If you have been following my posts on Linkedin, Twitter or you follow my blog you would have noticed that I have been posting ideas on how to stretch the most able students within your classes. If you do enough research you will know that before I became Head of Department I was a Gifted & Talented coordinator for a number of years. This gave me a great insight and knowledge into how Gifted & Talented (now Mable) students think and perform within schools. With this experience in mind I knew that at my present school, like the majority of schools around the country, we needed to address the lack A & A*grades that our top students achieve. I put together a proposal for tackling this situation which focuses on taking what enables independent/selective schools to become successful at this and transfer these elements to our school.
This plan/project is entitled “The Penrice Experience” it aims to give students an insight into what is possible after they leave school and why their GCSE’s are so important and not just a stepping stone to A-levels.
The main aims and objectives for this project are as follows
- To raise aspirations of students.
- To improve the attainment levels of our most able students.
- Offer students opportunities to generate their own learning.
We have decided to have a 3 pronged approach with this project, focusing on the student experience outside of the classroom, the approach to teaching students as well as Literacy across the curriculum.
We focused on 3 avenues of experiences to help raise the aspirations of the students:
Cultural: Experiences such as The Theater, Artwork, Musical events, Museums.
Careers & University options: Experience what University is like, what the requirements are to get in and what support is available.
Master classes from professionals: Gaining new skills and experiences from people who are established in their profession.
With regards to the teaching of students we came up with these initiatives when teaching top sets within the school:
- Teach to the top and differentiate downwards as apposed from the middle.
- Set homework as flipped learning to extend the students’ knowledge beyond the curriculum.
- Offer open ended tasks.
- Challenge students through problem solving activities that stretch and challenge.
All of this is underpinned by our approach to Literacy which is driven across the curriculum. The initiatives we set up for this element of the project are as follows:
- Challenging half termly literacy tasks for identified students.
- Year 6 group visits to the school on a termly basis to take part in activities.
- Visits to primaries to aid in raising reading ages.
- Extended reading lists provided for each subject to stretch the most able students.
One of the first challenges that had to be met was the identification of the students who we deemed where to be classed as “the most able”. Like the many schools we use SISRA and SIM’s as our data analysis system. When we looked at who was classed as Upper/Higher on SISRA which based on the students KS2 SATS results it was found that around half of students in a year group fell into this category. This was not an ideal situation as we wanted to focus on smaller number of students in the first instance as we were effectively restarting the whole most able initiative from scratch and needed to scale this down the student cohort until we could establish what effectively works and has a significant impact before targeting a bigger cohort.
As a starting point I narrowed this group of students down by using the “fine Average Point Score (APS)” of 33 and above. This produced a student cohort of around 50 students per year group. The data analysis of this group produced some interesting as well as concerning information such as how many levels of progress the students were actually making across all the students subjects. I created a report that looked at the following sections/criteria:
- Total Grades
- A*-C Count
- Capped 8 +EM
- YR11 PS1 OTTG Capped 8 +EM
- Quals <3LOP
- YR11 PS1 OTTG Quals <3lop
- Quals >= 3 LOP
- YR11 PS1 OTTG Quals >= 3 LOP
- Avg LOP
- Progress 8 CG
- Progress 8 OTTG
- Capped8+EM VA
- YR11 PS1 OTTG Capped8+EM VA
- Avg Grade
- YR11 PS1 OTTG Avg Grade
- 5 A*-C inc. EM
There is a lot of information but it does provide a clear overview of where a student is at that moment in time and this information has been incredibly helpful to all staff but specifically Heads of Year, Heads of Department and Senior leaders. As mentioned this information has been sent to all staff to allow them to familiarise themselves with these students and aid them when planning their lessons and schemes of work. We are shortly going to be having another data drop where I will be able to ascertain if anything of what we have put in place so far has had an impact on our students from a data point of view. As I am sure you will agree, we will not know the full extent of the impact this project/initiative will have until students collect their GCSE’s and we compare them to previous years with similar demographics.
For those of you who work in education I would really like to know if any of the above is standard in your school or goes against everything you do.