The key to ensuring students make outstanding academic progress is knowing their starting points and building on them. Prior to joining the HVS, we work closely with every family, student and year six teacher at a student’s Primary School to begin to understand the strengths and needs of each student. We also meet social workers, specialist teachers and SENCOs where appropriate and begin to build relationships with the adults who know the child the best.
On joining the School we look at each individual student’s Primary School data whilst capturing their reading ages, conducting student interviews and running CATS tests. In subjects that are new to the students and which they may not have studied before, we also run benchmark tests. By drawing on different pieces of data we can set motivating and meaningful targets for each subject set for the end of each academic year. These targets are reviewed each half-term and increased if necessary.
The School has moved into life beyond national curriculum levels and students have a GCSE subject specific target from the start. The School maps expected progress against actual progress each half-term and shares this with parents via an online portal.
Our approach is a coherent curriculum model running over five years towards GCSEs rather than the traditional Key Stage Three / Four split. This means students are developing critical thinking skills and accessing sophisticated subject material from the moment they arrive.
Each half-term students are assessed on their learning in a variety of ways – this might be through presentations, performances, written work, exam papers, producing videos or building and designing something new. Students are given clear ways to improve their work via learning conversations with the student and in written feedback. At the end of each year students sit formal examinations in each subject to consolidate their learning and prepare them for their GCSE examinations.
Parents receive a half-termly report via our online parent portal, outlining their child’s progress, the effort they are making, their attendance and punctuality and how many house points they have received. The report also highlights any areas of concern, although this will already have been flagged up by the subject teacher or tutor. There are opportunities to discuss the report in more detail at parents’ evenings and other parent consultations during the year.
The culture of the School is one of fearless feedback – staff and students are open to giving and receiving critique. They are taught the skills of drafting and refining work from day one and are always working towards an agreed and shared success criteria. This ensures an ethos of excellence where the whole school community is focussed on improving and progressing their craft.