The Barnet Partnership for School Improvement’s (BPSI) Key Stage 5 programme hosted their first online TeachMeet on Thursday 2nd of December. Attended by 30 teachers from the 19 schools involved in the programme, the TeachMeet consisted of 12 presentations on schools’ best practices, ranging from strategic leadership to innovative classroom practices. Also present at the TeachMeet was a representative from an 11-16 school, further demonstrating how pupil success at Key Stage 5 is founded on earlier stages of school. The TeachMeet provided schools with the opportunity to showcase the initiatives that have impacted their sixth form students and created a platform to facilitate collaboration and knowledge sharing between schools.
Take a closer look at the excellent work happening at sixth form schools in Barnet by reading about the initiatives below or learn how you can take part in the next TeachMeet in March 2022 here.
Friern Barnet School: Post-16 Transitions – to raise aspirations
The 11-16 school that attended the TeachMeet, Friern Barnet highlighted the importance of their students having the opportunity to discover Post-16 options in greater detail. In their presentation they discussed how raising the aspirations of pupils early on in secondary school can increase the chances of them being successful in progressing to A-level and sixth form experiences. Looking beyond the standard “roadshow” experiences where pupils visit certain sixth forms or attend assemblies about Post-16 options, Friern Barnet is seeking opportunities for their students to experience the things they would be expected to do as part of a sixth form programme for meaningful, more in-depth exposure to sixth form. These opportunities include small groups of students experiencing a “day in the life” of a sixth form student or having the opportunity to speak with current sixth form students to develop a better understanding of attending sixth form study and preparing for A-levels. Increasing these opportunities from early on ensures students are more likely to progress to sixth form and are better positioned to succeed at Key Stage 5.
St James’ Catholic High School: Independent Learning Skills Programme
At the beginning of each term, students at St James spend a day learning about a range of eight different skills they can use to enrich their learning and study at sixth form. To better develop these skills, students are also invited to attend weekly sessions during term time to apply them to ongoing study and better embed these practices in their daily work. These study skills are also shared with staff, encouraging teachers to integrate these skills into their lessons so that students can continue to build on these skills and get the most out of their sixth form study. To ensure the Independent Learning Skills Programme is relevant for students, a “Student Voice” feedback form is collected every half-term to better inform the design of the programme and meet students’ current needs. Further, to anticipate potential barriers that may arise across A-level teaching, the school analyses Key Stage 5 data from previous years to determine what adjustments need to be made, if any, to better support student learning.
Christ’s College Finchley: Hitting the Ground Running
CCF identified that there was a lack of work being completed by students between lessons, impacting the progress that students were making in sixth form. To remedy this, CCF worked to create a culture where independent study takes place. This consisted of all year 12 teachers being asked to assign a substantial piece of homework in their first lesson with new Year 12 students, such as assigning two hours of high-level GCSE chemistry questions. As a result, sixth form students were able to “hit the ground running” by having a substantial amount of work to get on with from the first lesson. To better organise their time, students would take time during registration on Monday mornings to plan how they would use their spare time effectively and identify which tasks or topics they would study when they have free lessons. As a result, teachers saw high hand-in rates of work and observed that students appeared to better maintain momentum each term.
St James’ Catholic High School: Reciprocal Reading
Inspired by the Hackney Learning Trust Literature Programme, St James implemented Reciprocal Reading at Key Stage 5 across all teaching subjects. A strategy that helps to improve comprehension, Reciprocal Reading focuses on four key reading strategies: predicting, questioning, clarifying, and summarising. This provides students with a framework to buttress their thinking and comprehension when encountering a text that is challenging or unfamiliar. Reciprocal Reading was used to embed literacy throughout sixth form study, working to counteract passivity and promote active reading and discussion, leading to deeper engagement with the material and more critical and independent thinking. This skill led to more challenging texts being used in class and helped students better navigate these texts by using the four active Reciprocal Reading strategies. At St James, they found success in “flipping” lessons, allowing students to teach their peers through Reciprocal Reading, which led to greater comprehension and application of the material.
Whitefield School: Explicit Vocabulary Instruction
With a wealth of evidence indicating that vocabulary is the best indicator of school success, Whitefield School has implemented explicit vocabulary instruction across subjects at Key Stage 5. Focusing on words that are frequently encountered in written texts and subject-specific, academic language. Whitefield’s approach to vocabulary instruction follows Alex Quigley’s ‘SEEC’ Model: Select, Explain, Explore, Consolidate. Vocabulary words were selected based on which words would be high-impact and versatile across A-level study as well as words that would better equip students to understand and discuss content. Words were then explained through student-friendly definitions and used in a range of sentences and contexts before students were tasked with writing their own examples. To explore the word and to develop a better understanding of language as a whole, students then dove into the word’s etymology, such as understanding the prefixes, suffixes, and roots, as well as using visual tools, synonyms, and antonyms. In the final step of consolidation, retrieval practice, targeted questioning, and academic discussion are used to reinforce vocabulary learning, as well as encouraging the vocabulary’s use in daily life, such as in spoken communication with one another and presentations. Whitefield’s approach to vocabulary sees it as an opportunity to remove barriers to academic success and allows for more meaningful engagement with the material
Whitefield School: Stretching KS5 Science
To better equip students for independent learning, Whitefield School takes students through exercises that task them with synthesizing prior knowledge and applying it to new subjects, particularly in science. The example given in the presentation was a retrieval practice in biology that asked students to work together and use prior learning to arrange assorted sweet biscuits into a cladogram, suggesting a genotype for each biscuit and explaining what selection pressures led to each speciation. Through this exercise, several patterns emerged with students determining the round biscuits with smooth edges to be aquatic animals, rectangular biscuits with ridged edges to be land animals (as the ridges resembled legs), and rounded biscuits with ridged edges to be semi-aquatic, and so on. The exercise deepened learning by forcing students to retrieve prior knowledge and make connections between concepts in order to tackle a novel task. The goal is that by equipping students with the skills needed to make links between blocks of information that they develop a more meaningful understanding of the material and can better approach unfamiliar concepts and problem-solve by applying prior learning.
St James’ Catholic High School: BOOST Programme
St James launched their BOOST Programme to provide targeted support to students who needed the most scaffolding to succeed at sixth form. The BOOST Programme takes place during the six weeks prior to mock examinations, using the Diagnosis, Therapy and Testing (DTT) formula from PIXL, then restarts again with a focus on the summer exam period. After identifying a cohort of students, BOOST Programme leaders meet with the students to explain the support project and send letters home to their parents explaining the means and aims of the BOOST Programme. Action plans are developed for each student and are discussed with students every two weeks, tasking students with specific items to complete in weaker areas. If evidence of study is not shown by students, they then take part in enforced study periods to ensure they are engaging with the material on a regular basis.
Hasmonean Boys High School: Event Operations Vocational Course
To continue motivating students to consider their futures, Hasmonean School has launched a new vocational course in Event Management and Operations. Many students have signed onto the course, seeing it as an opportunity to develop the skills needed for an exciting and fulfilling career. The course has been particularly inspirational to students with an entrepreneurial spirit, with students acquiring the knowledge and skills needed to start their own event management business upon completion of school. Course teachers have found that blended learning has worked particularly well, with students not only partaking in learning activities but presenting information and ideas to their peers. The school has found that adding this new vocational course has led to students being more motivated in their studies and looking forward to their future careers.
Copthall School: Careers and reaching Gatsby Benchmarks
Copthall School highlighted the careers guidance and information they offer to students, both in work experience and opportunities available to develop transferrable skills. Most of Copthall’s Year 12 students are internal, so many of the students have already benefitted from one-to-one careers guidance and advice from the school since they were in Year 7. Scheduled enrichment lessons take place each fortnight, delivered by teachers, employers, and community organisations to deliver information to students about careers and planning for the future. Some of these enrichment lessons include information about applying for and attending university, apprenticeships, and opportunities for volunteering in the community to develop employability skills. Similarly, other enrichment lessons covered important information about budgeting and how to access and register for work experience. All Year 12 students are required to complete one week of work experience in July, allowing students to better understand what employers are expecting from applicants and what it might be like to work in their desired field. While many of the work experience employers are already in partnership with Copthall School, some are sought out and contacted by individual students who have a particular interest in that field or organisation. Through this process, students discover what it’s like to apply for positions and work on their CV writing and interview skills.
Beyond work experience and enrichment lessons, Copthall has created other opportunities for students to develop transferrable skills. Pre-pandemic, the school partnered with the Women’s Institute for students to take part in creative activities, like cooking and sewing, and discussed with students how these may relate to their future careers. Similarly, the school encourages students to take part in sports, seeing it as another opportunity for students to develop soft skills like collaboration, communication, and leadership. Through these opportunities, Copthall School has been able to help students not only develop confidence in their abilities but in themselves.
St Mary’s and St John’s CE School: EPQ
A way that students can earn UCAS points, EPQs provide students with an excellent opportunity to find their unique academic voice and interest – something that many universities are enthusiastic about. As a result, SMSJ has now made EPQs compulsory for all their students, with the project being timetabled and supported by a small teaching team. Described as a “mini-dissertation,” the EPQ mirrors the same things students will be expected to do when they complete their dissertation at university: students learn, develop, and apply their research and analysis skills to reach conclusions about their unique research question, culminating in the creation of an artefact or a production. SMSJ has found that the EPQ presents students with an excellent opportunity to not only learn independently but further develop an academic mindset as the project allows students to research topics they are passionate about in creative and inventive ways.
One student presented her artefact from the previous year where she explored if technology has replaced traditional art forms and if it changes the value of art. She developed her research question by determining she wanted to explore art – a subject she enjoys but didn’t choose for her A-levels – and that she wanted to explore something relevant to society today; further, she wanted to learn new techniques and how art has changed through the years. Kept a production log and kept track of everything she did regarding research, as well as compiling a bibliography, and producing her artwork. In her production log, she also recorded if things went wrong, didn’t go to plan, and if certain pieces took longer than anticipated. She explained that the EPQ not only allowed her to develop her art skills and learn more about things she was passionate about, but allowed her to improve her research, analysis, and time management skills.
Owing to the EPQ’s success, SMSJ is looking to adapt the project for Year 9 students to better prepare them to succeed at independent study in sixth form.
Whitefield School: Dual Coding
To support learning and memory retrieval, Whitefield School has implemented dual coding – the practice of providing both verbal and visual representations of information to improve student comprehension – both in lesson instruction and revision strategy. The practice has multiple benefits, including helping students recognise and understand the information in two different ways, communicating complex ideas in a more efficient way to students, and being able to support and challenge all learners at all levels. Regarding the latter, Whitefield School has found dual coding to not only be beneficial in improving comprehension among students who need additional help but has also been an excellent tool for pushing higher-level students to make connections between the visuals to enhance understanding.
St Michael’s Catholic Grammar School: Academic Curiosity - Aiming for Excellence in A-level French
One of the highest achieving language departments nationally, St Michael’s focuses on content and academic curiosity when it comes to language learning, finding that this practice increases intrinsic motivation among students. Not teaching just for the exam, St Michael’s approach to teaching content is to raise students’ cultural capital and make them more competitive when applying to Oxbridge schools. The content that is taught is largely determined by the students, providing students with what they want to learn in the language, what is interesting to them, seeing language learning as a vessel for concepts and ideas. Teachers dive into the grammar, vocabulary, and content with students on the subjects they are interested in, exposing students to a wider variety of texts and ideas in French at a higher level to not only improve comprehension but encourage them to learn more.
Each of these initiatives is representative of the highly aspirational students that attend school in Barnet and the excellent work schools are doing to better support pupils and ensure they succeed. Schools who would like to join the BPSI KS5 Programme to partake in future TeachMeets like this, as well as network meetings, and Sixth Form events like the one that took place in November at the RAF Museum, should contact either Steve Marshall at firstname.lastname@example.org or Charles Rice at email@example.com.
If you are already part of the KS5 Programme and would like the opportunity to showcase the excellent work happening at your school at the next TeachMeet on March 24th, 2022, contact Steve or Charles for more information.