The syllabus for kayaking is now either sprint or slalom. Both these kayaking disciplines require specialist equipment and in addition slalom needs access to a white water course and a coach that teaches in this event. The skills set out for kayaking are often white water skills that will require a lot of experience, practice and knowledge.
The AQA syllabus for rock climbing is not as tricky as for kayaking. There is a small section of ropework that can be assessed however assessments are now harder due to the performance elements. The list below outlines the different areas of climbing assessments and as you can see ropework only makes up one of the 5 sections.
- roped climbing, jamming and 2/3 points of contact
- Rope work
- Overhangs and mantel shelves
The syllabus only requires basic ropework such as belaying and ‘tying in’.
The technique section can be taught quickly, although climbing overhangs is only really accessible to people with prior experience or those few people that learn extremely quickly.
Unfortunately OCR don’t seem to know the difference between kayaking and canoeing and have got many moving water and flat water skills confused with each other. If you’re planning on assessing these, my advice to anyone working with this syllabus would be to just ignore the bits that don’t make sense and assess the skills that are relevant. The section below outlines the main flaws for your reference..
The bigger issues for people being assessed in OCR kayaking/canoeing is that the water sports require a element of moving water (grade 2).
Rock climbing needs to have an competitive element such as lead climbing or speed climbing. Speed climbing can be assessed and as this is now an Olympic event, many climbing walls have the ‘auto belay’ system with allows for fast and safe climbing.
The WJEC is the least well known of the examination boards. As it is a Welsh awarding body it seems to have escaped some the restrictions placed on the other boards. For example you can still do assessment in orienteering, mountain walking, skiing can be done on dry ski slopes, mountain biking is still possible as is sailing and rock climbing and kayaking.
So kayaking is still OK?
Well yes but is does seem to require a high skill level such as paddling grade three rapids or performing white water slalom turns. These are high level skills and if you have anyone that is able to do these you will not need to book them any assessment with an outdoor centre as they will have their own network of people around them who will qualified enough to give them an assessment.
What about rock climbing?
Again a high level of technique is required to perform in Band 4. If we take a close look at the Skills sections of the syllabus it states the climber should use static and dynamic climbing, change climbing style depending on the type of climb. To do these at the high level (Band 4) it states that the climber should have consistency, precision and fluency, have excellent implication of tactics and strategies and be able to adapt performance under pressure. These are hard skills that will require a huge amount of time climbing and certainly can’t be taught within a short time period such as week. People should be able to achieve band three but band four is really only accessible to people with prior experience or those people who seem naturally talented.
Orienteering is easy and so is mountain walking (but you can’t do both together). A short training course and assessment could yield a high score for orienteering. If your school does silver or gold DoE it would be very easy to use this as an assessment for mountain walking to.
Overall the assessments have got harder since 2016 but they depend on the examination board. It may still be possible to use these sports as part of your assessments.
climbing is harder but still achievable with access to many of the indoor climbing walls around. Kayaking is easier than before but would still require a good amount of training and practice.
kayaking is now very elitist and not accessible to most. It is unlikely that many outdoor centres will have the equipment or staff needed to assess this. Learners that are part of kayaking clubs will already be able to find people to run the assessment for them within the club.
Climbing is also harder but high scores are still achievable.
People will need to be taking part in these sports on a regular basis in order to perform the very top marks, but high scores are still possible in climbing.
You can still do well in orienteering or if your school does DoE you should use that as an assessment.
Kayaking and rock climbing require a high level of skill to reach the very top marks, but high level scores are still achievable by most.
So what does Bowles offer.
Find out more on GCSE courses page.
Have you thought about BTEC? We can offer training and assessments in;
- Rock climbing
About the Author – Laurence Reading is a qualified teacher who has now been working in the Outdoor Education sector for 20 years. He holds his Mountain Instructor Award (MCI) and his White Water Kayaking Performance Award (very new level 3 award). He is still an active climber and kayaker in his free time despite the recent addition to his family. Laurence has been working on the old GCSE courses for many years and through his work with both students and designing the courses that Bowles uses he has developed a high level of understanding of the requirements.