Innovative Practice - Across the board

2nd November 2012 at 00:00
Setting a 'global grade' for each pupil to boost aspiration and simplify the school's target system

The background

Headteacher Ryan Davies realised that pupils at Bishop Gore school in Swansea were not being set sufficiently aspirational target grades. Some also had to deal with up to 13 target grades across their subjects, causing confusion.

With Tracy Senchal, who was then deputy head, he devised a "global grade" system, where pupils would be given a single target grade to work towards during their time at the secondary.

The project

At the start of Year 7 all pupils are given an aspirational "global grade" towards which they are expected to work in all of their subjects. This is based on their key stage 2 teacher assessment results, information from their primary teachers and data from commercially available baseline and reading tests.

The grades can range from A-E, although most pupils are given A-C grades. There are three reporting periods each year, where progress against the grade is measured. Davies says that 90 per cent of pupils keep the same grade throughout their schooling.

The school has also placed a great deal of emphasis on involving parents and carers in the learning process. There are two review days every year where pupils and their parents agree learning targets with form tutors.

Davies says this arrangement has placed the form tutor in a key position as a "learning manager" and has strengthened relationships between the school and parents.

"The form tutors are becoming advocates for learning for their tutor group," he says. "Parents also have a better experience; they don't have to sit in the cattle market atmosphere of the school hall on parents' evenings and they no longer feel intimidated by the form tutor."

Tips from the scheme

Data from baseline tests are essential to gain the best picture of each pupil's abilities when they start in Year 7, says Davies. Bishop Gore uses MidYIS (the Middle Years Information System).

Explain the global grade clearly to pupils and their parents. It must be aspirational and contain a significant amount of challenge.

Use form tutors as learning mentors. They must be prepared to have detailed and robust discussions with parents about their child's progress.

Evidence that it works?

There has been a dramatic improvement in GCSE results at Bishop Gore in the past five years, which Davies attributes to the global grade scheme. In 2008 only 26 per cent of pupils gained the level 2 threshold (five GCSEs at grades A*-C or equivalent, including maths and English) but this year that has risen to 62 per cent.

The school has been highlighted by the Welsh government as an example of best practice.

THE PROJECT

Approach: Setting a "global grade" target for each pupil

Started: 2008

Leaders: Headteacher Ryan Davies and former deputy head Tracy Senchal

THE SCHOOL

Name: Bishop Gore

Location: Swansea

Pupils: 1,200

Age range: 11-18

Intake: Pupils come from all over Swansea, including some of the most deprived and most affluent areas of the city. More than a quarter are entitled to free school meals - significantly higher than the Welsh average of 16 per cent - and 20 per cent are from a minority ethnic or mixed-race background.

Estyn overall rating: Excellent (2010).

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