Reading’s Maiden Erlegh School recently gained NACE Challenge Award accreditation for the third time, marking its continued commitment to high-quality provision for more able learners in a context of challenge for all. In this blog post, deputy headteacher Sara Elliss outlines some of the key initiatives undertaken at the school to ensure more able learners are challenged and supported throughout their studies. 

Whole-school leadership

The lead school within Maiden Erlegh Trust and Maiden Erlegh Teaching School Alliance, Maiden Erlegh School is a mixed comprehensive with approximately 1,800 students, with a high proportion of more able learners identified based on KS2 results on entry from a diverse local population.

For a number of years, the School Improvement Plan has included a section specifically referring to provision for the more able, which has been progressed by curriculum areas through annual Department Development Plans. All quality assurance documentation includes a section relating to provision for the more able, and all staff are encouraged to include a teaching, learning and assessment appraisal objective centred around challenge.

There is a more able coordinator to ensure provision is in place and student progress is tracked. All students choose their own aspirational target grade, which is based around FFT-5, with approximately 40% of students achieving these aspirational targets at the end of KS4.

Within the classroom

All schemes of work have been developed with the philosophy of teaching to the more able learners, and differentiating work to the support learners who are not able to access it at that level. A number of CPD sessions have been run by staff at all levels within the school with an emphasis on challenge.

Beyond the classroom

The Gold Programme was established for Year 9 students in 2012, aiming to:
  • Give students every opportunity to broaden their intellectual experience well in advance of applying for university;
  • Expose them to discussions and thinking beyond GCSE;
  • Introduce them to universities, courses, and university alumni;
  • Model a passion for learning and intellectual rigour.
In 2013, following our reaccreditation with the NACE Challenge Award, the NACE report recommended that Maiden Erlegh School should “create opportunities for younger [more able] students to work together as a group in the way that older students do through the Gold Programme”. In 2014, the school launched the KS3 Gold Programme, which has now evolved into the Silver Programme. This programme aims to:
  • Provide students with the opportunity be stretched and challenged beyond the classroom;
  • Help them become independent, higher-order learners;
  • Celebrate their academic ability.
Students and parents are invited to a launch event at the beginning of Year 7 (Silver Programme) and Year 9 (Gold Programme). They are invited to join the programme if they are interested in the events that will be run throughout the year. Participation is not compulsory; the emphasis is on the student to engage with the opportunities provided. Each student is given a badge to wear on their blazer if they are a member of the Silver or Gold Programme.

The Gold and Silver Programmes offer a selection of sessions run voluntarily by staff after school, including:
  • Studying… grade 9 skills which are subject-specific and include debating, critical essay writing, questioning
  • Introducing… Latin, Greek, Italian, Chinese
  • Exploring… psychology, criminology, philosophy, scene of crime officer (SOCO)
  • Informing… medicine, Oxbridge, careers, developing resilience and using failure
  • Thinking… “Gender neutrality: the way forward or PC gone mad?”; “Will we get a white Christmas?”; “The Lightning Process”; “The Palestinian Israeli conflict”; “Siege of Kenilworth Castle 1215”; “The Economics of Brexit”
  • Reflecting… “If only I’d known then…”
  • Visiting… Reading University, Thales, Tech Deck, STEM challenge days, Cambridge University

What has been the impact? 

Learning walks and lesson observations indicate that there has been a noticeable shift in the pedagogy being used. Staff ensure students have enough time to think, question and explore ideas. At every data collection point, the more able data is analysed separately and included in the self-evaluation form for governors, senior leadership and teaching staff to evaluate. From this data it is clear that over 90% of the more able Year 7 students are making at least good or expected progress, or are now above national or well above national levels. KS4 and KS5 results analysis has also shown that students involved with the Gold Programme have performed well.

Sara EllissSara Elliss is deputy headteacher of Maiden Erlegh Trust and has been leading on more able provision for two years.

How is your school developing provision and support for more able learners? Contact us to share your story.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017