Economics is a social science that studies how individuals, governments, firms and nations make choices on allocating scarce resources to satisfy unlimited wants.
The fundamental aims of the Economics department focus on instilling within pupils a real enthusiasm for and engagement with the subject, equipping them with the necessary skills to succeed in the world of work with the attributes necessary to be successful in their chosen career. The department aspiration is that students that study Economics at Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School will be financially perceptive, logical and ambitious members of society.
Our KS4 curriculum intent is guided by the exam board specification and primarily enables pupils to become better-informed and more responsible citizens, allowing them to become more confident in current and future economic choices they make relating to their everyday lives and work. By the end of KS4 pupils are expected to be able to:
Explain economic problems and possible solutions in a clear and concise way.
Think as economists by developing a logical approach to thinking and reasoning.
Evaluate economic problems and possible solutions.
Use economic data from a range of sources to support justified judgements.
At KS5 the curriculum intent is once again guided by the exam board specification and aims to further develop on the skills and knowledge acquired at KS4. The Edexcel Economics A specification was chosen for its pure Economics focus which provides the breadth of content and rigour necessary to enthuse, challenge and engage the pupils at this high performing selective grammar school. Pupils acquire the knowledge, skills and understanding needed to progress to undergraduate study at a higher education establishment, particularly degrees in economics with a focus on theory, or degrees in applied economics such as environmental economics, labour economics, public sector economics or monetary economics.
By the end of KS5 pupils are expected to be able to:
Demonstrate an interest in, and enthusiasm for, the subject by independently keeping up to date with real-life examples and current affairs.
Demonstrate an awareness of current economic events and policies.
Appreciate the contribution of economics to the understanding of the wider economic and social environment.
Confidently use their quantitative skills to interpret and utilise numerical data to support analytical points.
Apply knowledge and understanding of economic concepts and models to both familiar and unfamiliar contexts.
Develop an understanding of a range of concepts and an ability to use those concepts in a variety of different contexts.
Demonstrate strong and effective analytical skills.
Use an enquiring, critical and thoughtful approach to the study of economics and develop an ability to think as an economist and make contextual justified judgements.
Recognise and understand that economic behaviour can be studied from a range of perspectives.
The study of Economics at both GCSE and A ‘level can be broken down into microeconomics and macroeconomics. Microeconomics analyses the market behaviour and interaction of individuals and firms in order to understand their decision-making and choice of resource allocation. Macroeconomics is concerned with the behaviour and performance of an economy as a whole. It focuses on the aggregate changes in the economy and focuses also on the interdependence between economies in terms of trading patterns. The approach taken in implementing the Economics curriculum takes into consideration the need for students to be able to distinguish between microeconomic and macroeconomic concepts but equally, especially at A Level with the synoptic focus, allow students to explore and make connections between micro and macro topics.
Key Stage 4
Pupils choose their GCSE options in January of Year 9 and commence their GCSE course during term 6 of Year 9. Students follow the OCR GCSE in Economics, there are only two exam boards available for GCSE Economics. We offer OCR as we feel that the assessment is better suited to the strengths of our students. Both OCR papers award 25% of the 80 marks available through multiple choice questions, which our students find accessible, whereas only 12.5% of marks on the AQA papers come from multiple choice questions. Additionally, students find the skill of evaluation quite tricky at GCSE, the OCR specification addresses this by having only 3 specific evaluation questions on each paper which are the same number of marks and are assessed in the same way, whereas AQA have two styles of evaluation questions one worth 9 marks and the other 15 marks. The highest number of marks for a question is 6 for OCR but 15 marks for AQA, additionally the level of contextual data provided by AQA seems too much for students to be able to absorb in a 90 minute paper compared to OCR.
The teaching of the GCSE course is structured so that pupils are firstly introduced to Microeconomic concepts during term 6 of year 9 and throughout the course of year 10. Pupils are then taught the macroeconomic topics throughout year 11. Pupils have 4 lessons a fortnight and are taught by one teacher, although in some cases the teacher will change between year 10 and year 11. The microeconomics unit 1 is taught first at GCSE as it provides students with a grounding in the nature of economics, the basic economic problem and supply & demand, this then allows students to embed these concepts into their long-term memory as topics taught in unit 2, such as government policy decisions and policies used to correct market failure can be linked back to these initial concepts.
Regional Specialisation, Country Specialisation, Law of Demand, Law of Supply, Price Determination, Price Functions, Price Elasticity of Demand, Price Elasticity of Supply, Competitive Markets, Monopoly, Monopoly Power, Oligopoly, The role of the Competition & Markets Authority, Production & Productivity, Costs, Revenue & Profit, Internal & External Economies of Scale, Diseconomies of Scale, Business Growth, Gross & Net Pay, Labour Markets & Wage Determination, The role of money as a medium of exchange, Interest Rates, Role & importance of financial markets.
Economic Growth, Unemployment, Income distribution, Price Stability, Fiscal Policy, Monetary Policy, Supply-side Policies, Market failure & Externalities, International Trade, Balance of Payments, Exchange Rates, Globalisation.
Key Stage 5
Many students that opt to study A ‘Level Economics have already studied GCSE Economics, however there are always a small number of students who have no prior knowledge of basic economic concepts and the course is always delivered in a way that makes it accessible and challenging for all students. At SJWMS we offer the Edexcel Economics A Specification; the main reason for this is related to the assessment. Edexcel assesses the skills of analysis and evaluation separately, therefore students who struggle with evaluation can still score highly on questions that require this skill to be demonstrated as poor evaluation does not affect the mark awarded for the quality of their KAA. In addition, students find market failure diagrams difficult, Edexcel’s specification means that students only have to be able to draw positive and negative externalities of consumption diagrams not both production and consumption; although production externalities diagrams are taught to the more able students. We also prefer the Edexcel specification as it places more emphasis on Development Economics than some of the other boards, particularly AQA, which is the closest rival. Development Economics is an important aspect of the subject for students to be aware of, particularly from an SMSCD perspective and also because Development Economics isn’t really covered in the GCSE specification.
Throughout year 12, pupils have 10 lessons which are usually split equally between their two teachers. Students study microeconomics in the form of theme 1; The Introduction to markets and market failure. The UK Economy – performance and policies is the theme 2 macroeconomics content and is taught in parallel to theme 1 during the course of year 12; students have one teacher for each theme which helps to avoid confusion. Year 13 pupils also have 10 contact lessons over a fortnight which are shared equally between two teachers. Pupils study theme 4, A global perspective for the macroeconomics element of the course and the microeconomics theme 3 element is Business behaviour and the labour market, both themes are again taught in parallel. The course is delivered in parallel as it enables students to make links between micro and macro concepts, this is particularly important for the synoptic nature of paper 3 where students must be able to analyse and evaluate the microeconomic and macroeconomic implications of policy decisions or market changes.
Sizes & Types of Firms, Business growth, Demergers, Business objectives, Revenue curves, cost curves, Normal & supernormal profits & losses, Efficiencies, Monopoly, Oligopoly, Monopolistic Competition, Perfect Competition, Monopsony, Contestability, Demand for Labour, Supply of labour, Wage Determination, Government intervention. Globalisation & Trade, Specialisation & Comparative Advantage, Protectionism, Trade Patterns, Terms of Trade, Economic Integration & Trading Blocs, Balance of payments, Exchange Rates, International Competitiveness, Poverty, Income & Wealth inequality, Measures of Development, Factors influencing growth & development, Strategies influencing growth & development, The financial sector, Role of the state in the macroeconomy.
A prescribed model of teaching has been implemented in KS4, mainly because historically it has been taught by non-specialists. Centrally created departmental resources are used across all teaching sets; each lesson at KS4 has been intricately planned and designed to ensure that all students receive a consistent diet irrelevant of teacher allocation. All lessons across KS4 and KS5 are planned to provide students with the opportunity to practise the skills of application, analysis and evaluation and go beyond merely recounting basic knowledge. At KS5 teachers plan their own lessons closely designed around the scheme of work for each theme of the specification, this allows teachers to enhance their own subject knowledge and make use of their own skills and abilities in their lesson planning. These resources incorporate real-life examples and use of numerical data, thus enabling students to build up a portfolio of appropriate examples that can be used to demonstrate contextual understanding in their examination answers. Teachers within the department are aware of which students in their classes are designed SEND. Seating plans are designed to account for the needs of the SEND pupils with pupils generally being seated near the front of the class/at ends of tables to allow teachers to easily and discreetly check in on these pupils during the course of a lesson. Teachers ensure that the required provisions as per the SEN register are put in place to ensure that teaching is adapted, where necessary, to ensure that SEND students are able to access the curriculum and make progress in line with their peers in their Economics lessons. Some SEN pupils are able to work electronically on their chromebooks during lessons, lesson materials are pre-loaded to the google classroom to ensure SEND students have access to the resources throughout the lesson. All students in KS4, including SEND pupils have an individual copy of the OCR endorsed textbook, although no textbook is provided by the school for KS5 students, there are a number of online resources that the students are directed towards for independent study. Teachers use their own professional judgement to set suitably challenging homework that either engages pupils in retrieval practice, builds on & reinforces lesson content covered or introduces new concepts to pupils.
Retrieval practice is embedded within the departmental schemes of work and forms the basis of the departmental approach to Literacy in relation to the remembering of key subject specific terminology . Links are consciously made between current and previous topics and concepts are deliberately revisited to ensure that students are able to recall previous topics to ensure learning has taken place. Starter activities are often based on previous knowledge or concept recall, this is in addition to new topics often being introduced to students and students then being asked to obviously consider and think about how it relates to a previous topics studied. Teachers within the department pay particular attention to verbal contributions made by students where key ideas or links are omitted from an answer and teachers will routinely and frequently prompt students to make reference to the key concept, encouraging students to develop their oracy skills. The repetition of these key concepts and the links made are heard by the whole class and this helps to reinforce the importance of making links and enables students to build schemas and retain and store the information in their long term memory. In KS4, low stakes google quizzes are frequently used in lessons as starters or plenaries or set as homework to encourage the recall of concepts as part of student revision and to maximise retention of crucial concepts in their long-term memory. The quizzes are designed to incorporate a variety of topics, incorporating interleaved practice; this encourages students to switch between ideas as they learn, enabling them to make links between topics and concepts more readily. The pure nature of Economics means that key terms and concepts are regularly revisited and the deliberate interleaving of topics ensures this takes place on a regular basis. This, combined with the retrieval practice exercises that take place each lesson ensure that SEND students are able to learn and retain the key information more easily.
Literacy is an important skill within the Economics curriculum, our approach to teaching students how to remember key terminology is focused around retrieval practice as outlined above but we also teach students how to write fluent and convincing arguments in context of a given scenario as well as teach them how to demonstrate evaluative skills in their writing. Across KS4 and KS5, we teach students to develop 3 stage chains of reasoning by incorporating BLT statements, which reminds them to use connective words such as because, leads to and therefore to join their points together to demonstrate the skills of analysis. Students are also taught to use AJIM as part of their evaluation, which stands for “answer the question, justified judgement, it depends on and most importantly”. Students are familiar with these concepts and use them to build their written arguments. In addition to this, we also teach literacy by using model answers or example answers in lessons and students are asked to identify errors and suggest improvements that could be made with justification.
All students across all year groups sit centrally created common assessments which are sat under examination conditions at regular intervals throughout the course, in line with the school assessment policy. The Assessments are designed to mirror the examination requirements and are marked in-line with these requirements and exam board expectations. Pupils with SEND have their needs met effectively; extra time and other required provisions are accounted for by members of staff within the department. Pupils receive detailed feedback on their assessment performance with extensive ebi comments for improvement being provided by teachers in line with the school assessment policy. Extension tasks are also sometimes provided to ensure that pupils are able to embed key concepts and apply them fluently to their long-term memory but also engage with topics in different contexts. Mock examinations are also sat by all year groups and the results of these assessments are used to help identify areas of focus for students in terms of next steps and to plan support and required intervention at crucial stages.
The extra-curricular offer within the Economics department is currently fairly limited due to historical staffing difficulties and Covid-19. A second in department was recruited and started in September 2019 and his responsibility will continue to be focused on increasing our departmental extra-curricular offer. In July 2017, year 12 visited the Bank of England, November 2016 we hosted an IEA Economics conference here at the school which was attended by year 12 and year 13 students. During the academic year 2020-2021, we also hosted two conferences/talks for our sixth-form Economics students both held virtually, one was delivered by the IEA in March and the other involved a talk from an Economics Researcher at the Bank of England in July. Each year, students in year 12 and year 13 have the opportunity to participate in the Student Investor Competition and before the competition ended two years ago, we had several cohorts of year 12 students participate in the Target 2.0 Bank of England Competition.
The impact of the curriculum can be seen through the outstanding examination results that our students achieve at GCSE and particularly A ‘Level. These results are clear evidence of the challenge and level of expectation provided by teachers within the department on a daily basis.
Students develop a strong foundation in Economics and their learning sparks a desire for them to continue their learning and enable them to access the next steps in their education and future. The retention rate between GCSE and A ‘Level is high and the number of students from Sir Joseph Williamson Mathematical school choosing to study Economics at undergraduate level is extremely high. Many students that do not go on to higher education at university often take on apprenticeships in areas closely linked to the study of Economics, for example Accountancy.
Our students enjoy Economics, as evidenced by their exemplary behaviour and engagement in lessons, the written work in their books, responses to assessed work and their responses to student surveys each year. Parents often make reference to how much their child is fascinated by the topics that he/she studies in Economics and that they will often come home and actually talk about what they have learnt in lessons. Parents often suggest that their child teaches them about economic concepts that they were not aware of or knowledgeable about; this is a great testament to the teachers in the department and the way that their energy and commitment demonstrated on a daily basis enables them to inspire and enthuse their pupils. Pupils develop a sound foundation in skills that are applicable across a range of subjects; ability to analyse, make justified judgements, being critical of evidence. Our students demonstrate these skills by performing well in other subjects, SEND pupils are not disadvantaged and achieve at least in line with their peers.
Students develop a wide understanding of many SMSCD issues throughout the topics studied at both KS4 and KS5 thus equipping pupils with the knowledge and cultural capital they need to succeed in later life.
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