Saturday, 11 May 2013

Things we've done to help year 11

This post is nothing to do with managing variability other than these are actions that have been taken across the department during the past year or so, and as such are shared core practice within our team... I just wanted to record all of the things we've done with our current year 11 that have contributed to a substantial improvement in results this year.

Some may seem obvious, others less so, but all have made a contribution.

1) Establish a progress measure and make it visible to staff and students
We started mock exams with full papers early in the academic year, assigning grades and sharing them with the students and staff. We then did these regularly throughout the year, progressing through different past papers. Early scores were low due to bits of missing content, but we could also identify gaps in knowledge of content we had already covered. All mocks were accompanied by formative feedback & self assessment as discussed in my earlier post. this is in addition to feedback given on book work, which is also a subject of an earlier post.

Tracking this data centrally made the department staff aware of where work was required with particular students. You can see the progress made at a headline level during the year below, but the data was held at an individual student and class level. We could cut it to look specifically at SEN, FSM or other raise groups as well as general progress:
(You may be thinking that these results don't look that impressive?
Yes I know we're still below the target line, but we've not finished the year yet! - we've got more students within reach of a C taking exams in June - this should close the gap and take us up to, and hopefully even past the target line - I'm also keen to point out that it's not all about C grades either - we had a target of just 2 A* grades this year but have already recorded 10 so far.

I'll agree that we're not yet posting results at a level that would put us at the top of league tables, however the school has been posting results in the mid 60% range for the last 6 years, with similar target levels to this year! Therefore to take a step into the mid-high 70%, or even 80% range by the time the summer results are in will be a big improvement, and the best the school has ever delivered.)

We had actually done this regular mock process with this year group during year 10 in preparation for their earlier unit exams, so they were used to the idea of seeing progress their develop during the year.

As well as nicely sloping graphs we posted visual summaries of individual student performance vs target grades in classrooms and talked about a path to improvement. Note that because some students were concerned about publicly displaying low targets or low grades we didn't talk about actual grades, just position vs their personal target via colour coding. This is an example of what they look like:
By keeping these sheets visible in every classroom and doing the regular mocks we were emphasising that the important thing to see during the year is progress towards targets, not necessarily step changes to target. Students were always keen to see how their colours developed as the mocks progressed.

I acknowledge it's not neat & tidy and doesn't show a flawless progression from red to green/blue, but real data often isn't. However it is clear for the students to see the progress they and their peers have made during the year, which is substantial.

2) Carefully targeted revision support
Where groups of students share a common need in terms of revision then we re-grouped them to maximise focus on these areas of weakness - this happened within classes as part of differentiation and also across classes where students were grouped with a particular teacher for a short time according to need.

We also selected some students for 1:1 withdrawal during lessons (including selected extraction from other subjects for those most in need), and also selected some for short 1:1 sessions during morning registration.

3) Be clear about what is required to reach or exceed targets
We used analysis of past grade boundaries and conversions to recommend minimum marks required to achieve both their target grade and the grade above. The students responded really well to knowing that they needed a particular score, and again this helped them to judge progress in mocks. e.g. if Johnny needed at least 55 for an overall grade B, and scored 34 then 45 in successive mocks he could see progression towards his personal target in a clearer way than two grade Cs would have.

4) Parental involvement
I've already mentioned parental involvement in homeworks in an earlier post, and this did help to push the visibility of maths as a subject at home and in class.

Communications home in addition to the homework information included notification of after school and half term/holiday revision sessions, early details of exam dates and expected equipment.

Ahead of exams revision packs of questions were sent home with students, but the answers were e-mailed to parents to help the parents help the students.

Parents have been really positive about the level and types of information that has been sent home.

5) Maximise access to revision materials
We offered revision guides and revision DVDs for sale at a reduced cost via the school at various points during the year. Approximately 65% of the year took us up on this. We also regularly shared revision website information with the students.

6)  Use a range of revision lessons
This is still under more development as we think of and find more ideas (and will be the subject of a further more detailed post), but once we get to revision time it is important to give students a varied diet of activities. Things we've used are:

Is this just teaching to the test?
No, it's not all about teaching to the test. However there comes a time when we have to seek to maximise the results that the students can deliver. In the long term it is both in their interest and in the interest of the school. 

Anything else?
In amongst this were other actions such as selected re-takes and some students changing from modular to linear exams, but with the changes to the exam structure in England this will not be possible in future years so it's not really worth discussing in detail.

What about next year and the switch to linear exams?
Our approach is intended to be very similar. We have already started using full GCSE papers with our current year 10 and will use the same tools for sharing the data to show progress through the year. Early indication suggests we're starting in a similar place on the curve as for the current year 11 We might selectively enter some in November if we think they will benefit from it, but we'll hold off if there is a chance that it means they might not achieve to their full potential in the end.

Any thoughts?
I'm keen to know if you've done anything similar, or different that has a beneficial effect to your students. Any suggestions for revision lessons? How are you managing the change to the linear specification?

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