Understanding progress is not straight forward. Within subjects we continually evolve our curriculum to meet the needs of students alongside assessment approaches that compliment new learning. This page tries to outline the approaches across the school to help parents and students understand the process of understanding progress. Within each subject area there is more specific detail about how student progress is developed and understood.
At BGS we constantly reflect on the approaches we use as a school and within subjects. On subject pages you will find short explanations of the different approaches the subjects use. For our Assessment Grade (AG) Reports we make holistic judgements using both formative and summative findings, which means that no student’s grade is based on just one individual assessment. At the end of KS4 & 5 GCSE’s and A Levels use a summative exam that, in some subjects, is bolstered by controlled assessment or assignments.
The term assessment covers a multitude of approaches in education that are usually split into two types Formative and Summative.
Formative assessment examples:
- Spontaneous quizzes or voting exercises
- Mind maps summarising what students know already on a topic
- Silent classroom polls
- Writing summary paragraphs on a topic
- Q&A exercises
- Creative exercises such as drawing or creating a collage
- Peer assessing work
Formative assessment helps to inform the teacher of what the child knows there and then about either recent or longer term learning so that they can respond immediately to their needs. It also helps shape planning for future lessons.
This type of assessment is designed to test how much a child knows at the end of a unit, course or year. It is a one-off test that shows what the child knows on that one specific day. It is a total of all the learning that has occurred so far. In schools, these tests will possibly happen at the end of a topic, half term, term or at the end of the year, to assess the sum of all the learning. Summative assessment helps to inform the teacher of what the child has been able to recall of the learning from that period of time. This tells the teacher what gaps there may be in the subject knowledge and where the child may need extra support.
We create the initial targets by using a national benchmarking service, called FFT Aspire, part of Fischer Family Trust, which generates the likely grades that pupils with a similar KS2 score achieved in previous years with; average, high and very high progress. We take the very high target (the top 5% across the country) and then adjust up or down based on other information such as previous progress, the 11+ score and importantly teachers’ knowledge.
At BGS we believe in aspirational targets rather than expected targets, therefore, the target should be the grade that encourages the pupil to work at their very best. The target should not feel unobtainable but nor should it feel attainable without sustained hard work. Pupils will be encouraged to strive for these targets and supported where they are finding it difficult. For some pupils that means that some targets may feel very high if they performed better than expected at KS2 and vice versa if the tests did not go to plan. Where students achieve above the aspirational target we raise the target to reflect the new level of attainment.
We believe parents and pupils should play an integral part in helping fashion appropriate targets. The current target on the AG report can be amended if parents feel they would like it changed and you can email the Head of Year for a conversation about that. We currently use a range of grades as a target to support student mental health.
Systems are different between subjects, Key Stages, schools and countries. To try and simplify that we put our summary feedback into a centralised reporting system called Assessment Grades or AGs for short. This is the quick one stop shop that gives students and parents the overview of how learning is going.
Subjects know what end points look like in GCSEs and A Levels, they also know what starting points students have when they join in Year 7 through Key Stage 2 SATs and our own internal baseline assessments. Each Department creates ‘signposts’ of expected attainment, at different levels, working backwards from GCSE/A Level outcomes to Year 7 starting points, working out what is expected of students performing at different levels at each reporting point. Staff then weigh up all their known knowledge of the students before deciding the ‘best fit’ attainment grade which you see on AG reports.
The three AG reports you receive a year means about 30,000 bits of data are created during the year and these are checked by the class teacher, Head of Subject, Head of Year and then SLT. During these checks we look for anomalies and then check with staff re the accuracy. Sitting behind this in the teacher’s mark book will sit many more bits of data including formal assessments, low stakes quizzing, effort on Homework, engagements with Q&A, etc.
Despite the mass of data and the significant scrutiny there are always occasions where transfer error can occur so if you ever want to query a grading you must feel you can do so.
At Key Stage 3 we prefer not to give out GCSE grades as the learning is about preparation for GCSEs and not undertaking the actual courses. However, to try and give parents some sense of end point we do loosely correlate these with ‘most likely’ GCSE grades
If you want more detail than the AG report there are other ways to reassure yourself about progress.
In the first instance the best place to go to see if progress is being made is in the exercise book. It is important when looking at exercise books that you take the big picture view as progress is not perfectly linear and students can sometimes take a step sideways before continuing forward. Consider: is learning building on previous learning, is there a good breadth of knowledge being developed, is the work being produced by the student more complex, is there evidence of success in any formal assessment. This can be difficult for non-specialists, particularly as students get older and the complexity of the learning increases.
Parent’s Evenings are another opportunity to reassure yourself about progress. Some teachers see over 40 sets of parents in an evening and won’t carry every detail of the learning around in their heads. Therefore, if you have quite specific questions it is often beneficial to email the subject teacher.
Heads of Year can often help out if you have any concerns or questions. They will talk to teachers before replying to queries and can provide a contextualised view of a situation. However, please be mindful to be specific and limit your queries to what you really need to know.
The higher the number the better the performance. We grade effort with the following understanding
- 5 - Consistently: You perform as well as expected all of the time.
- 4 - Typically: You perform as well as expected most of the time.
- 3 - Frequently: You perform as expected more than not
- 2 - Occasionally: You perform as expected some of the time.
- 1 - Rarely: The performance is not supporting progress.
This is a holistic judgement based on the work over the year to date rather than on any one piece. It will include the commitment to producing work, how students respond to oral and written feedback, how well students self-regulate their learning, etc. Naturally it is subjective to the teacher but subjects routinely moderate to try and ensure parity across the subject. Subject Leaders also meet in groups to evaluate each subject’s work to help create parity across the school.
Show My Homework makes the process of work at home more transparent and accessible. All parents and students can engage with it through a computer or phone with internet access.
The role of the parent
The initial role many parents naturally take is one of homework police either asking if homework is complete or physically checking it is done. This can start off as the norm in Year 7 as you try to get into a routine as a family, but can tail off as the student progresses through their teenage years due to it being time consuming. This can then sometimes lead to confrontation.
The better approach is to focus on organising student homework routine and environment. Look at the school website and find out what sites they promote and then explore these with the student. Help the student log in to any platforms the school uses (or check they can already) and ask them to show you around. Where the student is finding it difficult support them to email their tutor so more support can be given at school. Think about the physical space they use, the possible distractions that will lead to homework feeling like it never ends, and that their comfort needs are met first. Talk to them about motivation, parents are undoubtably in a better position to understand their own child's motivation than their teacher is. We want to encourage a desire to learn that will stay with them rather than psychological punishment that will wane off in rebellious teenage years. Finally help the student develop a learning network so they have different avenues of support when they get stuck. The more routinely they are able to access support the happier they will be in doing so. This is a vital routine to set up early as it can be hard to get a 15-year-old to suddenly start admitting they don’t know things.
Once you feel that a routine is established it might be better to take a different approach. We believe our students are invariably capable of self-regulation and if the parental focus supports that then students don’t need to report nightly to parents with their homework in hand.
With this in mind far better to chat over the dinner table generally about learning rather than dive into the specific detail (unless the student wants to talk about the specifics):
- How is your schedule going?
- Have you got the resources you need?
- What was the most interesting/surprising/fun/creative thing you did today?
- Tell/teach me three facts, two opinions and one new idea you learnt today
- What question do you wish you’d asked today?
- What did you improve in today?
- What do you wish you could have continued with today when the learning stopped?
If you want to engage even more in the learning process you can do a number of things:
- Head to the subject pages and look at the long term plans. See what topics are coming up and then build in future family learning opportunities…..who doesn’t like visiting real castles!
- Read about how the brain works and particularly about memory. Much has been done in this area in science recently and we continue to understand the process better each few years. Finding ways to support the student develop good retrieval practices is a very good place to start. You don’t have to do it with school work but if the practices become routine they are easily transferrable.
- Encourage a growth mindset, a can-do attitude and an aspirational outlook.
- Finally, above all else help us help you manage the student’s mental health. There is always a little pressure around homework for all involved. This is normal and sometimes helpful in pushing through situations. However, sometimes, because of other things going on in student’s lives or because they have fallen behind etc., that pressure can become excessive stress and leaves people feeling overwhelmed. Where this is the case you should speak to the Head of Year who can help put short term measures in place to help ease the situation and get students back on track. Unchecked chronic or long term stress can lead to mental health problems, so any concerns need dealing with as soon as possible. Look on our wellbeing page for more information about mental health.