Hitting the ground running in September 2021 – Setting priorities for Y11 as a KS4 Leader in England

3rd September 2021

As the Autumn Term begins for schools and colleges in England, some reflections from Alps on setting KS4 priorities for Y11 in challenging circumstances.

This cohort took no GCSE examinations in 2020. Their Y12 in 2020-21 was significantly disrupted in the pandemic, however well you managed online/remote learning. Yet, they are very likely to be assessed by examinations in 2022. So, the top priority must involve putting these students’ needs and interests first aiming for each to reach their potential and, perhaps crucially, to achieve positive post-18 pathways.

The academic year often begins with an in-depth evaluation of results in Raising Standards meetings with subject leads. Perhaps these meetings in September 2021 need a focus on current Y13, where they appear to be based on Y12 assessment, and how best to move forwards effectively.

At present, much remains uncertain. What further disruption to learning may occur in 2021-22?

The DfE / Ofqual consultation on assessment in 2022 contained the following proposals:

    • Exam boards to provide advance information about the ‘focus of the content of the exams’ in the ‘majority of subjects’ at AS and A level for 2022 exams.
    • This would apply to all subjects except AS and A level Art and Design.
    • The consultation suggests advance information will be issued in the spring term ‘to help students to focus their revision time’.

There is much more that we do not yet know and have little ability to control.

    • How will Ofqual determine grading standards in 2022, after two years of turbulence, without unduly disadvantaging Y13? Williamson has spoken about a “glide path” back rather than a sudden change back to 2019 grade boundaries in 2022.
    • Ofqual intends to run focus groups on how grades will be allocated next year. Ofqual’s ‘starting assumption’ is that attainment in 2022 will be lower than prior to the pandemic, and therefore it is not seeking to hold cohorts next year to the same standards.
    • Ofqual has suggested a new grade of A** could be introduced.
    • Will the return to awarding grades by examination lead to a re-introduction of accountability measures / Performance Tables?

So, for now, we recommend that you prioritise those things you can control, such as the quality of teaching and learning, the quality of guidance and support, and the quality of your leadership at all levels.

    • Aim to create as secure as possible a Y13 baseline based on teacher assessment of Y12 in 2020-21: a Monitoring Point Zero (MPZ).
    • Create a realistic assessment timetable with subject leads to enable students to practice and master the skills required in examinations (and to build evidence portfolios in case these are needed).
    • Use Alps Connect effectively throughout the year to help identify subjects, sets, student groups and students for support (& praise).
    • We recommend a sharp focus on the subjects that are taken by larger cohorts of students as these subjects will have the most significant impact on this cohort’s outcomes and destinations.
    • Do all you can to be relentlessly positive both with your students and their teachers.

In terms of scheduling mock exams, is there a strong case for postponing until February 2022 by when we ought to know what the ‘focus of the content of the exams’ will be?

This blog is a companion piece to our Alps webinar ‘Post-16 leadership priorities – England KS5 – September 2021’. Additionally, this webinar will demonstrate how to use Alps Connect most effectively when tracking progress.

Click here to register for the KS4 England Webinar.

In the meantime, if you require further technical or educational support, contact us at [email protected] or [email protected]

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