St George’s consists of three parts: two junior schools, one of which is located in the city centre, and a secondary school on a green-field site with the other junior just on the edge of the city. We cater for over 850 students at this time, delivering the ‘St George’s Curriculum’, which shadows the Curriculum for England, up to Key Stage 4 and leads to final examinations in IGCSEs and GCSEs. In the Sixth Form, our entire cohort takes the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme.
Five years ago the school appointed several new senior leaders who worked with colleagues already in post to initiate a range of measures to improve our academic and pastoral knowledge of our students. These steps have so far fallen into two broad stages:
- Between 2010–12 we CAT-tested all students from Year 4 upwards
- We joined the international pilot of IB indicators for CAT4, as we wanted to be at the forefront of developing a predictive and evaluative tool for our sixth formers
- A full-scale re-design of our internal Reporting and Assessment system so as to accommodate our new data, which provided baseline information for all senior school students
- The introduction of an academic tutoring model in the senior school, using CAT4-generated information alongside coursework, internal and external exams to monitor and improve student performance
- In 2014 we introduced the new CAT tests for Year 3 and we tested all students in Years 3–6 via Progress in English (PiE) and Progress in Maths (PiM), testing Year 6 at both start and end of the academic year. Alongside CAT4, we wanted to have the ability to measure actual progress, and also to improve student progress via harnessing the detailed breakdowns at class level which these tests offer
- In 2014–15 we also required all Senior School students to sit the PASS survey, so that we could begin factoring social and behavioural elements into our understanding of student academic potential. We also wanted to help our students to be happy and well-balanced individuals, coinciding with our planned introduction of a taught Well Being agenda for 2015–16
- Using CAT tests as a part of our admissions process has enabled us to have clear indicators of student potential; this has proven very helpful in an international setting where students join us from widely divergent school systems
Our planned third stage will involve
- Continuing to embed PASS, so as to support student well-being and academic success
- Migrate from PiE and PiM to Progress Test in English and Progress Test in Maths, and add the Progress Test in Science (PTS), so that all core subjects are covered
- Develop greater use of internally set challenge-grade measures across all three schools
Our reasoning for this sea-change in data use was based squarely on the need to have a more profound grasp of both students’ outcomes and their true potential, so that we could set and deliver more demanding aspirational targets and help them towards more successful entry into tertiary education. Prior to this time the school had focused more on analysing raw achievement, rather than also considering value-added and the performance of groups such as those with Additional Educational Needs, in judging performance. This needed to evolve. CAT4 was a natural choice, not just due to our previous knowledge of it, but due to its established reputation and the validity inherent in the huge dataset behind the indicator grades.
It is important to note that data was seen as an essential part of moving towards our required final position – but only one essential strand among several. Other major developmental foci included a determined drive to continue delivering high-quality teaching and learning, a reappraisal of leadership accountability and expectations, a shift of the pastoral system to also incorporate academic tutoring, and ironing out departmental inconsistencies. Introducing so much data has been challenging in a range of ways. It has required significant internal systems re-design. It has needed a great deal of training – primarily for staff but also for parents and students; this process is still on-going. It has required careful pacing and introduction, with a large investment of time in key partners so that stakeholders are on-board.
Has it been worth it? Unquestionably yes. The proof of any pudding, even one whose ingredients are numerical and statistical, is of course in its impact. Our new wealth of data has had hugely positive impact at all levels.
The CAT reports have had a particular impact on individual lesson planning in terms of helping our differentiation within the senior school. We expect formal lesson plans to cater for the needs of the Particularly Able, those with Special Educational Needs and those facing EAL challenges, and CAT4 enables us to precisely identify these students. In addition, we also ensure those students not showing, for whatever reason, on the CAT data can also be included where necessary for extra support, such as via our Gifted & Talented Register, whereby colleagues can note individuals showing exceptional talents in an area. Likewise PiE and PiM have also had an impact for individual class teachers, leading the teachers in one of our primaries to request a substantial review of how they are delivering the maths syllabus.
At a whole-school level, our improvement has been significant, and has been fully ratified both by examination results and by external inspection processes:
- Delivery of our best IB 5-Year Review
- St George’s best-ever ISI Inspection Report. Graded ‘Excellent’ in all areas within school remit
- Three consecutive years of our best-ever IB Average Points Score, culminating in 35.5 in 2015; likewise consecutive best-ever years for our IB Average grade per entry: 5.6 in 2015
- A rising trend across 4 years at IB Grades 6 & 7
- IGCSE: Three of our best years of A*–A performance; IGCSE bestever A*–C pass rate
The evidence seems clear: knowing our students better has helped us, and them, to reach their full potential.
Vice Principal & Head of Senior School