This post has been in the offing for a while – I am just finalising it and then rushing off to yet another flamin’ meeting! Roll on the weekend when I have time to catch up on everything – a teacher’s lot is one of constantly putting the big jobs off until the weekends until you have big chunks of time to get the jobs done! (that includes the collaborative scheme of work stuff, which I had meant to do last weekend, but local events took over).

Anyway, I’ve just finished (finally) the whole feedback cycle with my year 10s (tests -> marking -> self assessment -> teacher feedback -> target -> review) and have had time to digest the results too. Worryingly the whole cycle is due to start again in a few weeks – absence is an issue and so it takes a while to try to close the feedback loop with every single student! To give you some context: both sets are set 4 of 5 in either side of the year group and there are a total of 36 students (I’m lucky in terms of class sizes I know!) whose key stage 2 results range from 2.2 to 4 (with one outlier at 4.6) so their resulting targets are:

  • FFTD target grades of F = 4 students, E = 22 and D = 9 (some data is missing as they were in-year transfers – we get a lot of those!)
  • 3 levels of progress – all grade D with the exception of 4 students who have target grades of C (again we do have some missing levels of progress data missing!)
  • Now before you say it – I know there appears to be a discrepancy between 3 level targets being higher than their FFTD – that reminds me to finish the analysis for years 10 and 11 that I’ve started as I’m not convinced this should be the case and need to check this data out! (I’ll do it on the weekend!).

Historically, some of these students by now, would have moved into our intervention sets after there was room made for them with students having attained a C the November sitting (they would have moved onto a “B and beyond” group). Obviously that option is no longer available to us (I’ll blog about what we’re doing now that we’re no longer using early entry at another time – but we do have some plans!) so we made the decision to build their confidence on the foundation tier up until Christmas and then start teaching higher tier topics with a view to them sitting their first higher tier paper in the Spring.

They expected it to be tough but they were all up for it and surprisingly in the main they have risen to the challenge:

  • 1 of them went from a G to a C!! Amazing! but he has been working so, so hard and deserves it! Ok, so it was bang on the grade boundary but its a massive step and the student now wants a grade B. and Crikey I think he is determined enough to do it.
  • 12 of them went up one grade – 5 from an F to an E, 5 from E to an D and 2 from a D to a C.
  • 10 stayed on an E
  • 2  stayed on a D
  • 6 got a U with the number of marks away from an E ranging from 1 to 4. Disappointing for them, but they know what needs to be done to improve.
  • 4 students were absent from the foundation (they got 2 x E’s and 2 x D’s) and 1 still hasn’t done the higher paper so I don’t have comparison figures available for them.

Its not conclusive proof, but its enough for me to know that it was the right decision to prepare them for the higher. I still have 15 months with the groups and whilst a couple of them have kicked and screamed along the way I genuinely think that my belief in them has started to give some of them a belief in themselves, that a C and beyond is achievable. I am not saying that they’re going to all get C’s and above, but it certainly isn’t going to be detrimental to them and it may be that by then a handful of these students will choose to do the foundation tier. Their lives after all, aren’t just about my lessons and there is so much going on that I’m not privy to.

I believe whether you have a policy of entering for the higher tier or foundation tier, it’s your choice (or that of your school) and the debate is interesting. Our policy is to use the higher tier for as many students as possible – there are so many reasons that we have chosen this route, but the interesting one for me is about not limiting students aspirations: “If you think you can’t … you won’t”. Of course, for the cynical amongst you, who will think it’s playing “the game”, what we do for a living as maths teachers is not a game. It’s real-life, real people that are involved and it’s about them, not us, not the school … those students we teach, and their futures.