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Key Stage 3- How to Make it Count?

My project is to evaluate how much stretch and challenge there currently is in our Key Stage 3 English lessons and to examine how to close the attainment gap for our highest ability students. I have decided that I am going to look at students entering on a 5b KS2 level. Upon examination, I chose six students who are underachieving in accordance with their ability or who have been coasting on the same level for quite some time. When looking for ideas for different strategies I observed several lessons in which the same students are excelling in other subjects and I have also done some reading around the topic. I have decided that I will:

  • Meet with the group of six that I have chosen and explain the rationale behind their selection

  • Place them on an English challenge report which outlines how they can challenge themselves and also track how challenged they feel in English lessons and why

  • Meet with their various teachers to explain the focus and also provide some ideas on how to implement more stretch and challenge for these pupils

  • Monitor assessment data to see how much (if any) progress that they make over a certain time period.

  • Carry out lesson observations and joint planning

Upton (2011) defined a successfully challenging classroom as one in which ‘high expectations and intellectual challenge are universal and are communicated to all.’ I want to help teachers create this type of environment while also working more efficiently. I do not want to create more work for them when they are planning to meet the needs of our higher ability students.

I also understand that planning a challenging lesson is only half the battle. Interestingly, I carried out a survey before choosing which strategies to implement. I found this student voice data extremely helpful in choosing my focus. Having surveyed 50 students, I found that the majority felt challenged in most lessons but often weren’t sure how to move forward once they ‘got stuck’. Also most felt that although their teacher provided sufficiently challenging work the students themselves needed to:

  • Ask more questions

  • Choose to complete the challenging work when there is the option instead of taking the ‘easy route’

  • Have higher expectations of themselves

As a teacher of KS3, KS4 and KS5 I realise that we often let KS3 ‘slide’ when focusing on planning and marking for exam groups but I feel that this, in the long run, creates more issues and thus contributes to the lower amount of 7-9 grades (A /A*) currently being achieved. As Hubbard (2016) states there are two key issues with English KS3 teaching:

  • the poor relation of KS4 - in the long shadow of KS4

  • a lower priority for teachers who also teach KS4 & 5

In order to help students reach their full potential here at JFAN we are trying to filter the more challenging GCSE skills down to KS3 while also planning creative and engaging ‘fun’ lessons. This will be an integral part of my focus when observing lessons looking for that stretch and challenge.

Ms. Megan Hickey

Teacher of English

Joyce Frankland Academy, Newport

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