Nationally, education made the headlines with the latest Ofsted survey telling non selective schools that the most able students in them were not making enough progress from KS2 to the end of KS4 [or KS5]. Their findings found that;
Poor provision in the weaker schools visited resulted in:
fragile transfer arrangements between primary and secondary schools
students being placed in groups where the teaching did not challenge them
irregular checks on progress
a focus on students near the GCSE C/D grade borderline at the expense of more able students
a failure to prepare them well for A-level examinations.
The visits also identified common characteristics in the schools that were doing well for their most able students:
leadership that was determined to improve standards for all students
high expectations among the most able students, their families and teachers
effective transition arrangements that supported the students’ move from primary to secondary school, ensuring that the most able sustained the progress they had made and maintained the pace of their learning
early identification of the most able students so that teaching was adapted, and the curriculum tailored, to meet their needs
flexibility in the curriculum, allowing the most able students to be challenged and extended
groupings that allowed the students to be stretched from the very start of secondary school
expert teaching, supported by effective formative assessment and purposeful homework, that stimulated students’ enjoyment of the subject
effective training and cooperative practice, ensuring that teachers learnt from one another
tight checks on the progress of the most able students so that any slippage was identified early and acted on
an effective programme that encouraged and supported the most able students to apply to our most prestigious universities.
Our progress measures are currently quite pleasing for all abilities of student and our inspections showed external verification of differentiated teaching, sharing of good practice, a curriculum to support all learners and a thorough data and intervention system to prevent slippage. However, we will return to discussing strategies concerning extending and challenging all of our learners in our autumn hubs and inset. The determination to improve standards for all students is at the forefront of all adults in the school, not just the school leaders!
Of course, successful schools are much more than exam results and measures of progress-parents trust us with their children and want us to develop all round potential and nice, kind, considerate and tolerant human beings! The 2 new school bunnies, Carrot and Pie, certainly bring out the best in human nature and the care of pets is a key part of learning responsibility for many children. The school summer show, the summer sport’s programme, the training of new literacy leaders, the trip to Slovakia-all offer the opportunity to enjoy school and participate in a wide range of learning opportunities outside of the classroom. Sport’s Week and the Going for Gold trips will soon be here and students will be rewarded for their learning efforts, good behaviour and attendance over the year. It is frustrating for teachers, at times, to seemingly continue to receive criticism for not teaching well enough, having too easy exams, not working hard or long enough or having too many holidays. A regional strike on the 27th June will unfortunately be unpopular with some but I do hope that our parents and friends in the local community feel that at Meols Cop, our staff continue to go well beyond any government or Ofsted guidelines and reports to give dedicated commitment to your children.
Our summer observations of teaching are well under way and the first thing to note is that the students have been magnificent! It is the most stressful time of the year for a teacher-few enjoy formal observations-and the enthusiasm for learning, self and peer evaluations, supportive behaviour and eagerness to learn interactively from our students means a great deal to their teachers-well done! All of our teachers, except for our NQTs, are observed by a colleague and Mr Jones. The teacher provides a lesson plan with quite a lot of detail on it to show the 2 observers how they have thought about differentiating the lesson so that all of the learners can make progress and much more! The observers look for certain criteria and then a professional conversation takes place to discuss the lesson. The conversations are brilliant and give colleagues the chance to share ideas, often from a totally different subject and teaching style than their own. The first question discussed is, “which ideas do you want to pinch and use in your own lessons!” and the final one asks, “what did you learn most as a teacher from your colleague today?” Learning isn’t just for students!
The maths lessons have surprised colleagues who haven’t seen maths lesson since they were at school! The students spend much of their time talking about maths, solving problems and relating their topic to real-life situations. The ratio of chocolates given out led to a much bigger question of morality and fairness in world food distribution, challenging percentage sums enabled the students to wonder about the ethics behind the APR quick loan company offers and Blackpool’s roller coaster helped to focus on producing accurate survey questions. Literacy too, plays its role on maths, with written explanations or instructions on how to draw angles or solve simultaneous equations crucial in developing mathematical thought and thinking.
The funniest moment of the observations was realising that French animals make different noises than British ones. Cows and pigs with French equivalents of moo and oink in year 7’s rendition of Old MacDonald’s farm [in French] was marvellous. Seriously, though the use of SOLO taxonomy to provide a measure of progress that the students could understand, as well as, or instead of NC levels, has begun to permeate some of the planning, as in the French lesson. Maths used the taxonomy to help the students plot their own progress, and interestingly showed a Hattie Effect Size for each student for the half-term-this could fit nicely with next year’s flight path tracker. SOLO also helped the students to demonstrate progress with their poetry and the highest levels, do challenge the most able students. The oracy of the students and their mature answers were developed and encouraged by high level questioning in English and it was apparent to the observers that the expectations placed on the students in their written feedback and dialogue and in class was absolutely the norm and not a one-off for a lesson observation-brilliant stuff!
Business Studies showed the way that technology can now support learning with the whole lesson based on using the PCs and moodle to learn individually and collaboratively with a constant emphasis on self and peer assessment with the opportunity to go into a supportive forum system to provide feedback to each other.
Thank to everyone for their hard work and I look forward to this week’s lesson treats. We will be having more visits from others schools –[Burscough Priory [art], Siddal Moor [science] and St Michaels [different subjects] -over the next few weeks-thank you in advance for supporting colleagues elsewhere-I know that they appreciate your warm welcome and advice.