Wales – Recruiting for Year 12 and setting aspirational targets in 2020
KS4 Results Day is usually packed with nervous anticipation, joyous celebration and, sadly for some, deep disappointment. In some ways, 20 August 2020 will be no different, whether conducted in school or electronically and remotely, as students access their results. However, it will still be, hopefully, unique as Year 11 2019-20 sat none of the examinations that led to these results.
Thankfully, after the A Level debacle, the results will now be based on centre-assessed grades.
Until Monday 17 August, a very different set of KS4 results looked set to be released. Qualification Wales was bracing us for a significant downward standardisation of centre-assessed GCSE grades.
On 13 August, this sent shock waves across the system as 42% of all A Level grades had been downgraded in Wales and the potential for a far larger impact on GCSE grades was there for all to see.
By 15 August it was reliably estimated that, purely using the algorithm, around 4.6 million GCSE grades across England and Wales were to be downgraded with no reference to the actual centre-assessed grades. Then on 17 August, the flawed algorithm was at last awarded Grade U.
This graph compares 2020 centre-assessed results at A*-A and A*-C with results from 2009 – 2019.
2020 will be a record year nationally for high GCSE grades in Wales and indeed for many, many schools. The grade rises Qualification Wales was trying to avoid will have happened.
Even as results are being issued on 20 August, schools and colleges throughout the land will be switching tack to finalising Post-16 recruitment and course selection.
At the start of September, as the new cohort of students are welcomed into their school/college and introduced to their A Level / Vocational courses, the focus moves swiftly to aspirational target setting.
This blog focuses on recruiting fairly and setting student targets for the 2020 centre-assessed GCSE grade cohort.
Whatever your school or college’s overall entry requirements for L3 courses are, you will almost certainly have more students who are eligible to take them. Even those courses that require significantly higher subject-specific grades are likely to have many more suitably qualified applicants, having been awarded their results through their centre-assessed grades.
It is also probable that, as the UK plunges into recession, there will be fewer apprenticeships and jobs with training to provide those young people with alternate pathways.
So, the very good news is that sixth forms in schools and colleges look set fair to be bigger than ever before perhaps with fewer of those extremely small and financially unviable sets in minority subjects.
The downside may be that the more marginal sixth form applicants may need much more pastoral and academic support and an effective transition period starting Day One in September to help them start to become sixth form students. In each subject, there may also be significant cohorts who need specialised support to start to grasp the skills they will be expected to develop and master over the next two years.
We would commend making sure students are given chances to be fairly assessed for course suitability in September, not to immediately trample their dreams down so soon after they have gained such good results, but to try your best not to have students following a course they seem most likely to fail.
Could some students be encouraged to take four L3 options in September with the reassurance that discussions at the end of September would narrow their choices to three?
Finally, we can be certain that, having lived through lockdown and with no formal schooling since March, many students may have experienced tragic loss, and many may be initially fearful about the safe return to full-time education. They will need reassurance, care and all the support you can provide
Aspirational Target Setting
Alps Minimum Expected Grades (MEGs) are set at the 75th% encouraging our schools and colleges to base their target setting systems around the progress made by the top 25% of students with similar Prior Attainment nationally. There should be no thought that these MEGs represent ceilings and many of our schools and colleges set additional Personalised Targets adding further challenge.
Our A Level MEGs are tabulated here.
Our assumption is that most – if not all – schools and colleges will have some students starting Sixth Form who are in a higher Alps band based on their results on 20 August than they may have been if they had sat all their exams.
This is both a challenge and an opportunity. These students have been rigorously assessed by teachers as having the ability to achieve those awarded grades and, with the right support and guidance, they can now be challenged to hit the heights on their L3 courses.
They must be encouraged to aspire, believe and achieve.
In our Alps Champions training course and webinars in 2019-20, we have been discussing using Alps MEGs sophisticatedly by encouraging teachers and students to additionally set Personalised targets that can be no lower than the original MEG.
This is because in schools and colleges using Alps most effectively Post-16 it is relatively common for students to be challenged to do even better than the 75th% MEG, using Personalised Targets. Adding this additional challenge happens for a variety of reasons:
- How progress in a subject benchmark compares to the MEGs. What Alps grade would you achieve if all the students in your set / subject achieved their MEG?
- How to set a subject or set target which is aspirational enough to achieve a red Alps grade
- How to set each student a personalised target that challenges them to achieve their full potential