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

3rd September 2021

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

Their Y9 in 2019-20 and their Y10 in 2020-21 were both significantly disrupted by the pandemic. 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-16 pathways. As Jeremy Miles put it in June 2021, ‘Our number one priority remains supporting learners as we recover from the pandemic.’

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 Y11, where they appear to be based on Y10 assessment, and how best to move forwards effectively.

What do we know so far about assessment in 2022?

  • Jeremy Miles has pledged that next year’s A level and GCSE students will not be disadvantaged because of Covid disruption to their studies: ‘The means of assessment may be different next year, but grades will be of the same value.’
  • In March 2021, Qualification Wales advised schools and colleges that assessment requirements will be adapted for learners studying for GCSE, AS and A levels and the Skills Challenge Certificate Qualifications in 2022.
  • The WJEC has already published reduced content for students to learn taking into account their lost and varying amounts of learning during the pandemic.

What do we know about self-evaluation, accountability and Estyn inspections?

  • The suspension of Key Stage 4 & legacy sixth form performance measures will be extended to the 2021/22 academic year.
  • Qualification awards data must not be used to hold schools to account for their learners’ outcomes.
  • School Categorisation will not take place in the academic year 2021/22.
  • The suspension of Estyn’s core inspection programme for schools and PRUs will be extended to include the autumn term 2021.
  • All schools and post-16 providers continue to be required to undertake effective self-evaluation to support continuous improvement.

However, not everything is so certain:

  • What further disruption to learning may occur in 2021-22?
  • How will Qualification Wales / the WJEC determine grading standards in 2022, after two years of turbulence, without disadvantaging Y13?
  • What data will 2022 results be compared to when fixing grade boundaries?

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 Y11 baseline based on teacher assessment of Y10 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 all, or 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.

This blog is a companion piece to our Alps webinar ‘KS4 leadership priorities – Wales KS4 – 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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