Aim: To address the dip in achievement between Key Stage 2 and 3, especially for boys, and to markedly increase the level of challenge for students at KS3

Background: Students in their first term at Holland Park were achieving one sub level lower than they attained at the end of primary school, and boys in particular were achieving demonstrably lower marks than girls.


Year 1: Following interviews with students about their work at Key Stage 2, new schemes of work were implemented and taught alongside a control group. This showed that the new strategy was having some impact, although not as much as desired, and the gender gap was still evident.

Year 2: It was clear from evaluating the results of the previous year that students had not been given enough time for extended writing, or received enough feedback from teachers about how to improve their work. Visits to primary schools were also made to inform lesson planning. Schemes of work were planned to allow time for extended writing, teacher feedback and subsequent redrafting by students. To foster engagement and enthusiasm, each topic had a ‘launch lesson’. This has better engaged students with topics and they feel more able to evaluate their own work. Journals were used for independent research, class notes and draft work, and students commented that they felt more trusted to complete work independently. However, the gender gap was still evident, with some male students still making limited progress.

Year 3: The autumn term was redesigned to ensure the level of challenge for students entering the school, with a focus on reading. Various events encouraged a love of reading, such as plays put on by staff, interactive acting experiences and a treasure hunt for boys across Hampstead Heath. Termly exams were implemented for KS3, which have provided more accurate and regular assessment, and regular intervention by leading practitioners was implemented to support underperforming groups. Coaching and monitoring for staff has been successful in ensuring high expectations in all classes.

Evidence: Student feedback, exam results.

Impact: Regular assessment has been successful, with students finding it easier to cope in terms of revision and retention of units studied. Students’ extended writing ability has improved and the feedback and redrafting process has made them more reflective in their writing. Some progress has been made with gender distinctions and the gap between male and female students is becoming less pronounced. Engagement has certainly improved with the various events run by the department, but this is yet to lead to the desired level of improvement in examination data.

Reflections: The project has crystallised the importance of high expectations for maintaining quality of students’ work. The challenge has been maintaining a focus on our new strategies in the build-up to exams and maintaining perspective that this investment will ultimately help their future performance and their commitment to learning English as a subject.

Contact: Jamie Thom,