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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: Improving provision for the most able

Published: Wednesday, 01 July 2015

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 most able students’ report. 

Summary

  • There is slow progress on improving provision for the most able in secondary schools.
  • KS3 provision is particularly criticised in the Ofsted report ‘The most able students’ March 2015.
  • The DfE and Ofsted are concerned that not enough disadvantaged students access the top universities.
  • Reference to omissions in provision for the most able are common and many schools will have reference to the most able in their list of tasks to improve the school further.
  • Concerns are raised, in particular, about provision and encouragement for the most able disadvantaged pupils. It suggests that there is insufficient focus on their needs and that more enrichment opportunities, particularly in Key Stage 3, are needed.

‘Teachers still do not have high enough expectations of students, and do not sufficiently challenge them, especially the most able.’

‘Teachers do not always set tasks that take full account of different ability levels, especially to challenge the most able students.’

Both these comments were included on Ofsted reports of secondary schools that were judged to require improvement. Reference to omissions in provision for the most able are common and many schools will have reference to the most able in their list of tasks to improve the school further.

In June 2013 Ofsted published the report, ‘The most able students: are they doing as well as they should in our non-selective secondary schools?’ This report was critical of the provision that many schools made and drew attention to the lack of challenge for students.

The second report, ‘The most able students: An update on progress since June 2013’ came out on the heels of its predecessor to review the speed with which improvements are being made. The conclusions are disappointing.

The 2015 report

The conclusions are drawn from 40 non-selective secondary schools,10 primary schools and following 130 routine inspections. The report concludes that schools have been slow in taking forward Ofsted’s previous recommendations, particularly at Key Stage 3. The report accuses schools of being complacent and addressing the issue with insufficient urgency.

It criticises schools for being satisfied with their most able students making ‘expected progress’ and not having high enough aspirations. Headteachers are told they are not prioritising the needs of the most able sufficiently and that pupils are ‘treading water’ when they start in Key Stage 3.

Key Stage 3 comes in for particular criticism throughout the report. Schools are accused of focussing on students’ examination results rather than ensuring the quality of the curriculum, teaching and learning right from when pupils transfer. They channel their best teachers into examination preparation years and do not maintain the momentum set in feeder primary schools.

Low-level disruptive behaviour is cited as affecting pupils’ learning; an issue that is not always being picked up on by school staff. However, it was acknowledged that good practice could be found in both classes where students were grouped by ability as well as those that were mixed ability.

Concerns are raised, in particular, about provision and encouragement for the most able disadvantaged pupils. It suggests that there is insufficient focus on their needs and that more enrichment opportunities, particularly in Key Stage 3, are needed. Schools are told they must address the social and cultural awareness of this group.

The report states that more effort is needed to ensure that more able students, particularly those from disadvantaged homes, are getting high quality information and advice to help prepare them for their future studies, employment or training. In particular, the lack of encouragement to apply to top universities was criticised.

Examples were given from schools where students complained that they must still complete low level tasks before progressing onto more challenging work and half of the schools surveyed did not adapt homework to include more challenge for the most able.

The report has very little that is positive to say, however it does provide a few brief case studies that demonstrate that there are pockets of good and excellent practice.
Some excellent practice

In spite of the general tone of the report, there are four schools that are praised. Good practice identified in the report includes:

  • The more able taking part in competitions both at a national and international level.
  • Pupils taking part in the Sutton Trust summer schools.
  • Completion of demanding literacy, numeracy and science activities on ‘taster days’.
  • Provision of ‘challenge booklets’ during the summer holidays.
  • Development of homework tasks that focus on students’ higher-order thinking and reasoning skills.
  • Pitching lessons at the most able and providing scaffolding for others.
  • Providing group support for like-minded students, for example those interested in medical, dentistry or veterinary careers.
  • Giving information to parents about finances and help with navigating the UCAS website when students are applying to university.
  • Keeping parents involved in career guidance.

Recommendations

The report is clear, Ofsted will continue to focus on progress made by students who are able and disadvantaged. They will be expected to report even ‘more robustly’ about the information and guidance being provided to the most able and the quality of the curriculum available to them.

Schools’ use of the pupil premium will be investigated during thematic surveys. It is pointed out that pupil premium can be used to enable disadvantaged students to attend university open days or take part in cultural visits.

The specific recommendations that the report makes for school leaders include:

  • Develop a culture of high expectations for students and teachers in Key Stage 3, and schools should not be constrained by national expectations.
  • Improve transition arrangements between primary schools and Key Stage 3 so that work for the most able students provides the right level of challenge.
  • Identify a designated member of staff to champion the needs of disadvantaged most able students.
  • Give Key Stage 3 equal priority with other key stages when allocating teaching staff to classes.
  • Provide training for teachers to help them challenge the most able students.
  • Ensure evaluations of curriculum delivery, teaching and learning in Key Stage 3 are robust and lead to rapid improvements.
  • Involve universities, other providers and employers in training school staff to provide expert advice and guidance to the most able students, particularly those who are disadvantaged.

All down to the school?

Reading this report, it is made quite clear that provision for the most able secondary school students is not good enough in most cases. In particular, the concerns focus on those who are disadvantaged and have the potential to achieve much more.

Schools do have a large part to play in ensuring that these students have high aspirations and can access the routes to achieve them. However, the reasons that they may not are complex and are not solely the responsibility of schools to address.

However, schools would be wise to take note of the recommendations and evaluate the extent to which they are meeting them. Ofsted are not going to let this issue go away.

More information

The most able students: An update on progress since June 2013, Ofsted, March 2015:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-most-able-students-an-update-on-progress-since-june-2013

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