What do we do with a problem called Year 9? – A focus on the role of Key Stage 3

OFSTED and curriculum breadth and balance in Key Stage 3 that includes Year 9.

OFSTED see Key Stage 3 as a vital and stand-alone stage that should allow pupils access to a wide and varied curriculum that deepens their knowledge and sharpens their skills so that they are fully prepared for the rigour of GCSE.  The message is clear GCSEs are designed as two-year programmes of study and Key Stage 3 should not be truncated without very good reason.

Amanda Spielman in her recent speech to the Church of England Foundation for Educational Leadership was unequivocal in her condemnation of what she sees as poor practice, she said,

Particular poor practice includes,

“the widespread shortening of key stage 3 to 2 years, when this means that many pupils lose a whole year of study of the humanities, of languages and of the arts.”

She goes on to clarify her point by saying,

“I cannot reiterate it enough: exam performance and league tables should be a reflection of what children have learned. Tests exist in service of the curriculum. Curriculum should be designed to give children the best pathway to the future, not to make the school look good.”

So, the questions are,

  • how should Key Stage 3 be planned in order that pupils build on prior learning, access learning in a variety of subjects and become unconsciously competent in their use of the skills they need for future learning, life and work?
  • how can the Key Stage 3 curriculum embrace some of the content of GCSE subjects so that pupils have a foundation that they can take with them into Key Stage 4 and beyond and that motivates them to want to continue to learn?

OFSTED’s message, clearly articulated by Amanda Spielman in several of her recent speeches and publications is that they are not telling schools how to plan their curriculum of the size of their key stages they are saying that there must be good reasons for the decisions made that can be justified in the interest of the pupil and not just in terms of achieving better Progress 8 scores that reflect how successful the school is in relation to other schools across the country.

The conclusion one can draw is that year 9 does need to be planned as part of Key Stage 3. If this is done well pupils will build on their prior learning from Key Stage 2 in year 7 and 8, have access to a wide curriculum offer and develop the knowledge and skills that will be a springboard for high achievement at Key Stage 4 and beyond.

Year 9 could be seen as a bridging year, the transition year from Key Stage 3 to 4.  A year when pupils begin to develop an understanding of how their learning will be assessed at GCSE and what skills they need to develop in order to achieve their full potential.  It could also be the year when there are planned cross curricular themes that are linked to GCSE content but allow pupils to develop skills in enquiry, creativity, problem solving and analysis as well as debating, presentation and report writing.

This approach could tick all the boxes; GCSE content is seen as difficult to cover in the time so a carefully crafted year 9 scheme of work could take some of the strain.  OFSTED want to see year 9 as part of Key Stage 3 and not an extension of GCSE study. This approach allows pupils to access GCSE themes but learn about them in a different way and develop a range of cross curricular skills that will stand them in good stead across all of their GCSEs both core and options.

Join us for our extremely popular and well received training course

How Important is Key Stage 3 in Your School?

We explore how to plan an effective Key Stage 3 curriculum offer that is rich in knowledge, builds the vital skills pupils need for Key Stage 4 and beyond and ensures that some of the content within GCSE subjects has been taught and absorbed by the end of Key Stage 3 ensure a positive springboard for future study.

Primary to Secondary Transition – Create a seamless curriculum, positive partnerships and powerful progression

Research suggests that pupil performance as a result of primary to secondary transition can dip by as much as 39%.  There are many reasons why this might be so, some are unavoidable as pupils move from the relatively calm and comfortable primary classroom to the less pupil centred secondary school.  There are, however, many things a secondary school can do to turn this dip around.

OFSTED remain critical of the lack of communication they detect at times of primary to secondary transition.  The new primary curriculum is now well embedded and the content is considerably more in-depth than previously. For instance, in Maths pupils are now learning in year 4 what they used to learn in year 6.  The perception from the inspectorate and other stakeholder bodies is that secondary teachers are not aware of the standards and quality of work that is being produced particularly by pupils in years 5 and 6.  Secondary schools need a strategy through cross phase primary to secondary transition partnerships that ensure higher levels of interaction through such interventions as the sharing of schemes of work, an opportunity to dovetail programmes of study and time to observe and reflect on learning.

Secondary teachers should look closely at the SATs tests to see what the pupils they will be teaching are expected to be able to achieve in the last term of year 6.  The scores from these tests will determine the accountability measures by which secondary schools will be judged over the five years until the next testing regime of GCSE.  The data is new and the method by which the data is gathered and collated is new.  Many secondary headteachers say that there is a lack of granularity in the new data which makes it difficult to make judgements on prior achievement. Many see the new data used as part of primary to secondary transition as a barrier to successful academic transition.

Relying on the quantitative data at times of primary to secondary transition is a mistake if it is not backed up by qualitative data and information.  This can only come from clearly defined communication strategies that allow for schools across the bridge to collaborate and share what pupils have learnt, how the learning has been assessed and what the gaps are in individual pupil’s learning by the end of year 6.  This requires an investment by both phases such as, creating teacher time to share, moderate and observe, cross – phase CPD and an opportunity to build co-written schemes of work that deliver seamless learning from KS2 to 3.

Secondary schools need answers to questions such as “what does good progress look like from year 6 to year 9?” “What do the scaled scores at KS2 mean in relation to progress at KS3?” “How do we build on prior learning in a positive way so that pupils see that they are involved in deepening and extending their learning?”

We have designed as a result of in-depth sector led research a powerful training course Crossing the Bridge – Seamless Transition from KS2 to 3 that focuses on these issues and will provide solutions and resources to support highly successful evidence based strategies at times of primary to secondary transition that deliver answers, motivated pupils and a high chance of successful outcomes for pupils at the end of KS4. You may also like to have a look at a recent blog post, The Spotlight is on KS3 which highlights the issues that OFSTED see as still lacking in secondary school planning for KS3.

Character Education – Part of the tapestry of learning

Character Education is the subject of one of the reports to come out of the DfE this summer. It is a review of some research into Character Education in Schools. The research poses several questions linked to provision, the role of schools in teaching character, the approaches schools use and the challenges schools face.

Rising Stars provide a very good overview of the findings of the report in their document, DFE Publishes Character Education Report. 

Is it necessary to have a separate curriculum pathway called Character Education?

What is education if it is not a part of shaping the individual to be honest, have integrity and a respect for others?  All learning should stimulate curiosity and allow for problem solving that creates resilient and motivated learners. There are so many opportunities within the curriculum for learners to debate, focus on moral dilemma, learn self-respect and deepen their sense of fairness in order that they can contribute to society.

Subject specific learning is stuffed full of opportunities for pupils to develop their individual and unique characters.  English Literature or History allows us to analyse different characters and their influence on people, time and place. Maths and Science give us an awesome look at how the world is shaped and the part we can play in enjoying it, inventing it or using it.  Design, art music or drama provide us with a wealth of opportunities for creativity, expression and individuality. PE and sport develop the bodies and minds of learners and teach them how to win and lose, how to embrace competitiveness and how to be a team player.  Both the primary and secondary curriculum have the breadth and depth to encompass character education.

Most of the curriculum is currently taught in chunks, where the learning is not an interwoven tapestry that develops the whole person.  There are so many opportunities for pupils to develop a whole range of skills that will ensure they become independent and resilient, open to ideas and full of the possibilities that learning can bring.  School, especially upper primary and secondary stages often provides pupils with the facts and information they need to pass tests and examinations.  There is no other stage in their lives where they will learn in such small bite size segments that appear to be unconnected.

We don’t need an addition to the curriculum; we need to look at how we can shape the curriculum so that it builds character that will last a lifetime.

 

 

 

Coaching delivers cost effective and sustainable CPD

Coaching delivers cost effective and sustainable CPD

CPD is an essential ingredient in creating an outstanding school. The current budgetary constraints are putting a strain on school leaders. CPD in some schools can be something that suffers.  “Limiting the professional development of staff in a school could do “terrible damage”  in the long run” according to David Weston of the Teacher Development Trust in the TES for Friday 3rd March.

Developing a coaching culture is one of the most effective ways of making sure a small budget can have a significant impact on school improvement. CPD needs to be carefully structured. It must be linked to the school vision and improvement plan. Developing a coaching model will provide the impetus for high quality professional dialogue. Coaching allows for a shared understanding of what the school is trying to achieve and how each individual can play their part.

The Learning Cultures’ coaching offer focuses on building a coaching culture in school. Click here to view all our coaching training courses. It is proven to have a significant impact on learning and achievement. The training we deliver is built on well-respected research and is designed so that the learning can be taken back into school and cascaded to others. In this way it is uniquely cost effective and meets the Standard for teachers’ professional development announced by the Department of Education in the summer of 2016.

The coaching courses we offer encompass the needs of all staff from leaders and managers, to teachers and support staff.  Click here to have a look at what we offer.  Our fourth annual coaching conference is being held at Woburn Abbey on Thursday 29th June.  To book your place and find out more click here.  For those who want to build on their learning from the conference we are running our Leading a Coaching School training course the day after the conference on Friday 30th June so that senior leadership teams can begin to plan their strategy.

Go to the case studies page on our website where the Featherstone High School study has recently been updated.  Emma Harvey at Featherstone continues to steer the school’s coaching model. This is now an integral part of the CPD programme for the school. Consequently, coaching plays a significant part in the school’s continuing outstanding success.  We are gathering evidence from many of the schools we work with of the power of coaching to manage change, build highly effective teams and deliver outstanding teaching and learning

Telephone us on 01746 765076 Email us at info@learningcultures.org ask for Glynis or Alison.