A teacher perspective:        

We believe that students can improve intelligence, ability and performance by understanding their areas of strength and by putting effort into addressing identified points for development. We want our students to seek out better feedback and then persist for longer; developing grit and determination to improve. We believe that this will lead to an improved self-esteem of students an improved learning orientation by acting on specific personal feedback.

The parent role:

Research has shown that parents can help their child develop a growth mindset by praising their efforts rather than praising their existing talents. Other research suggests that presenting failures in a more positive light can encourage learning and increase your child’s belief that they can improve. When the school provides this subject specific level of detail parents can play an active role in supporting their son or daughter to continuously improve.

The “old” KS3 reporting system (2015-2020)

At Key Stage 3 we used to report home 3 times a year.

  • The end-of-year target grade (set by FFT based on Y6 SATS scores) was set and then each student was “flight-pathed” backwards from an “end of Year 11” target in that subject. Problem: This was unscientific and each department had their own approach to how a student would progress through five years.
  • The first two reports home came as a “progress grade” towards an end of year target (e.g. B – below expected progress to target). Problem: Progress is not linear (see appendix 1 below) as students make different rates of progress on different subjects/topics throughout the year.
  • The final report presented an “assessed” grade in relation to that end-of-year target. Problem: These assessments do not come assessed from a national dataset and are open to teacher interpretation. Explaining that a high ability Y8 student is “performing at a grade 4=” at the age of 12 is misleading, inaccurate and unhelpful.

The problems currently faced are:

  1. Target setting and flightpaths are proven to be an unscientific and inaccurate way to set targets over a five year period. Progress is not linear (Appendix 1) and judging progress towards flawed “flight pathed” targets back to Y7 is both unscientific and inaccurate.
  2. Predicting progress (by using a GCSE grade after six to eight weeks of teaching time) has led to sterile and likely inaccurate data, where over 90% of students were “making expected progress.” This first academic report comes too early, before we have a rich enough dataset on an individual.
  3. The “assessed grade” (that comes as an end-of-year sub-levelled GCSE-style grade) was given in the format of a GCSE number grade that was split-levelled (e.g. 2+). The assessments that informed this grade are teacher-made, highly variable, open to interpretation and do not correlate to a national dataset. As a result of these factors there is an illusion of accuracy that is not backed up by fact.
  4. In our reporting we do not support students or parents in understanding how to improve.

The new KS3 reporting system (2020-onwards):

We want students to recognise how they can improve and instead of saying “I can’t do it,” to say “I can’t do this yet.” We want to deliver a challenging curriculum and to push the boundaries of our students and their aspirations of what they can achieve. To support students in thinking like this we will be removing in-year progress grades (towards inaccurate targets) by providing students with a relatable goal for their own improvement and also a strength on which they can build and support others. These comments will be provided for every subject studied across key stage 3.

We will now report twice per year in Key Stage 3: December for Y9 to support them in their options process and in February (Y7 + Y8). We will also report in June/July (Y7-Y9).

Each report will contain:

Students and parents will receive a detailed written report for each subject showing:

  1. The identified strength of the student in that subject
  2. The identified area for improvement in that subject
  3. A teacher prediction of whether the student is a cause for concern to achieve within an eventual grade range (e.g. likely to achieve GCSE grade 6-7 at the end of Y11). This grade will not be based on a single assessment, but instead on the student’s progress over half a year.
  4. Other core information such as attendance, house points, behaviour points etc.

How will this information be used?

By not getting students to focus on specific grades we hope to build their growth mindset. We will continue to offer assessments and grades in class tests, end-of-unit tests, in-year assessments and end-of-year assessments that will inform our end-of-year predictions as to what likely grade range a student will achieve.

By collecting comments for how students can improve (as opposed to grades) we will be able to see patterns of need at individual, class, department and year group level and support students to improve.

At student level:Heads of House, tutors and parents will be able to see where students are lacking in specific skills and support them (either individually or collectively) to improve.
At class level:Teachers will be able to focus on enhancing the skills of the class as well as teaching subject content.
At department level:Heads of department will be able to provide bespoke training within their departments where areas of need emerge, such as sharing strategies to improve depth of writing and explanations.
At year group level:If a high number of “area for development” comments are based on the same need, we will be able to run assemblies, workshops and PSHE to support the improvement in that area.

What are the additional benefits and drawbacks?

Parents and students will receive high quality feedback on how to improve, as opposed to “just a grade.”Fewer reporting windows at Key Stage 3 reduces staff frequency workload (teachers and administration) but allows in-depth support when required. The new system forces a focus on continuous improvement and actions for improvement as opposed to an attainment grade which is an unrealistic way to judge progress (discussed earlier). It removes the illusion of accuracy and allows teachers confidence and consistency in the comments they make to support improvement.Some parents will still want “grades” in-year despite their flawed nature and inaccuracy. All systems (SIMS, progress dashboards etc) must be updated. Teaching staff will have to review assessments and model how assessment will inform the end-of-year grade band predictions. Comments may not be fully applicable to all students in a subject unless skills grids are precise.

Appendix 1