At our summer term NACE member meetup, primary and secondary members convened to share strategies to improve support for more able learners during KS2-3 transition. Canons High School’s Laura Markey and Athena Pitsillis opened the discussion with a presentation based on their NACE Essentials case study (available in our members’ area), followed by a “speed-sharing” session and networking lunch.

Here are 10 approaches to try…

1. More able workshops 

Several members shared examples in which more able learners are selected during KS2 to attend workshops in a particular subject at their prospective secondary school. One example came from Basildon Lower Academy, which runs challenge-based workshops for more able learners in Years 5 and 6. Assistant Headteacher Sharon Rayner explains some of the benefits: “Students are identified early by primary schools, and we are able to work closely with students and parents to ensure work is set at the appropriate level when they join us. This has led to greater progress between entry and first assessment point.”

Bexleyheath Academy also runs workshops in core subjects, bringing together KS2 and 3 students to work collaboratively. Ayfer Mack-Poole, the school’s More Able Lead, recommends selecting KS3 students to help run the workshops to further develop their skills and confidence.

For tips on how to create an impactful more able workshop, read this blog post from Osborne Cooperative Academy Trust’s Philippa Buckingham.

2. Extended collaborative projects

Building on the idea of collaborative workshops, Mission Grove Primary School shared details of an extended collaborative project for learners in Years 6, 7 and 8. Working together over six weeks, learners produced a short film. Year 6 learners then used the skills and knowledge acquired to help others in their school produce their own films.

“The project allows secondary staff to get to know the range of abilities of children who will be joining in September – this includes academic abilities but also skills around teamworking, collaboration and creative abilities,” says Assistant Headteacher Ed Fincham. “Learners gain increased confidence and positivity about moving to a new school, and are able to immediately apply their new skills and take on leading roles in the follow-up project.”

3. Student learning passports

Many members emphasised the importance of sharing information about learners across phases, to ensure appropriate levels of challenge and support. At Sarah Bonnell School, this is supported by detailed “student learning passports”. These include SATs and CATs data, alongside teacher observations about how the student prefers to learn, and strategies to provide stretch and challenge.

The passports are shared with all teaching staff and are used to inform more able twilight sessions, teaching and learning briefings, and peer lesson observations. “Triangulate the data early on and then interview students to get a good picture of their feelings,” Assistant Headteacher Joe Begley recommends. “Share with teachers on a number of occasions to ensure the profile is kept high, and see if you can build it into an observation cycle or area of action research or performance management.”

4. Sharing KS2 work with KS3 teachers

This was another common idea shared at the meetup, aiming to help secondary teachers understand the quality of work being completed by incoming students, in order to sustain attainment and progress from the start of KS3. At La Sainte Union School, new Year 7 students are asked to bring in a piece of work they’re proud of, while their Year 6 teachers also select a piece which shows their abilities.

“Pupils like to ‘show off’ their work – it gives them a sense of confidence and pride,” says Head of Year 7 Hayley Boyd. “We hope this encourages them to maintain this sense of excellence as they start secondary school.” She recommends encouraging all secondary teaching staff to look at and refer to the work during the first few lessons of term, even if outside their subject area.

5. Independent essay-writing at KS2

To help learners prepare for the increased independence of KS3, several members mentioned The Brilliant Club’s Scholars Programme, which runs university-style tutorials and university visits for learners from Years 5 to 12. Based on this initiative, St Andrew’s CE Primary School challenges learners to research and write an essay independently, developing their ability to conduct and synthesise research, manage their own time, and take on feedback from school subject leaders.

“The project inspires interest and independence, without the oversight or micromanagement of classwork,” explains Year 6 Teacher and Creative Curriculum Lead Sam Penberthy. “Learners are expected to self-motivate and self-direct, seeking support when they need it.” To ensure the project is successful, he recommends prioritising the planning phase, working with each learner to develop a project question.

6. Year 7 reading journals

At Little Ilford School, incoming students are encouraged to keep a reading journal, used alongside general and subject-based curriculum-linked reading lists. The idea, explains MFL Lead Practitioner Beth Hickling-Moore, is to “instil or maintain a love of reading for pleasure, often fostered at primary school, while stretching learners to extend their knowledge in different subject areas.”

While the impact has yet to be fully evaluated, she adds, “We hope that students develop a drive to explore subjects beyond lessons through literature, and in turn develop a love for reading.” She recommends starting by introducing reading lists for a few subject areas, noting that lists linked to the history and MFL curricula have so far worked well, featuring texts such as Twelve Years a Slave, Manolita Gafotas and Le Petit Nicholas.

7. Cross-curricular projects

Cross-curricular projects were another recurrent theme of the meetup, aiming to provide a challenging, creative and collaborative start to KS3 that sets and maintains high expectations for both learners and staff. At Canons High School, for example, all incoming Year 6 students are given a copy of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas to read and work on during the summer break. During the first two weeks of term, the novel provides the basis for a series of projects spanning all subjects, with a selection of work showcased at an event for parents.

At Capital City Academy, summarised curriculum maps are shared across all departments to encourage teachers to highlight links across subjects, prompting learners to make their own connections. For optimal impact, G&T Lead Rachel Belfield recommends using this approach alongside SOLO Taxonomy (log in to our members’ area for our NACE Essentials case study and accompanying webinar on SOLO).

8. Year 7 thinking skills group

At Burton Borough School, learners are encouraged to join the recently launched Year 7 thinking skills group. Drawing on a diverse range of texts and films, thinking skills sessions aim to develop learners’ inference, deduction, analysis and communication skills, as well as building confidence, resilience and understanding. Sessions have a strong focus on questioning and metacognition.

While the initiative is still in its early days, More Able Coordinator Tom Allen says it is already having a positive impact: “It has been great for getting students from different primary schools to share ideas and recognise their own and each other’s abilities.” He recommends using participants as peer advocates for the group, and offering training in questioning for staff members involved in delivering sessions.

9. Staff visits to feeder schools

Many members highlighted the importance of secondary staff visits to feeder primary schools – allowing secondary staff to see the level at which students are working, and to gather detailed information about individual learners as the starting point for effective provision at KS3.

Donna Wenden, Headteacher of Lawford C of E Primary School, also highlighted the benefits of having primary school representatives on the governing body of the secondary school. Through such ongoing involvement, primary staff can help to sustain progress and challenge by participating in work scrutiny and observations, sharing examples of work across the key stages, and ensuring high expectations are maintained.

10. Engaging parents and carers

Last but not least, members agreed on the importance of engaging parents and carers during the transition period. Secondary members often do this by inviting parents to events at regular intervals before and during their child’s first year of KS3, offering opportunities to ask questions, meet pastoral and teaching staff, and see first-hand what and how their child is learning.

Several members also shared examples of student-led approaches to parental engagement – allowing learners to share their work through exhibitions, presentations, performances or discussions. At Sarah Bonnell School, staff and students receive training in “learning conversations”, in which learners and their parents meet with a member of staff for a learner-led discussion. Sam Walsh, Head of Year 7 and Transition, explains: “This approach gives ownership of assessment and progress to students. They need to understand what they can do well and where they need to develop. It shows students what they are capable of, develops their capacity for self-reflection, and also allows for a direct comparison between subjects.”

Find out more… 

Join our live webinar on 2 October 2018 for more tried-and-tested approaches to supporting more able learners during KS2-3 transition. Session leaders Laura Markey and Athena Pitsillis will share their experience of leading on a range of initiatives to support both academic and social transition at Challenge Award-accredited Canons High School. To register for the webinar and download the accompanying NACE Essentials guide, log in to our members’ site.

Not a member? Find out why and how to join NACE.

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Monday, September 3, 2018