As an overseas sister school of Brighton College in the UK, high educational standards were always going to be a key attribute of Brighton College Al Ain. Attracting a mix of Arabic and expatriate children from Europe, America and Australia, the school has grown from 200 students to more than 650 in just two years, and the first cohort of Year 11 pupils are set to take their I/GCSEs in the summer of 2016.
The College has already received prestigious accolades, including the highest grade of any school in the Abu Dhabi emirate, by the inspection authority ADEC. This extremely coveted rating also made the college the highest ranked school in Al Ain history.
“We have very quickly gained a reputation for being a school in which pupils make rapid progress,” says Scott Moore, Deputy Head of the Senior School. “It is important to us that every pupil in our care is challenged at their level on a daily basis.”
As part of the admissions process, children are tested using GL Education’s Cognitive Abilities Test (CAT4). The series of four tests – verbal, non-verbal, quantitative and spatial ability – supports schools in understanding students’ developed abilities and their likely academic potential. The results can also aid accurate target setting.
Scott explains: “CAT4 is incredibly useful in assessing the ability level of new pupils as it is not linked to any specific curriculum and focuses on learning capacity. We receive an overwhelming number of applications so this data helps us to make decisions that are right for both prospective pupils and the College.
“Once a child has been offered a place, we share results with teachers so that they can factor them into their lesson planning. This ensures that each new pupil settles into each class quickly with learning material being pitched at the appropriate level.”
Brighton College Al Ain passionately believes that personalised learning is the key to ensuring each child progresses, so teachers routinely consider the learning profiles of their students and differentiate lessons accordingly.
“We discuss CAT4 at staff learning sessions and department meetings so we’re all aware of any particularly low or high scores. The results can be a starting point in identifying pupils who may have special educational needs, need additional literacy support if they speak English as a second language, or who are gifted and talented.
“Our teachers plan lessons ensuring that every child receives ‘appropriate achievable challenges’ on a daily basis. This leads to increased rates of progress at all ability levels.”
At regular points throughout the year, the College compares teacher assessments of their pupils’ attainment in each subject against CAT4 indicators.
“It’s part of how we measure the impact we have on achievement. Departments are given comparison information directly after each reporting cycle, and interventions that lead on from the data are a standing item on every department meeting agenda.
“Teachers are directed towards pupils who are under-performing according to the CAT4 indicators, and are asked to devise and implement strategies to help improve performance. This has led to extremely high rates of progress across all groups at Brighton College.”
Indeed, the College was highly praised during its ADEC inspection for the thoroughness of its data tracking and monitoring procedures. The report stated: “The College’s tracking system is extremely robust, with students assessed regularly and any lack of progress swiftly dealt with through additional booster classes.”
Last year, the College decided to start sharing CAT4 information directly with Year 10 pupils via individual meetings.
“We wanted to inform pupils about how they were likely to learn most effectively, to illustrate their capacity to achieve and to set aspirational targets that would inspire and motivate. The focus was very much on the relative strengths and weaknesses of the four scores, how this impacts upon preferred learning strategies, and their ‘expected’ and ‘if challenged’ GCSE grades.
“Pupils were amazed at the precision of the learning profiles, with one pupil commenting, ‘It is a little strange how accurate the profile is.’ ”
The conversations proved so beneficial for both pupils and school leaders that plans are afoot to extend them lower down the school.
“It is often very difficult to set aside quality time for school leaders to talk to every pupil within a cohort about their learning. However, our pupils responded superbly to the one-to-one conversations. It was great to see them take responsibility for their learning and realise that they have the potential to achieve great things. We believe this strategy will positively impact our future GCSE results.”
Following on from the success of the Year 10 pupil interviews, the College made the ‘individual reports for pupils’ available to parents and gave them the opportunity to discuss the results with a member of the senior leadership team.
“Parents found the process very useful as it gave them specific information regarding the most effective learning strategies for their child. It also helped to set realistic expectations and put grades in context by relating attainment to cognitive ability.”
The College has also found that its comprehensive data tracking system helps affirm the impact that teachers have on pupils. “We’re able to evaluate progress at a pupil, cohort, special group or department level. Yes, the data can be used to hold teachers to account, but it can also be an incredibly powerful way of illustrating the difference that a teacher or group of teachers can make.
“In short, CAT4 helps us all work together towards an objective at the heart of Brighton College’s ethos – to allow every pupil to be the very best version of themselves.