Hitting the ground running in September 2023 – Setting priorities for Y11 as a KS4 Leader in Cymru / Wales

27th September 2023

By John Philip, Alps Senior Education Consultant

If you are a senior leader in a school, you will be urgently reviewing your 2023 examination results. Now that the Autumn Term is underway for schools in Wales, here are some reflections from Alps on setting priorities for Y11 in 2023-24. 

Understand your context: GCSE attainment 

This year, in Wales the national GCSE results were brought back to close to halfway between the outcomes in 2019 and 2022. Table 1 shows the high-level changes in results performance over the past 4 covid-impacted years.  

Understanding this context is vital when looking at your results this year. 

Overall, amongst 16-year-olds in Wales, 66% of all awards were at grade C+, which is 3.7% lower than in 2022, but 2.2% higher than in 2019. However, results at A*-E and lower in Wales in 2023 were awarded marginally lower outcomes than in 2019. 

Results at key thresholds were slightly lower than in England and considerably lower than in Northern Ireland. Table 2 shows the comparative results: 

This infographic from Qualifications Wales, provides a useful visual summary.

So, how does your school’s performance compare with these national figures? 

Understand your context: Capped 9 subject results

Table 3 shows the best results achieved by the 2023 cohort in key Capped 9 subjects: 

How does your school’s performance compare with these figures? 

Understand your context: Skills Challenge Certificate results 

Again, how does your school’s performance compare with these figures? 

Key questions and suggestions for this time of year: 

When asked by colleagues in schools and colleges, I recommend that you set priorities based on your school’s KS4 performance in 2023.  

Key questions should include: 

  1. What strategic priorities emerge from your raw results? 
  2. What strategic priorities emerge from your P8 / value-added? 
  3. Was the performance of any significant student group concerning? For example, by prior attainment, eFSM, by gender or ethnic group. 
  4. Which subjects performed best and least well in 2023? 
  5. Which subjects predicted final grades most or least accurately in 2023? 
  6. Which subjects had inconsistent performance at teaching set level? 

Using the answers to these questions, the next big question emerges: What are you doing right now, as a result of your analysis, to try to consolidate strengths and eradicate weaknesses in 2024? 


Setting priorities based on your new Y11’s end of Y10 data. 

When working with schools, the questions I would be asking include:

  1. What strategic ‘data’ priorities had already emerged before the end of the Summer Term?  
  2. What priorities relating to attendance or attitude to learning or mental health etc were a significant issue during Y10? 
  3. Which other priorities are now in place because of any disappointing surprises in terms of 2023 KS4 results? 


Y11 – My 7 Top Tips at this time of year  

The academic year often begins with in-depth evaluation of results in Raising Standards meetings with subject leads. Perhaps in 2023 these meetings need a focus on current Y11, where they appear to be based on Y10 assessment and how best to move forwards effectively. 

Top Tip 1: At Alps we suggest uploading a Monitoring Point Zero (MPZ) at the start of Y11. Essentially this is your final Y10 assessment data but adjusted so Y11 teachers can see their Y11 set’s baseline based on end of Y10 performance.

Top Tip 2: As always, there is much that we do not yet know and will have little ability to control. I recommend 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.

Top Tip 3: Create a realistic assessment timetable with subject leads to enable students to practice and master the skills required in examinations.

Top Tip 4: Use Alps Connect effectively throughout the year to help identify subjects, sets, student groups and students for support (& praise). Note for Alps users, if your skill at using the platform is rusty or you want more practical detail, we have a lot of support. Visit our Knowledge Base for our new Explorer series, a set of mini-videos on using Alps to best effect, and join our Champions Webinar programme, where I, or another of our educational experts, look at the pressing focus for each term, the key questions, latest updates and suggestions on how to use Alps to support you. You can also book in a free health check or you can always call the office to speak to one of the team about additional support we can offer.

Top Tip 5: At Alps we recommend a sharp focus on the subjects that are taken by all or most of your Y11 cohort as these subjects will have the most significant impact on this cohort’s outcomes and post-16 pathways as well as your Capped 9 points score and Alps value-added.

Top Tip 6: Do all you can to be relentlessly positive both with your students and their teachers– at the start of the year and throughout. 

Top Tip 7: Your top priority must involve putting the students’ needs and interests first, aiming for each to reach their potential and, perhaps crucially, to achieve positive post-16 pathways (again, for Alps users, check out our Champions resources on our Knowledge Base for practical ways to use Alps to help to do this). 


Tracking Y11 in Connect during 2023-24 

During 2023-24 Alps will continue to offer the 2019 data set for you to track progress against, as Qualifications Wales now intends for all results to return to pre-pandemic standards in 2024. 


Schools should use whichever WNT tests they have for students in this cohort to act as their KS4 baseline, for example Y7, Y8 or Y9. If students have taken no Welsh National tests, CAT4 MEAN SAS results can also be used as a prior attainment baseline in the Connect platform. 


 About the author: 

Since 2010, John Philip has worked with over 500 schools as an Alps Senior Educational consultant and, as a PiXL associate, with the Leadership teams of 27 PiXL schools at KS4 and Post-16, having previously focused on performance improvement and ‘hitting the ground running’ at the start of each academic year at Little Heath School.


This blog is a companion piece to our Alps webinar ‘Hitting the Ground Running: KS4 Wales’ which goes out live at 3:30pm on Thursday 5th October. This webinar will also demonstrate how to use Alps Connect most effectively when tracking progress. 

For Alps users – to register go to your Connect Homepage and click on “Book your Webinar space” for a full list of our free Champions Webinars. If you are not an Alps user and would like more information about how we can support you, please contact us at [email protected] to speak to one of our friendly team.  


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