St Aidan’s Catholic Academy recognises the need for schools to increase the number of pupils attaining level 5 or above in both English and Maths with the new 1-9 specifications introduced in 2015. Subsequently, they have undertaken the necessary steps to establish an overall strategy that aims to improve and maintain pupils’ performance in English and mathematics. This strategy has proved to be extremely effective, showing an increase in the pupils’ results, while also adhering to the Quality Mark framework.
In 2015 the academy developed a new curriculum for the delivery of new specification courses. Both the Maths and English departments attended events to listen to all examination boards prior to decide which was the most suitable for their students. Both departments then set out their delivery of the curriculum with built-in assessment windows that take place in the same week to allow for a joined-up evaluation of results. In year 11 all formal assessments are carried out in exam conditions and are based on full sections of GCSE exams or full examination papers from previous years.
Joint efforts to ensure performance
When the results have been analysed by the departments separately, an overview of the combined outcomes is carried out by an Assistant Headteacher who takes a focussed look at students who are achieving 5+ in one of the subjects but not the other, as well as those borderline students at risk of slipping below a 5 in one or the other. A joint meeting with both departments is carried out to create awareness for first wave teaching, as well as to devise intervention strategies to ensure positive outcome.
The departments work to a precise curriculum plan, which progressively leads to the delivery of a full knowledge base, wherein regular assessment opportunities are given. Both departments are subject to a rigorous monitoring cycle by senior leaders within the school to ensure that the quality of delivery is excellent and the monitoring is purposeful. There is a strong culture of reflective practice and staff are regularly given development points to improve on.
Planning, intervention and progress review
In order to ensure the quality and validity of provision the departments have created a 5-year curriculum map. The map outlines the delivery of each subject from Year 7 to 11 and highlights the key concepts which are revisited over the full period of secondary education. Each half term the English and Maths teams meet to discuss crossover and boundary students. In addition to all English and Maths teachers, the leads for More Able students, Disadvantaged students and SEND students are also in attendance. The meeting is chaired by a Senior Assistant Headteacher with the aim of formulating strategies to ensure success in both Maths and English. The meeting generates action points and War Boards are created so that intervention can be recorded and assessed.
When new data is analysed, it is overseen by a member of leadership who co-ordinates data driven intervention meetings held with both subjects together. This gives members of both departments an indication of the target group, and a plan of action is put in place. The actions are documented and revisited regularly to assess impact. Students are also looked at in groups and the lead for DA and MA attend the meeting. Clear, achievable intervention strategies are put in place with accountable measures.
Commitment to continuous improvement
St Aidan’s Catholic Academy has proven to be committed to maintaining high standards for their pupils’ learning provision. Well thought out department development plans serve to keep each department in a constant cycle of reflection and improvement, so that areas where improvement is possible are a focus. Regular work scrutiny is carried out to ensure that pupils are aware of their progress and take pride in their books. A clear marking policy is cemented in the school which always presents pupils with the opportunity to improve their work. Both departments also insist on very strong cultural values in students, and as such behaviour in the school is excellent.
The immediate impact was to improve the co-ordinated Maths and English performance and in 2018 60% of St Aidan’s pupils achieved 5+ in both Maths and English. This was the highest attainment in both Sunderland and Washington. With context being considered, as an all-boys school, this was in the top percentiles nationally. In addition to achieving the highest level of attainment, progress in both subjects was positive with +.26 for English and +.02 for Maths.
In 2019 results were again the highest in Sunderland and Washington for attainment with 61% of pupils achieving 5+ in both English and Maths. Again, progress was positive for both subjects, +.07 for English and +.1 for Maths. Maths was a full 9% higher than the closest attaining school in the authority.
Find out how Quality Mark supports and celebrates high quality English and maths provision in secondary settings.