In December 2018, Chesterfield High School was accredited with the NACE Challenge Award, in recognition of school-wide high-quality provision for more able learners within a context of challenge for all. Gemma Quinn, Director of Learning for MFL and Challenge Lead, explains why the school decided to focus on raising aspirations, and key steps taken in achieving this.
 
At Chesterfield High School, our students and staff have wholeheartedly benefited from using the NACE Challenge Framework and from NACE visits to school. We fully understand that the majority of a learner’s time in school is spent in the classroom, and therefore it is essential that our provision provides all learners with opportunities for challenge.
 
However, we identified an area beyond the classroom as a key area for development. We wanted to ensure learners go outside their comfort zone, build resilience and take intellectual risks to fully prepare them for life after school. We carried out pupil voice, analysed our data, and we determined that not only did we want students to be inspired to learn in school, but we also wanted to raise aspirations to enable greater transition into the sixth form and beyond.
 
Using the six key elements of the NACE Challenge Framework, we identified three areas – curriculum, teaching and support; communication and partnership; and monitoring and evaluation – as key to developing our provision for, and raising the aspirations of, our learners.
 
For other schools seeking to raise aspirations, we would recommend the following steps:

1. Listen to learners

We collected pupil voice through anonymous questionnaires and pupil interviews. This highlighted some great strengths, such as our ability to listen and take account of the views of our more able learners within a wider context and our ability to increase parental responsibility in supporting their child’s learning outside of school.
 
We are passionate about celebrating all learners’ achievements and strengths in an environment where both staff and learners have high expectations of themselves and of one another. However, by listening to learner feedback we recognised that we needed to provide our learners with greater opportunities to experience the world beyond the classroom to support further success.

2. Embed a whole-school approach

We set actions in place to develop our curriculum to offer breadth, depth and flexibility. We increased our enrichment resources and wider learning opportunities for all, with a focus on raising the aspirations of our learners.
 
In working towards the NACE Challenge Award, our fundamental aim was to ensure that the school’s vision and ethos are at the heart of everything that happens – to ensure “for everyone the best”. To ensure this was implemented across the school, we identified a Challenge Lead Representative. It was envisaged that the Challenge initiative would strengthen the school community’s drive to promote, actively witness and celebrate the progress and achievement of more able learners. As a result, highly able pupils (HAPs) will be motivated to succeed and to participate in all learning opportunities that will positively nurture their academic and personal growth.

3. Involve staff at faculty level

We also identified a HAP Representative in each faculty area, who reported to the whole-school Challenge Lead Representative. The key objectives of the HAP Representatives are to ensure that the achievement and progress of HAPs are consistently monitored and celebrated within their faculty area. Representatives also help to develop their faculty’s approach to HAP teaching and learning in line with whole-school teaching and learning initiatives, thus leading to improved progress and attainment.
 
We created a subject attributes document which included three key strands for each individual subject area. These included characteristics of a HAP, activities that HAPs should do, and how parents can support HAPs.*

4. Provide inspiring examples and role models

We invited an ex-student who is now studying at Cambridge University into school. She was able to give staff a greater understanding of her school experience and how we guided and prepared her for university life. Through discussions, she inspired current learners to think beyond their original choices and to aim for Russell Group universities and Oxbridge. She was also open to keeping in touch with students to mentor and address any questions they had.
 
In addition, we allocated learners with an aspirations mentor who was able to advise them on the application process and subject choices at A-level to maximise their chances of getting a university place. Learners also took part in mock interviews with volunteers in the community in their chosen field of work or study, which increased their confidence and helped to develop their oracy skills.
 
Visits out to universities, including trips to open days’ and residential trips were promoted through our Challenge Lead Representative. Students visited universities around the country and applied for the prestigious Cambridge Shadowing Scheme.

We are proud…

Using the Challenge Framework helped us to identify our strengths and areas for development in more able provision. Through the action plan created as part of our work with the framework, we highlighted actions and the intended impact of these on target groups of learners. We are extremely proud of the steps we have taken to ensure our more able provision allows all our learners to have the best possible life chances.
 
Gemma Quinn is the Director of Learning for MFL and the Challenge Lead at Chesterfield High School. She is an experienced teacher of French and Spanish to KS5 and a skilled coach and mentor. Gemma enjoys working with various subject leaders across the school to improve learner outcomes and looks forward to continuing to support them in the future.

*To view Chesterfield High School's HAPs subject attributes document, log in to our members' site and visit the "Subject-specific resources" area.

 
Date: 
Tuesday, February 12, 2019