GCSEs: 5 ways interventions can actually help pupils

Interventions can help pupils with poor mock exam results, so ensuring you know how to use them correctly is vital

Shauib Khan

Coronavirus: How to support teacher wellbeing when schools reopen

As GCSE and A-level mock exams and PPE season leaves us there will be some students that, unfortunately, have not quite achieved as well as we’d hoped. 

The buzzword that permeates into every classroom and agenda thereafter is "intervention".

Read more: 3 tips to get GCSE students studying independently

From the magazine: How improv can dramatically improve your lessons

Listen: What is the best way to revise for GCSEs and A levels?

Intervention at its very basic premise means some sort of teacher action to facilitate better student outcome, but it’s something of a "fuzzy" word too that changes meaning between teachers and schools.

With such ambiguity comes misconceptions on exactly how we "intervene" to help our students.

Addressing this so we can overcome them and provide genuinely beneficial "interventions" is key to ensure that when the real GCSEs and A-levels roll around, pupils have the best chance of success.

1. ‪Intervention isn’t re-teaching  

If the content has been taught previously, recapping and retrieval are far better alternatives to reteaching. 

We should be intervening to teach students key examination skills rather than going over old content. 

It’s often the case that students have content stored in their long-term memory but haven’t got the exam and processing skills to access it. This is where we intervene.

2. Intervention doesn’t have to be passive

Revision isn’t a one-size-fits-all strategy so neither should intervention. Teachers can be creative and funky with intervention. 

Remember, as the core learning is still taking place in class, your interventions can be an extension of classwork as well as a way to try something new. 

Speaking from personal experience, my intervention classes would be attended knowing we would be doing something novel and creative. Jenga, Twister, Rubik’s cubes – intervention has endless possibilities.

3. Intervention shouldn’t replace revision 

We should continue to encourage our students to revise in their own time, find methods that work for them and see intervention as an extension of their learning. 

So many times I’ve seen students rely on after school revision sessions as their main revision. 

Intervention is about polishing up skills, it is not some magic formula for students. We should always promote independence among our students as once they are sat in that exam hall, we lose all control. The onus needs to be on students also.

4. Intervention must start in September

As soon as the course starts and you have all your class data, you should be pinpointing target groups, forming plans to make the curriculum accessible to all students and be ready to intervene. 

Waiting until the last three months of Year 11 after a student has been consistently underachieving for 18 months is bad practice. 

Get in there early, evidence the intervention you’ve put in place and give those students every chance of succeeding. 

5. Intervention isn’t for everyone 

I remember doing an "essay writing masterclass" session with my weaker students where several very capable students also attended. 

The latter group could write essays in their sleep, so did they need to be there? Did I need to insist on their attendance? 

With students that are achieving well, intervention needs to be differentiated for them. Possibly more exam questions or timed writing. But also, for some students, intervention just isn’t for them.

Sometimes not intervening or limited intervention is enough intervention.

Shuaib Khan is a teacher of humanities based in Cambridgeshire

Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

Latest stories