Alps and HPL – Supporting every student’s future: Next steps after GCSE results

13th August 2020

For the first time in living history, students are collecting their GCSE exam grades without having sat a single exam. They will finally be able to make some decisions about their futures and teachers can begin planning for their next cohort. Unfortunately, though, these results are likely to raise as many questions as they answer.

After undertaking the huge task of providing Centre Assessed Grades for their Y11 pupils, teachers have been waiting with anticipation for today’s Calculated Grades. These have been standardised using a variety of factors but with particular consideration for the school’s previous results at a subject level, and placed on the bell-curve to ensure a proportioned statistical distribution. Concerns have emerged that a high proportion of grades will change; Ofqual revealed that grades submitted by teachers were 9% higher than actual results in 2019 as an exclusive with Tes suggests 40% of teacher-assessed grades could be moderated downwards. The outcome on results day will have a significant impact on student and teacher confidence alike.


So what happens next?

Traditionally, A-levels, vocational qualifications and apprenticeships will have an entrance policy with minimum grade requirements across several relevant subjects. What will we do now with the student who wants to take A-level Maths whose GCSE Calculated Grade was 6, but who might have had the required CAG of Grade 7? Do we create an exclusivity in education for those from higher performing backgrounds?

It is important to remember then that no matter the starting point, ability and intelligence is not predetermined. That with the right opportunity, motivation, and support, almost everyone is capable of high performance. With this in mind then, should we not be encouraging this potential and making our entrance policies wider and taking more account of the present circumstances? Our student’s GCSE outcome today is just a snapshot of their progress in time, not a determinant of their future.

HPL framework


How can teachers support students through this unprecedented landscape ahead?

A-levels require much greater independence of learning and thought. With their increased workload, they require greater commitment and resilience. Y11 students now have had prolonged time at home, have not gone through the self-disciplining practice of GCSE exam revision and have a greater need to consolidate materials that many will have forgotten by the time they return to classrooms.

From September, teachers will be able to teach and deliver the content to their class, but to enable their success, teachers will need to provide the opportunities for developing the cognitive skills and attitudes for students to access the higher level thinking and questioning demanded at A-level.

The first step will be ensuring students put this year behind them and look forward. They must understand the need to take ownership of their own learning, to seek support when they need it and motivate themselves towards doing well these next two years. Creating an aspirational and positive atmosphere is key for ensuring students maintain a positive approach to their learning and encourage peer support.

Alongside content delivery, teachers should focus on supporting students through this transition by developing a programme of independent learning tasks and opportunities. Activities that make their skill development explicit and ensure they develop and refine their cognitive skills and attitudes. This can be supported at home and we would do well to provide guidance to our parents and carers in how they can further strengthen motivation and skill development at home.

September will undoubtably bring additional challenges to overcome, but it also brings new opportunities. There have been some positives in the way in which we have had to approach distance learning with our students over the past few months, which have surely led to a greater sense of independence and resilience for many of our students. Embracing these new methodologies and blending them with effective classroom learning whilst ensuring equality of access for all may help to drive creativity and aspiration in our young people,


About HPL:

High Performance Learning is a unique approach which systematically grows minds and develops the cognitive skills and behaviours needed in students to achieve rapid success. Using a flexible framework, they help teachers reflect on and transform their practice to deliberately build success.

About Alps:

Alps helps nurture a culture of positivity and continuous improvement by providing staff with the analysis and insight they need, allowing intervention to take place. Their robust methodology is proven to get results and because they use the national dataset to create their benchmark, their analysis remains relevant and accurate.


About the Authors:

Dr. Rebecca Glass, Head of Schools Liaison at High Performance Learning

As Head of Schools Liaison at HPL, Rebecca supports British schools around the world in their commitment to creating the highest numbers of highly performing students. She holds a PhD in genetics that reinforces the philosophy that any student, regardless of background is capable with the right support and opportunity

Sue Macgregor, Director of Education and Product Development at Alps Education

As Director of Education and Product Development at Alps Education, Sue’s role is at the centre of helping staff get the most out of their Alps analysis in order to drive aspiration in their students. Sue joined the Alps team in 2016, having worked as Deputy Head at Windsor Girls’ School. As a Deputy, Sue used Alps extensively to raise standards of attainment across the sixth form and now uses this experience to drive the development of the Alps product, delivering world-class analysis to schools and colleges all over the world.

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