At the start of the Easter holidays I was invited back by my old PGCE tutor at @UWEBristol to talk to the #uwepgce geography students about transition and the need to focus on having high expectations for all our pupils no matter what year group/key stage/ability. I started with a ‘Thunk’,one of those questions created to stop you in your tracks and make you see the world in which you live differently. The thunk, (below), was there to focus the group onto aspects of teaching and learning that we may over look, logistical elements that, maybe as PGCE students/NQTs, they feel they have no impact or say over. This included the use of the KS2 data they, as a secondary school teacher, would need to be aware of and analyse to understand the strengths of the pupils they are receiving into Y7. Too many times this transitional phase and the qualitative and quantitative data is overlooked, not used or not shared appropriately which can lead to the disengagement of pupils in their learning at an early juncture in KS3, and then a complete resource overload geared towards after school/Saturday booster sessions at KS4 and generally creating an imbalance in their teachers’ workload.
GCSE booster sessions should not be something ubiquitous to the key stage, clarifying it as a revision session that pupils can attend to deepen their understanding and enjoyment of the subject is an achievable goal, the love of learning and intrinsic motivation, not ‘quick, lets get them through the next topic….’.
How much time are new teaching recruits given to experience learning at another Key Stage, to be part of the learning diet that their new cohort have just finished/still part of? I was asked when I trained, (ahem, a number of years ago) to spend just 2 weeks in a primary setting, a minuscule amount of my time to prepare me for what the abilities of my KS3 pupils would be. How, in that amount of time, were we supposed to gleam and understand the capabilities of our new Y7 pupils?
Expectations at KS2 and KS3 are continually changing and pupils are now developing strong abilities in literacy and numeracy that are not being challenged and used when they reach KS3. I asked the PGCE students if they had ever seen a KS2 SATs question before, knowing that the majority, (through absolutely no fault of their own) would not have done. Realisation of what comes before and what will come next is one of the teachers’ greatest allies, if we know what they can do, and what they need for the next step, closing that learning loop becomes more efficient and relevant.
I find it amazing how many teachers have not read the 2015 publication ‘KS3: The Wasted Years’ from the DfE, (https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/459830/Key_Stage_3_the_wasted_years.pdf). It hypothesises from exemplified, routine inspections that Key Stage 3 is not the priority for many secondary schools and that too many secondary schools focus on the empirical side of transition (the data) to the detriment of the experiential side (prior and post learning. By allowing pupils to take an active role in transition, not a passive one, (surely the days of inviting feeder primaries for a WOW day are long over?), it demonstrates to them that we as educators work together for them, and how important it is to learn those skills of collaboration. But it also doesn’t marginalise and categorise pupils based on only their outcomes, we show how all aspects of a pupil’s academic life are important.
Intervention in KS4 can be an enriching experience then, not a program that only focusses on the mythical C/D or 4/5 boarder line. The new P8 measures will surely go some way in abolishing these measures, although having read this earlier today; http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-39584000 about new grammar schools service ‘ordinary families’ it seems like the DfE have created their very own ‘booster’ group or (worst phrase in education) the C/D boarder line group!!!
If intervention happens early, if data is used effectively and not sparingly, if transition is effectively planned, then pupils will develop their love of learning throughout their time with us.