How often are reports issued?
Your child will receive a written report once per term. These are often issued just before a parents evening and act as a starting point for discussion about the progress of your child. The reports provide pastoral information such as the students attendance as well as academic information such as the current levels in all the subjects your child studies. Paper copies of the reports are issued to your child as well as being available electronically via the SIMs Learning Gateway.
How are current levels recorded?
As you may be aware, following Government reforms in education, National Curriculum levels in schools have been abolished. You will also be aware that the A*-G grading system for GCSEs will be abolished completely from 2019 when the final GCSE subjects have been reformed.
Schools have been given individual responsibility for developing their own systems for assessment of current levels and for communication of these to students and parents. We have trialled several approaches to recording and communicating current levels including GCSE grades in KS4 and Mastery Levels in KS3.
Following our trials, parent and staff feedback, we have now adopted an assessment system that covers all year groups from 7 through to 11. This is loosely based on the new numerical grading system being adopted for the final GCSEs that Year 11 students sit.
All students will be given a current grade from 1 to 9 three times per year for each subject’s studied. These are written on the front of the student exercise books as well as being recorded on reports sent to parents three times each year.
At Swanmore we split each grade into two parts. For example a student could be awarded a 2 or a 2.5. This allows the student to demonstrate progress across the academic year and helps us, and parents, spot progress concerns.
The 1 to 9 grades are our way of providing a summary of the skills, abilities and knowledge of the student in each subject. The majority of feedback that students receive is however in the form of ‘targets to improve’ and ‘questions to develop understanding’. Students need to continually check what their skills and knowledge gaps are in each subject and work diligently to close those gaps.
Current levels and mock results – what is the difference?
Each year group sits a number of formal mock exams each year. The exact nature of these mocks varies by year and by subject. The report following the mocks will show both the current level and the mock grade. At times the mock grade and the current grade may differ. This is often where a student is performing at a higher level in class than was demonstrated in the mock.
Differences between the current level and the mock can highlight problems with revision or perhaps exam technique. We would recommend a discussion with the appropriate teacher to see if there are any issues that may need to be addressed.
How do we set a student’s target?
Many schools use an external company called the Fisher Family Trust (FFT) to set targets. Swanmore College is no different. We have chosen what is known as FFT20 targets that would put our students in the top 20% of the country should they reach them at Key Stage 4. The target setting approach FFT uses is based on the students KS2 starting points while taking into account other ‘contextual’ information including where the students live, their attendance and how many schools they have attended.
We use FFT to generate a student’s targets for each subject at KS4. We take these individual subject targets and calculate an average – we call this the A8 target. A student has only one A8 target for their GCSE results. Based on the ability of the student we then subtract a predefined amount to generate a target for each of the years 7 through to 10.
For example consider Pupil A who left Primary School working at the expected standard in English and Mathematics. The FFT model suggests that the pupil is most likely to achieve, on average, a level 5 (GCSE standard pass) in Year 11. The target range for Year 11 would then be 4-6. The target range for Year 10 would be 3-5. The target range for Year 9 would be 2-4 and so on down to Year 7.
Why do the parent reports have a target range and why not publish specific targets for each subject?
We do not publish the A8 target to students or parents. Instead we publish a single target range on the reports. This is specific to each student.
Student performance can of course vary across the subjects that they take. Some students are good at English and not so good at Mathematics for example. Having a target range allows for the student to aim for the top of the range in their best subjects. As long as the average of all their grades is at least as good as the student’s A8 for that year then they can be proud of their achievements.
There is also a lack of clarity around grade boundaries for the 9-1 exams in 2018. We don’t yet know exactly what a grade 6 looks like in Geography for example. Publishing individual targets for each subject could be misleading until the new 9-1 exams are better understood. Having a target range allows for this variation in grade boundaries as the GCSEs are reformed.
At some point in the future, when the skills and knowledge required for each 9-1 grade are well understood, we may re-introduce specific targets for each subject.
The student’s current result is a long way below the target range for the year – what can be done?
It is important that our students understand clearly what is needed to move to the next level in each of their subjects. Each student needs to understand the gaps in their knowledge and skills and have a plan to close those gaps. If the student is below the target range, they should focus on moving to the next level and worry less about the target. Please encourage your child to talk to their subject teachers to better understand what needs to be done to improve.
The student’s current result is above the target range. Should the target be changed?
This is a brilliant position to be in. Just because the student has exceeded the target range in a subject doesn’t mean that they can’t further improve in that subject. Our advice is to look at all other subjects as well. Are there any subjects that need more focus without impacting the well performing subjects?
How does Swanmore College provide predicted grades?
In Year 11 we provide predicted grades for all subjects. These are recorded as ‘fine grades’ which show a level of confidence in the prediction.
For example if we predict that a student is going to achieve a 5A in a GCSE then the grade 5 is very secure. The student should be looking asking what needs to be done to increase the prediction to a 6. If the prediction is a 5C then the grade 5 is not secure. The student needs to consider what needs to be done to avoid the prediction dropping to a grade 4.
GCSEs that have not moved to the 9-1 grading use a similar approach. A prediction of A1 is a very secure A; a prediction of an A3 is not secure.
How can I find out more?
With the abolition of National Curriculum levels and changes to the GCSE grading systems there is a lot of confusion and complexity in assessment approaches in many schools. Should you have any outstanding concerns or questions about our approach please do not hesitate to contact Swanmore College on [email protected]