Alongside planning lessons, assessment and how we feedback is the most important activity we undertake to improve student understanding. It has been a long-held wisdom by some in the profession that the only way to do this effectively is by writing very long comments, that students must also respond to followed by a further response from the teacher; the so-called triple marking method. It is not something I have ever subscribed to nor ever done in my own practice. Feedback in this way is very time-consuming and rarely elicits a substantial response from students that improves their understanding of what they did well and how they need to improve further.
Please have a read of this guidance from Ofsted and the outcomes from recent research into this:
Advice to Ofsted inspectors:
DFE workforce reform:
The best feedback from teachers is received immediately after the assessment, gives clear guidance regarding what is wrong and offers advice about how to improve further which students are asked to act upon straight away. This is how our check point system is designed to work. Check point assessments are not tests, they do not need to be carried out under exam conditions. They do not all need to be marked exclusively by a teacher. Check-points are assessments that replace the normal lesson by lesson assessment that a teacher normally undertakes, they are not in addition to it. Each check-point should have the following characteristics:
- assess how well students have understood their most recent work;
- students should know when the checkpoint is, how they will be assessed and have been taught all of the content;
- be based around GCSE skills and knowledge, even in year 7 and 8;
- be carried out in the same way by each subject teacher;
- be the same task for every student in the year group and same tier of entry for the subject;
- be designed to be assessed quickly so that feedback is prompt and useful.
It is good practise for students to undertake peer assessment of some check points, they will need to be taught how to do this accurately; teachers will need to sample and moderate their marking to ensure accuracy, however teachers do not need to mark every piece of work or check point task. Subject teams should also use their team meetings to moderate checkpoint marking across each year group to ensure a consistent approach has been taken.
The variety of check-point tasks therefore that can be undertaken can be very wide and could include:
- spelling tests, quickly peer marked at the end;
- short GCSE style examination questions, carried out as an assessed homework and peer marked at the beginning of the next lesson;
- a student improving on a piece of work or question that the teacher has already marked – the mark awarded being on the remarked work;
- a short GCSE question as a test, following completion of a similar question for which students have received feedback;
- assessment following controlled assessment or other external examination component that is normally carried out;
- a review of the quality of a task that students have been asked to complete, for example: in science drawing a graph; in maths explaining their reasoning behind solving a problem, in English their analysis of a piece of text, in languages a written piece in the target language.
- Give students a piece of work to assess themselves (not their own work) and see how accurately they can do this – the check point score reflects the accuracy of their assessment. Teaching would need to have effectively supported developing in students the ability to assess.
In respect of written feedback i.e. marking, teachers should use their judgement regarding when this is the best way to feedback to students, what can take five to ten minutes to write can be conveyed to a student in a conversation in just a few seconds. Verbal feedback also offers students the opportunity to clarify their understanding whilst written feedback is one way. Students should always be given the opportunity to act on feedback; the assessment could be how they have responded to the assessment rather than the original task.
There is some very good practise that reduce time but increase the engagement of students, consider:
- highlight work that is wrong in a students book, very effective for picking out spelling errors, incorrect answers in maths or science. The highlighting can be done during the lesson as students complete questions or carry out tasks. Give students time in the lesson or for prep to correct the highlighted aspects of their work. Each teacher simply needs a brightly coloured highlighter pen e.g. blue that is used and understood by students. Lessons need to be planned so that students are completing work independently of the teacher in order that the teacher has the time to go round the class and highlight work that is incorrect. Books could also be taken in with this approach taken.
- Provide students with a list of tasks that need completing and traffic light each aspects so that students are aware when they have met or exceeded their target grade (G) are close to it (A) or are significantly below it (R). In the lesson whilst students are working focus your feedback on those students who are red and give them feedback. Ask students to write down the key aspects of the feedback so that they understand what they need to to get better.
- Marking a sub-section of a class, for example, pupil premium students, the most able, the middle ability students, SEN in order to check and focus your teaching to ensure it is meeting a key groups needs. Over time ensure that you check each students work but not every student, every lesson.
- Peer assessment and moderation. Spend time in lessons teaching students how to accurately assess work. We know as teachers that being able to assess work, particularly in more subjective subjects such as English or humanities is a higher order skill that requires very secure knowledge. If students are able to assess work accurately they will have developed a deeper understanding of the material. By asking students to swap with specific students they will also develop a broader understanding of different approaches to answering questions which will further improve their understanding.
In conclusion, our approach to marking and assessment should be as well planned as the curriculum content. The feedback we give should be designed to elicit the best response from students, sometimes this will be through written feedback, on other occasions verbally or by highlighting errors. We will always give students the opportunity to reflect on, ask questions and improve their work. Our check points should replace much of the on-going teacher assessment, reflect the range of skills and knowledge students needs to complete GCSEs successfully and be carried out in a consistent way across the team in order that the information we use for intervention and report home is accurate and useful.
In a time of significant changes to accountability frameworks nationally, the College continues to perform significantly higher than the national average with respect to the progress our students make.
Progress 8 which measures progress from KS2 primary results through to GCSE is set this year to be the main performance measure and replaces the 5 A*-C including English and Maths.
This measure gives parents an indication of the progress a student makes at each school compared to the national average. A score of zero therefore indicates an average rate of progress.
We achieved a score of 0.36 which is significantly higher than the national average of 0, indicating that our students gain over a third higher grade in each subject than a student who attended an ‘average’ school who had similar performance at primary school. Over the 8 subjects counted, this equates to nearly 3 GCSE grades better.
Our disadvantaged students also performed above the national average, with a result of 0.26. We will continue to focus on this group of students in order that their outcomes give them the best possible life chances.
For students with low prior attainment we have done particularly well, with a P8 score of 1.02. Our SEN team is to be congratulated on this performance. For middle attaining students it was 0.35 and for higher ability 0.16. We have appointed a project lead for higher attaining students to further improve the progress they are making relative to their peers nationally.
Further detail can be read by clicking here.
WIDER LIFE OF THE COLLEGE
We continue to focus on the ensuring students receive a broad education at the College alongside a core academic one.
This term we have already had trips and visits that will include:
|Sainsbury School Games||Beth Smith||9||6|
|Sainsbury School Games Media Hub||Beth Smith/Ollie Teasel||7 – 9||10|
|British Library, London||Judith Green||11||80|
|D of E Beaumanor Hall||Simon Mellors||9||75|
|Peterborough Field Trip||Steve Kelly||11||120|
|Chitty Chitty Bang Bang||Leanne Mitchell||7||180|
|Burghley House Arts Trip||Hannah Reeve||7||100|
|Cross Country Athletics||Debbie Powell||All||–|
|John Clare House Trip||Judith Green||7||53|
|Geography Field Trip||Steve Kelly||10||60|
|New York USA performing arts||Laura Hollick||10 – 11|
We have also hosted an event whereby every Year 10 student has been trained in cardio resuscitation and the use of a defibrillator as a result of a partnership with the High Sheriff of Rutland.
The new Year 7 students have settled in well, with 180 of them enjoying a trip to the theatre to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. They will build on this experience to put on their own show to present to parents later in the year.
The Performing Arts team has also begun auditions for High School Musical, which will be our main production later this year.
I am immensely proud of Catmose, the staff, students and parents; our community. We have a unique way of working and culture that makes us very different from most secondary schools that we should rightly celebrate as it makes such a contribution to the future success of our students. We see the impact of our ethos every day through the excellent conduct of our students in class, on visits and at competition. We know it by the outstanding results they achieve and in time the successes they have in their careers and family life. Catmose students are at the heart of their community, they gain from this and contribute to it, understanding that with rights also come responsibilities.
We are ambitious for every student at the College that they achieve the very best they can, that they have the very best opportunities in and outside of the classroom and receive the support they need if something goes wrong.
The foundations of Catmose success are built on three pillars, that students should attend regularly, that they should work hard and be actively involved in the life of the College.
A Catmose student attends College regularly, an average one for more than 97% of the time, this ensure they have secure friendships, are able to to find out about the opportunities on offer and achieve better exam results because teachers know that each lesson every student will there ready to learn.
Students work hard from year 7 until the moment of the final exam in year 11, we do our best in each lesson and we prepare for the next lesson by completing prep.
Finally, it is not good enough for a Catmose student to simply attend and work hard we expect them to give something back by joining a sports team, performing in music or drama, by attending trips and visits, by applying to become an academic scholar or a librarian. Each and every student is different but they all have something they can contribute to the shared success of the College and its community.
These high expectations apply to everyone at the College staff, students and visitors; no one pushes in queues, we all only eat in the restaurant, refectory or on the Hellerup and we treat each other with same courtesy and respect we would expect ourselves. This helps create an atmosphere that is harmonious and more often we are mistaken for a university than a school.
We have talented individuals at the College, people who are competing on an individual level in national competitions in sport but we also recognise we are at our best when working as a team. Once again it looks highly likely that we will win the varsity sports competition involving the six local schools as we are already significantly ahead of our nearest rival. Our aim now, as it is for our most talented academics, is to compete on a national level and this year for the first time we entered competitions in netball and athletics. We were very proud to see our year 10 girls selected to represent the region having triumphed in the Rutland and Leicestershire competition.
We take every opportunity to recognise the achievements of our students through commendations, certificates, news letter articles, letters home and of course through the badges that many of our students wear.
At Catmose we trust our students this guides the way in which the College is led, our assumption is that all those who attend the College want to do their best and behave exceptionally well. This belief is the foundation stone of how we manage the College, as a result students are able to use their facilities with very few restrictions from early morning into the evening. Students are not impeded by locked doors, areas that are out of bounds or one way systems, they can use facilities such as computers, the library and music practice rooms without direct supervision. At Catmose with rights also come responsibilities; if students cannot be trusted within such an open environment then Catmose may not be the right place for them. We will do all that we can to support students whose behaviour is preventing others from learning but ultimately we expect every one at Catmose to conform to our high expectations. If there is a student whose behaviour falls below our expectations we deal with those individuals – we never punish groups of students for the failings of one or two.
If they do not meet our expectations following an extensive programme of support we will seriously consider permanent exclusion. This approach is supported by the vast majority of the student body who appreciate the calm and purposeful environment they are able to learn in as a result.
An ethos of trust permeates Catmose as a result underpinned by strong attendance, hard work and engagement which leads to the success of every student at the College.
The photograph above perhaps more visually articulates our ethos, over a thousand people who represent Catmose community standing calmly together on a cold and sunny spring morning – and you were able to hear a pin drop.
It seems but a short moment ago that you were all sitting on the Hellerup nervously waiting to start your journey at Catmose. There were many things about Catmose which were new to you; we were much bigger than your primary school, you knew only a few people and in each lesson you experienced a different teacher. In the five years since that first day you’ve grown in confidence so that for many of you Catmose will seem smaller and your fellow students and staff have become more familiar and, with a bit of luck, a little friendlier as well.
What hasn’t changed are my hopes for you as individuals: that you are able fulfil your promise and have been able to gain the skills and knowledge you will need to thrive and grow in the adult world that many of you are so desperate to join.
Inevitably there has been a focus on your academic studies as the qualifications you gain will help determine what courses you study and ultimately what careers you forge; without them many doors to the future would remain closed. I hope though that you have also gained from the opportunities available to you outside the classroom that will have given you the skills and breadth of outlook you will need in order to be successful in a job. We have offered trips and visits to the four corners of the world, sports teams, music groups, instrumental lessons, drama productions, public speaking competitions, the Duke of Edinburgh award, responsibility as prefects and a broad range of other activities, including through the electives programme. The qualifications you gain may well open the door to your future but it will be all of those other experiences that will get you into the building and up the stairs!
You will also have made some good friends who will be there when you need them most, whatever challenges and opportunities come your way in the future.
I therefore hope you leave Catmose as well qualified, resilient characters who are able to lead and work as a part of team with some key memories that will stay with you for the rest of your lives.
Our approach at Catmose is one which blends high expectations for all, staff and students alike, alongside offering experiences which are not limited to those that take place in the classroom. We deliberately offer a range of activities that challenge, build resilience and develop leadership skills. This is through electives, music, drama, sport, academic competition, trips and visits and Duke of Edinburgh. We know that students who enjoy College life and are engaged by what happens there will tend to attend every day and do better in their studies. We also offer support to all students who are struggling, whether it be with their academic studies or with a pastoral matter. If your child is interested in becoming more involved with extra-curricular activities, please contact the following people: Leanne Mitchell, Director of Drama firstname.lastname@example.org, Matt Sammy, Director of Music email@example.com and Mark Smith, Team Leader for Sport firstname.lastname@example.org If your child is interested in any other activities such as public speaking, the student media team, the tech team or becoming a librarian, please enquire via their form tutor.
This week saw the publication of RAISEonline which is an analysis of college examination performance used to guide our improvement. It would also guide the work of Ofsted should we be inspected, that it is so positive reinforces why we continue to believe our approach is right.
RAISEonline provides a critical look at our students’ performance in respect of how well they do and the progress they have made since joining us from their primary schools. It is therefore pleasing to share with you its key findings which reflect our own analysis which is available through the Transformation Plan.
It lists our strengths as:
- Overall KS4 value added (the progress students have made since Year 6 SATs) was significantly above average.
- KS4 value added was broadly average or above in all subject areas.
- From at least 5 out of every 6 starting points, the proportions of KS4 pupils making and exceeding expected progress in English & Mathematics were close to or above national figures.
- From at least 5 out of every 6 starting points, the proportion of disadvantaged KS4 pupils
- making and exceeding expected progress in English & Mathematics was similar to that of other pupils nationally.
- Attendance was high (in the highest 10% of all mainstream schools nationally).
- Persistent absence was below average.
- No group had low attendance (in the lowest 10% of all mainstream schools nationally).
This is a significant list of strengths which demonstrate our continued focus on ensuring that every student who joins us make the best possible progress they can.
Those of you who know the College well will also know of our inclusive nature supporting students within our special provision that would otherwise need to attend an out-of-county special school. These students are often not entered for GCSEs because of the nature of their additional needs; instead they access a bespoke curriculum, for example studying small animal care. It is unfortunate that these courses are not recognised in this analysis as it leads to their excellent performance not being recognised in the same way as that of our other students. We are however equally proud of what they have accomplished with us.
We are, however, also always looking to improve further and this year, following feedback from you, staff and students, we are focussing on the way in which we provide information about your child’s progress in order that we can all best understand their achievements and support them.
You will have already received your child’s first checkpoint report which shows how well they have done over the last 8 weeks in each subject; you will continue to receive these regularly over the course of this year. The report uses at least three checkpoint tasks which assess how well students have learnt and can apply the skills and knowledge they have been taught recently. These are low-stakes assessments which we have always carried out but will also be shared with students and parents/guardians, creating an open mark book. They will also be in a range of formats depending on the subject and the content being taught.
A task might be:
- A spelling test for which their prep may well have been to learn the words, and for which they will receive a score out of 10.
- A lesson-based task for which no prep was given, but following feedback an opportunity is given to improve their mark; the improved mark being used for the assessment score.
- An assessed prep using an examination-style question to assess their understanding and ability to apply their learning.
There will be a large variety of different approaches taken by teachers but there will also be consistency; all students within the same subject will take the same checkpoint tasks in the same way to allow a direct comparison of their performance with the rest of the year group or tier of entry. This will allow you to be able to track your child’s progress against their target grades and will also allow the College to support students who are not making adequate progress given their ability.
In addition to checkpoint reports you will also receive a detailed academic report from your child’s tutor who will assess their overall academic performance alongside their wider involvement in the College and suggest ways in which they can improve further.
Finally, we have responded to your feedback regarding progress evenings and this year will be trialling offering two opportunities to meet with your child’s teachers. We encourage everyone to attend the first evening in the year but the second evening will be more targeted to those students whose progress is causing a particular concern, whose parents will be specifically invited in order that we can look together at the support in place and ensure that better progress is made going forward.
We will continue to keep all of these developments under review but if you do wish to comment regarding how this is working from you or your child’s perspective I would be very interested to hear from you.
The last twelve months have flown by, busy as always but with lots to celebrate across the life of the College. We know that academic success is as a result of far more than simply what goes on in the classroom; activities such as Duke of Edinburgh, public speaking, music and art contribute as much to a students’ future success as the certificates they hold. We have therefore continued to grow and develop the range of activities that are designed to develop resilience, leadership and teamwork skills in order that students are engaged learners who take responsibility for their own actions and those of others.
Leadership is something we look to develop in every student and a part of our approach is leading by example, that is why as staff we arrive early and stay late, we wear smart business dress and how we queue with our students in the restaurant. This approach ensures students know our high expectations and we model this behaviour throughout our own work.
The range of trips and visits students have been able to access this year has been astonishing, more than ever before, offering a broad range of opportunities. We have supported the School games in Manchester, walking in the Peak district, team building on Rutland Water, an expedition to Ghana, a huge range of theatre trips, visit to the WWI battlefields, cultural trips to France, Germany and Spain, numerous DofE expeditions, the V&A museum, the Beth Shalom holocaust museum, a number of elite universities, masterclasses in chocolate making, just to name a few. Staff give very generously of their time in supporting these experiences and students always comment on how much they have gained as a result. The impact of trips is difficult to measure but this is true of some our most valuable experiences in life; they are moments of College life that will stay with students for the rest of their lives.
Alongside trips and visit we continue to compete successfully in a range of competitions, the adult world is competitive and we improve ourselves by comparing our performance to others. We know that we all have particular strengths and we offer a range of competitive activities that give every student the opportunity to be successful. Of course, as all athletes know, losing is also a critical part of any competition, it builds resilience and the determination to carry on in order to perhaps win next time. We have seen the College retain the local Varsity cup again this year, this represents the efforts of over 200 students from across the College competing in nearly 20 sports against 5 other schools. This endeavour is only possible because staff, students and parents give freely of their time to support coaching and fixtures. We also saw our best ever performance by our public speaking teams with the Youth Speaks and English Speaking Union competitions; Sue McGrath once again did a sterling job in coaching and supporting these teams to great success in competitions historically dominated by independent and grammar schools. In Music we also saw our best ever performance at the Kettering Music Festival, coming away with a number of trophies and first place awards.
The Performing Arts put on the wonderful CATS performance with Year 7 following their visit to see the show in the West End. In the summer term we hosted our first Summer Festival which was a huge success with thousands of people coming to see our students perform and take part in the range of fun activities on offer. This raised a significant amount of money that will be used to support the purchase of additional musical instruments and future performances. We will be putting on West Side Story later this year which will be a showcase for the musical and theatrical talent of the College.
Finally, examination results have again proven to be a strength of the College, students were in celebratory mood when they opened their envelopes and discovered once again our best ever outcomes. We have seen improvements in almost all subject areas with exceptional performances in English, English literature, Drama, Music, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Product Design, Art and Design, 3D Studies, Painting and Drawing, History, Philosophy and Ethics, French, Spanish and Sport GCSE.
What a beautiful evening; the weather was glorious and our students did us all proud. They arrived in style; in tractors, Rolls Royces and double-decker buses, demonstrating their independence and confidence in the people they have become over the last five years. Schools are all too often measured simply on the results they produce and the Ofsted reports that are written, when we all know that so much of what is important is not easily measured but so critical to ensuring that our students are ready for their next steps. At Catmose we pride ourselves on offering students opportunities that broaden their experiences, develop leadership and offer them ways in which they can create a community to be proud of. This year 11 group has seized this ethos and made it their own, they have travelled Europe, performed, practiced and worked hard even through the most difficult times; their resilience will ensure they are successful in whatever they choose to pursue next.
During the evening I took a few photos of the students and staff, the full size copies can be found here: