We have recently been refining the way in which we determine student targets, in all three Key Stages. The objective of refining our systems is to ensure that we are being consistent in setting appropriate as well as challenging targets for all students, thus motivating our students and staff to strive continually for high outcomes.
We buy into the nationally recognised ALPS system which provides us with targets for all KS5 students, taking into account their GCSE scores and how students perform across the country in each subject. We view it as important that these targets are generated without teacher input – there is no opportunity for staff to have expectations of students which are too low. We encourage students to not just meet but beat their target grades – this is how they will get best choice of university course.
Each student is provided with a target grade for each of their AS or A level subjects. Sometimes these grades are split eg B/C and in such a case, we will be treating the higher grade as the one we expect students to target.
We are setting in place a more rigorous tracking procedure at KS5 where staff are required to log results from formal assessments half-termly on our computer system, enabling the KS5 Co-ordinator to promptly intervene if she spots any student performing below their target grade.
Once we have external exam results in, we can look at each department in the school to see how they performed with their particular group of students, in comparison not only to students’ target grades but compared to good and outstanding departments nationally.
Key Stage Four
All schools nationally use targets generated by a government-backed organisation called Fisher Family Trust. Indeed, all schools are judged on targets which come from this organisation!
FFT takes students’ KS2 scores and from them, alongside some additional information like date of birth, whether students are entitled to free school meals etc, determines likely GCSE outcomes.
FFT allows us to download target grades at different levels of challenge. For example, we can select target grades for our students that they’d be expected to get in schools nationally which have a similar profile to ours. On the other hand, we can select grades they would be expected to get in schools falling into the top 25% of schools nationally. It is always these higher targets that we use ensuring both staff and students have maximum challenge.
Obviously, these target grades are not personalised in the way that a teacher can personalise a target grade. The significant benefit of using them is that they are objective and generally challenging. There will sometimes be the occasional student who had a bad day in their KS2 SATS tests and whose FFT target grades are consequently too easy for them. Alternatively, some primary schools coach students to an extreme for SATS tests and FFT targets can then appear very elevated in relation to a students’ everyday, true ability. Likewise, we find that KS2 SATS scores of some students with special needs can occasionally reflect more about the ability of the teaching assistant than the student.
We encourage KS4 students to view FFT targets as minimum targets and convey our expectations to them that they should be meeting them and then some. Naturally, most students have subjects they love and excel in and others they like less and have to work harder at to meet minimum grades. Students aspiring to A levels should be very clear about the fact that their A level outcomes will be higher if they exceed targets at GCSE.
From the current year 10 on, we are dispensing with staff selecting a target in addition to having the FFT target. We’ll simply work with the FFT target. However, where staff believe that a FFT target in their subject is too easy, they will provide a student with a higher target which is noted on their exercise book and onto the computer tracking system. If this does happen for your child in any subject, you will see the extension as well as the FFT target noted on reports you receive during KS4.
Key Stage Three
In years 7, 8 and 9 we have experienced inconsistency with teacher targets over the years. One teacher may believe that a certain student should have an end of year target of a low level 5, another teacher may think they should reach a high level 4. Likewise, a teacher may believe student A should have a target of a high level 4 and student B a target of a low level 5 – where in fact, they are of virtually identical ability. Inevitably, personality, of both teacher and student, affects decision making!
Last year we trialled a system of target setting called ‘flightpaths’ with four departments in the school. We are rolling this out to all this year. We will undoubtedly need to make some minor adjustments as we progress but we believe thatin general, this system will bring more consistency and more challenge to KS3.
Students are divided into 6 ability bands within each year group (they are not taught in these bands, simply divided into them for statistical purposes). Students are divided based on their average KS2 scores combined with the results of CATS tests (or Durham tests for current years 8 and 9).
Each subject allocates, in advance, termly target levels to each ability band in each year group. So target setting for each student is objective and eliminates inconsistency of some teachers setting targets which are too hard or easy for an individual student. Under or over performance, of either an individual or a group, can easily be noted using our computerised tracking systems.
Targets should match students’ underlying ability. Naturally, there may be occasional students who excel in a particular subject, maybe above the level of their general ability band. In such a case, staff will provide a student with a higher target which is noted on their exercise book and onto the computer tracking system. Similarly, there may be some students with special needs who cannot realistically reach the targets set for their ability band.
We will convey targets to you via reports during KS3, focusing on end of year targets. If your child does receive a personalised end of year target in any subject, you will see it, as well as the FFT target, noted on all reports you receive.