Schoolzone blog: Do we do enough for our able students?

Do we do enough for our able students?
 
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04 March 2015


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Ofsted have expressed concern that despite their observation that schools aren't doing well enough by their high performing students in 2013, little progress has been made. In this week's report, Ofsted note that:

Most able students’ achievement appears to suffer even more when they are from disadvantaged backgrounds - yet another indication that PP funding is not achieving its desired outcomes.

Too many of our most able students fail to achieve the grades they need to get into top universities - there is no data or evidence in the report to support this. it seems to be an assumption that, because non-selective state schools are under-represented at the top universities, these schools are failing to achieve the "grades they need". We've looked very closely at all the available data (via our Educational Intelligence service) and it's simply not possible to make this statement, even if we could define "our most able students".

Ofsted recommend that school leaders should:

  • develop a culture of high expectations for students and teachers in Key Stage 3 and rapidly improve the quality of curriculum delivery, teaching and assessment, especially in foundation subjects
  • ensure that teachers and leaders in Key Stage 3 use information held by primary schools about students’ learning and achievements in Key Stage 2 effectively, so that work for the most able students provides the right level of challenge
  • identify designated staff and governors to champion the needs of disadvantaged most able students
  • give Key Stage 3 equal priority with other key stages when allocating teaching staff to classes
  • provide training for teachers of all key stages so that their teaching routinely challenges the most able students
  • ensure evaluations of curriculum delivery, teaching and learning in Key Stage 3 are robust and lead to rapid improvements
  • involve universities, other providers and employers in training school staff to provide expert advice and guidance to the most able students, especially those who are disadvantaged, about the opportunities open to them in higher education, apprenticeships and other work opportunities

 

However, they make some errors in their assumptions, for example, they claim under-achievement in non-selective schools by comparing them with selective ones:

Percentage of most able students who previously attained Level 5 at Key Stage 2 gaining A* or A grade at GCSE in 2014:

Source: Ofsted

What this fails to recognise is that the children attending selective schools would have been performing at above level 5, if only SATs tested all students to a higher level. So it's comparing students starting at different levels, and the chart is meaningless. This is a significant error, because much of Ofsted's criticism of non-selective schools in this report is by comparison with selective schools. Crazy!

 

Furthermore, some of their comparisons between different profile groups are pointless. Take this: "in schools where the lowest proportions of most able students had previously gained Level 5A in mathematics, 63% made more than expected progress. In contrast, in schools where the highest proportion of most able students who had previously attained Level 5A in mathematics, 86% made more than expected progress." In short: brighter pupils make better progress. Ofsted perhaps need to redefine the term "expected progress".

 

 

 

 

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