“Reflection” (part 1)

I forgot to look up at the moon because
I was too busy

Prince – Reflection – Musicology


My KS3 Journey 

Every school knows get it right in KS3 and your KS4 will soar. This blog, or should I say blogs, will actually be a mini-series. Three in total; our starting point (where we are now), sort of half-way through the year (December-ish time) and a year later (this time next year). The three will be a series of thoughts: a reflection.

This academic year (15/16) we started with a full team, by Christmas we were 4 down. The impact this had on our school, or in fact any school, is vast. We suffered dreadfully with cover (see my post on “Resolution”).

That was then!

We have appointed new staff and fingers crossed in September we start again with a full team. Hoorah! So now we have a full team we no longer have any excuses as to why KS3 aren’t making progress.

The first thing we (myself, HOD and KS5 Lead) tackled is our long term plan (#KS3LTP). My fabulous HOD re-wrote her 5 year plan taking into account the new AQA spec for literature and language. She built in our EOU assessment points, marking criteria etc. Then asked me to put together some useful resources for our new department (what else is a girl to do with her gained downtime)! I blogged about that here “Chaos And Disorder”.  My aim was to put as much in place as I/we could in advance so come September, we can deal with issues surrounding learning.

Anyone in education will understand the implications a member of staff down will have on a department, let alone four! So I won’t bore you any further there. What I will talk about is the new KS2 SATs (Gov.UK) testing. These tests in English and maths will reflect the new national curriculum, and are intended to be more rigorous. The results will be used to measure a school’s performance. As a school we need to continue the hard work put in by our primary schools. I have contacted our main feeder schools and am in the middle of setting up visits to each one. I would like to see how they embed the grammar in particular with yr6 so that we can continue that into KS3.  After all we will have to re-test students, we need to keep those skills whilst teaching our own new KS3 units, thank you Laura McInerney ‏@miss_mcinerney for the link  ( key stage 2 SATs resits ).

Our other main area to tackle is the new AQA spec (English Language (8700) and English Literature (8702), fortunately the exam board have produced a KS3 resource about 19th century texts helping schools to develop progression through KS3 into KS4. Which sounds brilliant, but it’s a tough spec. How we deliver this is taking a lot of  consideration and time to get it right.

Then there’s the pastoral side. We had vertical tutoring, in September we are going back to year groups. Our Head has outlined his vision which includes targeted form groups catering to the needs of the students – literacy, numeracy etc. Hopefully in Reflections part 2 I can give you a better idea of the different groups and how exactly this has worked. As with most things in schools this is being worked on at the moment.

One of the ways I would like to move KS3 forward is high standards and regular monitoring of student work from day one. However that’s easier said than done. Where was I to begin? So I took to Ofsted and cut/paste some comments (randomly) from reports – here’s a few from approx 8 schools (Teaching and learning section only) that rang a bell:

  • levels of challenge
  • too many worksheets
  • expectations are not consistent
  • presentation of student books
  • expectations of what pupils can achieve are too low
  • teachers’ feedback are not always helpful
  • teachers do not adjust their teaching and 
  • do not implement the school’s marking policy consistently

I dropped all the cut/paste sections into a ppt (you can download the ppt here if you want it – it’s not very exciting I warn you Dpt) and will be sharing with my department – I hope to inspire them, not depress them! I want everyone to raise the bar and work together as a team to support students. With this in mind my HOD has asked me to update a section in the English Department handbook specifically for KS3.

I will monitor student class and assessment books for standards and consistency in the department. In particular I want to monitor student work, presentation and effort. Rebecca Taylor (@EnglishHOD) sent me a great book monitoring document.


The hope is that we pick students up much quicker, putting intervention strategies in place working alongside our SEND department, getting parents on board and building on our good relationships, continuing one strategy I’ve blogged about already (“Strange Relationship”).

I need to point out that our staff do work really hard, but as the year moves on and issues emerge little things can soon fly out the window as we all focus on bigger fish. I want to support my department, team and KS3 students as much as possible by picking up students that are finding work difficult and try to help them appropriately.

My own goal is to mop up as much as I can so that the teachers can do what they are supposed to: teach!

From my perspective, these are the areas I hope to cover in this mini-series, how as a school we deal with each issue and the impact it has on KS3 (particularly yr7) in no particular order, just as I typed them:

  • Work/effort
  • KS2 new SATs – data
  • SPaG
  • Presentation/handwriting in books/Extended writing
  • End of Unit assessments
  • Behaviour
  • Parent/school communication
  • Book monitoring
  • New KS3 curriculum plan
  • New tutor group structure

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