An 11-18 co-educational selective grammar school in an area of working class incomes and a diverse cultural population. There are more boys than girls at the school.
Three strands: to challenge and personalise texts at KS3, use more technology at KS3 and to ensure intervention is put in place at KS3.
Background: Despite the school being selective, boys consistently achieved lower levels and were disenchanted with English. Intervention was very successful at GCSE, but there was very little in place at KS3. Text choices had become stale and the English department also lagged behind in terms of incorporation of technology.
New schemes of work were planned with more up-to-date, ‘boy-friendly’ texts (such as The Maze Runner) and activities and assessments were tailored accordingly. Student feedback showed they wanted more drama, groupwork and reading in class.
Intervention was set up and sessions ran half-termly. Initially students were chosen based on raw data, but this caused overlap with SEAN, who were already receiving intervention, so a more joined up approach was adopted. While successful for those who attended, poor attendance (around 50%) was a barrier to success.
Due to time constraints, no work began on technology this year.
An audit of KS3 classes highlighted that more challenge was needed. Students rated the difficulty of assessments as only 4/10 and said they felt that the curriculum in Years 7 and 8 repeated known content. A meeting with a feeder primary school confirmed that skills from Year 6 were repeated, and that studying a whole Shakespeare in Y7 would be better than another introduction to Shakespeare, as his work was already familiar. The Maze Runner was already out of date as so many students had already read it or seen the film, so the sequels were used as a reading challenge and then for ‘book group’ style chats. This was then broadened to other novels.
Intervention was tweaked with success in Year 8 using flipped learning, where students would read a text in advance and discuss it with their mentor at the start of the session. Attendance improved (77-83%) and the majority of students said their confidence increased. In Year 9, intervention was more difficult, as the cohort was the same as the previous year and attendance and behaviour were poor.
Kahoot was incorporated into the intervention scheme in Year 8, and pupils’ use of the app was tracked.
1.The Y7 transition scheme was broken up across 7 weeks, culminating in a competition, and student feedback showed that they were more confident in grammar skills and had very much enjoyed reading the books. A ‘homework menu’ was created, whereby the class were given a set of nine creative tasks and had to choose one to complete per week for six weeks. Students really enjoyed having the choice.
Changing the time of intervention to after school allowed more time for activities. Kahoot quizzes were a success in Y8, although the app needs more personalisation to be truly valuable. Y9 intervention was again unsuccessful, and it was decided to have intervention on an individual basis only in Y9 going forward.
The Flipboard app was trialled with Y8. It is a personalised magazine where students choose their preferences and an article is delivered every day. Students’ homework was to read and comment on one article each week.
New and more varied schemes of work that enthused and better challenged students are constantly evolving.
Intervention has been hosted for around 120 students, and approximately 60% of these feel their confidence has improved as a result.
Small scale success in that apps are being used for some groups, but more work is needed on this.
Re-focusing our attention on KS3 was timely as it coincided with many more boys entering the school (70:30 boy/girl ratio in Y7), and intervention will have an impact higher up the school with the hope that those who have had intervention in Y8 will not require it in Y10. The impact of the changes has been positive, for both staff and students, and despite the challenges we have learnt so much about what constitutes good intervention. Developing knowledge and effective use of apps in teaching is a full time project in itself, and needs more time devoted to developing this across the department.