Improving the progress of more able students

One of the priority areas we have as a school is ensuring that our most able learners make progress in line with their targets. These are the students that are described as High Ability on entry to secondary school. Currently these students don’t make as much progress as students in the Middle or Lower ability bands. When we look at the number of students that are High Ability, they are increasing in every year group from y11 to Y7.

As a school with a proud list of alumni that have gone onto achieve great careers our key questions was ‘How can we ensure that all students meet their potential’. A closer look at the data highlighted that this action research area crossed over with the others – the most likely High Ability students to underperform are male, pupil premium students.

Again this is not an issue specific to our school and there is a lot of current research into why some High Ability students fail to make the same progress as others. A report by the School Mobility and Child Poverty Commission in 2015 identified a ‘glass floor’ in British society, less able, better off students are 35% more likely to become high earners than bright students from low income families. Again, the key question for us is how can we ensure that all students meet their potential – regardless of their background.

We wanted to make sure that as a school we were providing enough challenge, that we weren’t teaching to the middle and that we hadn’t underestimated what our students could achieve.

The research leads for this area are James Perry (Deputy head of Sixth Form) and Nina Elliott ( head of Languages).

What makes a difference?

  • Language: Increase the use and application of subject specialist language.
  • Questioning: Increase the use of differentiated questioning, higher order thinking and oracy within the classroom.
  • Modelling and Feedback: to ensure all students know what excellence looks like. Provide opportunities to make their work excellent. Students consistently responding to clear and transparent feedback.
  • Challenge: Increase expectation for more able students at all levels. Develop Lead Learners in the classroom. Flipped learning – no note taking in post 16 lessons!
  • Teach to the Top – Use department time to plan and create challenging resources together such as “impossible questions’.
  • Build challenge into day to day routines – support more able students to develop self-regulation and use their talents.
  • Competition and motivation – many high ability students want to beat their rivals.
  • Aspiration – students who know what they need to achieve are more motivated.
  • Language and communication in the classroom – using higher level language consistently encourages students to do the same.
  • Peer challenges – they are often tougher on each other than the teachers!

One of the key – mantras that come out of the action research was ‘Take away the spoon‘.

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