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Evaluation article: Know your strengths Evaluation article: Developing an ethos of high expectation Achieving an ‘Outstanding’ Grade: Focused on Excellence Evaluation article: HR and the successful school: A case study Evaluation article: Leading the way to outstanding learner progress Evaluation article: Attainment and progress: The Rochford Review Evaluation article: How to create a leadership team that drives school improvement Evaluation article: Prioritising the budget for school improvement Evaluation article: Transforming a failing school Evaluation article: Evaluating alternative and specially resourced provision Evaluation article: Taking a school-wide approach to mental health and wellbeing Evaluation article: The latest developments in education - January 2016 Evaluation article: Managing uncertainty Evaluation article: Pupil voice as an evaluation technique Evaluation article: The latest developments in education - September 2016 Evaluation article: Deconstructing Ofsted: Reflection after inspection Evaluation article: MAT expansion: Don’t let school improvement become a casualty Evaluation article: Ten rules for outstanding leaders Evaluation article: The governing body as a critical friend Evaluation article: Developing an ethos of high expectations Evaluation article: The exam post-mortem Evaluation article: Safeguarding: Everyone’s responsibility Evaluation article: How do inspectors make the judgement about overall effectiveness? The Ofsted model Evaluation article: Effective leadership builds effective teams Evaluation article: Baseline assessment and SEND Evaluation article: Making performance management count in school improvement Evaluation article: Joining or setting up a multi-academy trust Evaluation article: Case study from Carlton Bolling College: Ensuring high-quality governance Evaluation article: Using pupil voice to support school evaluation Evaluation article: What are the signs of a good school improvement service adviser? Evaluation article: Headteachers’ appraisal Evaluation article: Making CPD work harder Evaluation article: Using the Framework for governance Evaluation article: Interpreting the inspection dashboard Evaluation article: The government's Prevent guidance Evaluation article: Improving provision for the most able Evaluation article: Personal development, behaviour and welfare Evaluation article: Is there a mental health crisis in our schools? Evaluation article: Evaluating the effectiveness of assessment Evaluation article: Raising boys’ achievement Evaluation article: National standards of excellence for headteachers Evaluation article: Governors and the inspection interview Evaluation article: Monitoring and coaching through lesson observation Evaluation article: CPD: Less measurement and more development Evaluation article: Challenging 
the most able Evaluation article: Using the teachers’ standards as a framework for CPD and accountability Evaluation article: Managing behaviour outside the classroom Evaluation article: Managing pupils’ behaviour in lessons Evaluation article: Keeping Children Safe Statutory Guidance Evaluation article: Four steps to school improvement Evaluation article: Finding a way through the jungle: The essence of leadership Evaluation article: How to audit your whole-school literacy provision Evaluation article: Professional development: the growing case for evidence Evaluation article: Getting personal  with CPD Evaluation article: Making performance appraisal an objective and helpful process Evaluation article: Parent View — an update Evaluation article: Raising pupil achievement through parental engagement: a practical approach Evaluation article: Effective parental engagement

Evaluation article: Know your strengths

Can you make inspection an enriching learning process that is actually good for your school? Heather Clements of Best Practice Network offers some advice. 

Evaluation article: Developing an ethos of high expectation

In this article, Steve Burnage shares some practical strategies to enable school leaders to develop an ethos of high expectation in their schools. 

Achieving an ‘Outstanding’ Grade: Focused on Excellence

Tony Powell outlines a step-by-step approach to support schools in achieving the accolade of ‘outstanding’ as defined by Ofsted.

Evaluation article: HR and the successful school: A case study

Adrian Kneeshaw, Headteacher of Carlton Bolling College, gives a personal viewpoint of the benefits of bringing in the experts.

Evaluation article: Leading the way to outstanding learner progress

Steve Burnage discusses engaging with good practice in the leadership of teaching and learning.

Evaluation article: Attainment and progress: The Rochford Review

Tony Powell reports on the findings of the final Rochford Review.

Evaluation article: How to create a leadership team that drives school improvement

A high-performing leadership team is at the centre of any school improvement mission. But how do you go about creating an excellent SLT? Colin McLean of Best Practice Network asks…

Evaluation article: Prioritising the budget for school improvement

Adrian Kneeshaw of Carlton Bolling school gives advice on how to focus school spending on improvement planning.

Evaluation article: Transforming a failing school

Matt Bromley offers some advice on turning around an underperforming school in a short space of time while laying down the foundations for sustainable improvement.

Evaluation article: Evaluating alternative and specially resourced provision

Tony Powell explains how inspectors gather evidence and make judgements on the quality of alternative and specially resourced provision.

Evaluation article: Taking a school-wide approach to mental health and wellbeing

With concerns about mental health rising, what can schools do to help their pupils? Suzanne O’Connell outlines the advice available from the National Children’s Bureau and how it might be…

Evaluation article: The latest developments in education - January 2016

Suzanne O’Connell provides a look at what’s currently being discussed, debated and determined in the world of education.

Evaluation article: Managing uncertainty

If you are struggling with a sense of uncertainty, be reassured: you are not alone. 2016 has been a year of upheaval, with the promise of big changes on the…

Evaluation article: Pupil voice as an evaluation technique

Tony Powell provides guidance on how to use discussion with pupils as a tool for self-evaluation.

Evaluation article: The latest developments in education - September 2016

Suzanne O’Connell provides a look at what’s currently being discussed, debated and determined in the world of education.

Evaluation article: Deconstructing Ofsted: Reflection after inspection

Tony Powell looks at how to use the feedback from your inspection in school improvement planning.

Evaluation article: MAT expansion: Don’t let school improvement become a casualty

How can an expanding multi-academy trust ensure that school improvement doesn’t become a casualty of change? Colin McLean of Best Practice Network looks at the issue and offers some guidance.

Evaluation article: Ten rules for outstanding leaders

Adrian Kneeshaw looks at how leadership is important to the success of the school, and how to lead effectively.

Evaluation article: The governing body as a critical friend

In his second article on the headteacher and governor relationship, Tony Powell defines what is meant by a ‘critical friend’.

Evaluation article: Developing an ethos of high expectations

Steve Burnage shares some practical strategies to enable school leaders to develop an ethos of high expectations in their schools.

Evaluation article: The exam post-mortem

Matt Bromley considers how schools can learn from exam performance data and build this into school improvement.

Evaluation article: Safeguarding: Everyone’s responsibility

With new safeguarding guidance released, it’s time to check your arrangements and update your staff.

Evaluation article: How do inspectors make the judgement about overall effectiveness? The Ofsted model

This article outlines the Ofsted methodology for determining whether a school is ‘outstanding’, ‘good’, ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’.

Evaluation article: Effective leadership builds effective teams

Steve Burnage offers advice on motivating staff, getting the best from them and building effective teams.

Evaluation article: Baseline assessment and SEND

Suzanne O’Connell looks at a report on baseline assessment in primary schools and it’s affect on identifying children with SEND.

Evaluation article: Making performance management count in school improvement

What do you need to do to make performance management a watertight process that makes a real contribution to school improvement? Keith Wright has some suggestions.

Evaluation article: Joining or setting up a multi-academy trust

Tony Stephens, of the Co-operative Academies Trust, looks at what is the best type of multi-academy trust for a school to join or establish.

Evaluation article: Case study from Carlton Bolling College: Ensuring high-quality governance

Adrian Kneeshaw, Headteacher of Carlton Bolling, gives a personal take on renewing a failing governing body having designed and built one from scratch.

Evaluation article: Using pupil voice to support school evaluation

David Birch explains how capturing the views of students can sharpen school self-evaluation and have a positive impact on your school improvement strategies.

Evaluation article: What are the signs of a good school improvement service adviser?

Frank Norris offers advice on how to choose the most appropriate school improvement partner to work with your school.

Evaluation article: Headteachers’ appraisal

David Birch outlines best practice in the management of the headteacher appraisal process and offers advice for headteachers on how to make the most of appraisal in their own professional development.

Evaluation article: Making CPD work harder

Professional development is a crucial factor in school improvement and improving pupil outcomes, but it could work harder, says Keith Wright.

Evaluation article: Using the Framework for governance

Tony Powell looks at how the Framework for governance can be used to clarify the strategic direction of your school.

Evaluation article: Interpreting the inspection dashboard

There is a new inspection dashboard to go with Ofsted's new Common inspection framework. Tony Powell explains how it can be used.

Evaluation article: The government's Prevent guidance

Suzanne O'Connell considers the guidance available regarding Prevent and school leaders' responsibilities.

Evaluation article: Improving provision for the most able

Ofsted reports are making it clear. The DfE wants to see secondary schools challenging their most able students. In this article, Suzanne O’Connell summarises the criticisms and recommendations from ‘The…

Evaluation article: Personal development, behaviour and welfare

Tony Powell looks at the new key area ‘personal development, behaviour and welfare’ under the new Ofsted inspection framework.

Evaluation article: Is there a mental health crisis in our schools?

The mental health of children and young people is at the top of the agenda at the moment. Increased anxiety, self-harm and eating disorders are bringing some schools to crisis…

Evaluation article: Evaluating the effectiveness of assessment

Tony Powell interprets government guidance on assessment to help schools support self-evaluation.

Evaluation article: Raising boys’ achievement

John Viner looks at research into boys’ underachievement and reviews some successful strategies.

Evaluation article: National standards of excellence for headteachers

Tony Powell looks at the revised national standards for headteachers and how they should be used by schools.

Evaluation article: Governors and the inspection interview

Tony Powell discusses how to prepare governors in advance for an inspection interview.

Evaluation article: Monitoring and coaching through lesson observation

John Viner explores ways to develop a culture of continual improvement in teaching through lesson observation.

Evaluation article: CPD: Less measurement and more development

How can schools translate CPD into genuine improvement for staff? Keith Wright asked leaders to share their views, and discovered an emerging consensus about which approaches work best.

Evaluation article: Challenging 
the most able

Tony Powell looks at how to identify the most able pupils, and the key factors that enable the brightest pupils to achieve.

Evaluation article: Using the teachers’ standards as a framework for CPD and accountability

Tony Powell looks at how the teachers’ standards can be used to evaluate performance and support improvement.

Evaluation article: Managing behaviour outside the classroom

Since January 2014 there has been increased emphasis on the behaviour of pupils. In this article, Jim Donnelly offers advice on managing behaviour around the school.

Evaluation article: Managing pupils’ behaviour in lessons

David Birch offers advice on effective classroom management and argues that effective practice relies on a combination of the consistent application of agreed policy and the development of awareness and…

Evaluation article: Keeping Children Safe Statutory Guidance

This is statutory guidance, which means that schools and colleges (including academies and free schools) must have regard to it. It contains what schools should do and what they must…

Evaluation article: Four steps to school improvement

School improvement is a complex recipe that takes time to perfect. Keith Wright looks at some of the key barriers to school improvement and suggests strategies and systems to overcome…

Evaluation article: Finding a way through the jungle: The essence of leadership

Louise Wingrove gives practical advice on how to become a leader your team will want to follow.

Evaluation article: How to audit your whole-school literacy provision

Given that whole-school literacy is central to raising standards of achievement in schools and that it is a key focus for Ofsted, David Birch outlines some of the actions schools…

Evaluation article: Professional development: the growing case for evidence

Teachers are good at gathering evidence of pupil progress, but many find it difficult to do the same with regard to their own professional development.  Keith Wright looks at the…

Evaluation article: Getting personal with CPD

Less than a fifth of teachers in England’s schools think their continuing profession development (CPD) is any good, according to a recent survey. One of the keys to unlocking the…

Evaluation article: Making performance appraisal an objective and helpful process

Performance appraisal is crucial to school improvement, but many schools are still without a rigorous and transparent way of carrying it out, says Keith Wright. Here, he analyses the challenges…

Evaluation article: Parent View — an update

Jenny Townsend looks at the importance of Parent View in achieving an outstanding rating in inspection, and how comments from parents are used by Ofsted.

Evaluation article: Raising pupil achievement through parental engagement: a practical approach

Jenny Townsend explores how parental engagement can contribute to school improvement and in particular the role this can play in raising pupil achievement levels.

Evaluation article: Effective parental engagement

Ofsted’s Parent View means that parents have a direct influence on the decision to inspect. Jenny Townsend examines why this matters to schools.

Evaluation article: Challenging 
the most able

Published: Thursday, 05 February 2015

Tony Powell looks at how to identify the most able pupils, 
and the key factors that enable the brightest pupils to achieve.

Summary

  • Since September 2014, inspectors must write a separate paragraph on the achievement of the most able pupils.
  • Early identification of the most able students is crucial so that teaching can be adapted and the curriculum tailored to meet their needs.
  • Good transition arrangements that support the move from primary to secondary school have an impact on the achievement of the most able.
  • There should be flexibility in the curriculum, allowing the most able pupils to be challenged and extended.
  • There needs to be expert teaching, supported by effective formative assessment and purposeful homework, to stimulate students’ enjoyment of the subject.
  • Schools should have a programme that encourages and supports the most able students to apply to the most prestigious universities.

In the November 2013 issue of School Inspection + Improvement Magazine, the article ‘Meeting everyone’s needs: most able students’ outlined the findings of the Ofsted report, The most able students: are they doing as well as they should in non-selective secondary schools? The report was critical of the provision for the most able in many schools, particularly for those from disadvantaged backgrounds, concluding that too many of these pupils fail to reach their potential.

Although highly critical of the majority of schools, the report identified common characteristics in schools that were doing well for their most able students. These were the mirror image of the weaknesses. The report is really saying that these are the most important factors but that they are prevalent in only a minority of schools.

Features of good practice

In their visits, inspectors identified the following common characteristics in schools that were making good provision for their most able pupils:

  • 'The school’s leaders were determined to improve standards for all students.'
  • 'High expectations were generated among the most able students, their families and teachers through promoting high aspirations and expectations, deploying highly qualified and committed staff and creating a dynamic and innovative learning environment.'
  • 'Effective transition arrangements supported the move from primary to secondary school.'
  • 'The most able students were identified quickly so that teaching was adapted and the curriculum tailored to meet their needs through effective pre-transfer liaison, gathering and analysing a wide range of data and using it for setting and class groups, early identification and fully evaluating the range of activities provided for the most able students before they started at secondary school to determine their impact, and adapting future programmes to respond to the findings.'
  • 'The schools built flexibility into the curriculum, allowing the most able students to be challenged and extended through matching the curriculum to needs, raising expectations through extra-curricular activities, using pupil premium funds to enrich educational experiences and imaginative 
homework projects.'
  • 'Groupings of pupils allowed the students to be stretched from the very start of secondary school.'
  • 'Expert teaching, supported by effective formative assessment and purposeful homework, stimulated students’ enjoyment of the subject.'
  • 'In these schools effective training and cooperative practice ensured that teachers learnt from one another through a CPD programme to improve teaching and learning for the most able students. Alongside learning from, and de-veloping practice with, their peers, the schools had established effective links with different external agencies such as universities, external consultants and other local schools.'
  • 'There were tight checks on the progress of the most able students so that any slippage was identified early and acted on through ensuring that staff had a thorough and detailed knowledge of the most able students, a comprehensive approach to assessment and rigorous tracking and monitoring.'
  • 'Effective programmes encouraged and supported the most able students to apply to our most prestigious universities through high-quality support and guidance early in the school, well-established links with a range of universities, achieved through participating in a variety of events such as ‘taster’ sessions, visits to the university campus and information sessions from university staff and ex-students attending university acting as role models.'

Identifying the most able

There is a simple question that can generate a very productive discussion among staff: How would we recognise an exceptionally able pupil?

The Ofsted report would suggest that the most able pupils are those who achieved Level 5 at the end of Key Stage 2 and, presumably, that Level 6 pupils will be identified as exceptionally able. Certainly schools must have high expectations of the higher-attaining pupils but by this measure, in 2013, 41% of pupils would have been classed as the most able mathematicians since they achieved Level 5+. So this approach is too simplistic.

As with special needs pupils, schools need to go beyond identification to diagnosis if they are to match the curriculum and teaching styles to different types as well as levels of ability. This means compiling a portfolio of evidence that provides different perspectives on qualities and abilities. Trying to identify pupils from a single benchmark is not enough. A test result may suggest that a pupil is average while a portfolio of work from the primary school plus the class teacher’s report may contradict this.

The most important thing is for staff to discuss and clarify what they understand as ‘most able’ and apply this definition to all new pupils.

Types of ability

A very simple model categorises ability in three ways:

  1. High intelligence: these pupils will attain the highest levels in standardised tests. In the primary phase they are very good at dealing with closed questions and tasks.
  2. Creativity: these pupils are not necessarily identified through testing. Their abilities are recognised in their mental agility and originality in tackling open-ended questions and tasks.
  3. Gifted: these pupils show high ability in specific areas, such as physical, artistic or technological.

It must be noted, however, that these categories are not mutually exclusive.

National curriculum levels

Used properly, the national curriculum levels are much more than numbers. For example, one of the criteria for exceptional performance in speaking and listening is: ‘They take a leading role in discussion and listen with concentration and understanding to varied and 
complex speech.’

Subject-specific grade descriptors

Inspectors use the general grade descriptors for section 5 inspections but the subject-specific descriptors for survey visits (i.e. an inspection of one aspect of the school’s work). These are much more detailed. For example, in English one of the de-scriptors for ‘outstanding’ achievement in writing is: ‘Pupils’ writing shows a high degree of technical accuracy. Pupils write effectively across a range of genres, frequently showing creativity in their ideas and choice of language’.

There are specialist descriptors for all subjects and they are available on the Ofsted website.

The checklist approach

There are many commercial checklists available and a general abilities list is provided in the Toolkit (‘Checklist – Identifying more able pupils’). This can be used as it is but is more powerful as part of a professional development programme. For ex-ample, several staff may complete the list on the same pupil and compare their findings. The discussion that ensues, about what they mean and what evidence they have to support their judgements, should be used to refine the list.

Toolkit

Use the following item in the Toolkit to help you put the ideas in this article into practice:

About the author

Tony Powell is an experienced Additional Inspector and local authority adviser. He writes extensively on education manage-ment, but his main work is in supporting schools to develop systems for self-evaluation, school improvement and continuing professional development. Tony can 
be contacted at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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