Aim: To investigate whether a change in curriculum could produce rapid gains in achievement for middle-ability students. This was implemented in Year 7 targeting 10% of the intake (30 students).
Background: At the time of starting the Transition Pathway there was good support in place for the weakest students and a curriculum that stretched the brightest. It was thought that a new thematic curriculum Pathway linked to the RSA ‘Opening Minds’ would bring benefits to middle ability students, especially those that were of a quiet nature whose needs may not be quickly identified in a college with over 2,000 pupils.
Method: The 30 selected Year 7 students were taught in two groups of 15 for all their lessons in two newly created study bases. Three highly-skilled subject specialists taught the main part of the curriculum and were supported by a higher level teaching assistant (HLTA). The Pathway students attended mainstream tutor groups to build friendships across the year group. Half-termly newsletters, full written reports and coffee mornings ensured effective communication with parents. At the end of the summer half term these students graduated to the mainstream.
Evidence: Student and parent questionnaires, progress in English and Maths, reading ages, lesson observations.
Year 1: Initially parents viewed this as a ‘sink’ group and it was difficult to gain their confidence. The Pathway students who were recruited were therefore weaker than anticipated and this meant changes had to be made to the thematic nature of the curriculum, with more time spent on securing basic concepts.
Years 2 & 3: The success of the Pathway in the first year, and its growing reputation, ensured that the recruitment to cohorts two and three was successful and that the profile of the students was as originally intended. Alterations to the curriculum included an additional laboratory-based Science lesson and exploring language through MFL. Evaluation of the impact of the Pathway on cohorts one and two once back in the mainstream indicated that for the majority the impact was very positive. The project allowed all staff involved to develop as teachers and as leaders. Reduced class sizes throughout Year 7 provided an opportunity to have new Higher Learning Potential groups in Maths and also allowed smaller lower ability groups in Year 7 mainstream lessons. Creative teaching from within the Pathway emanated outwards into the mainstream. Over the three years the Pathway was visited many times by Ofsted and on every occasion it was praised in the highest terms.
Year 4: The decision was taken not to run the Pathway for a fourth year because it would be unsustainable financially. A new provision was put in place to target low levels of literacy in Key Stage 3, which would have a greater impact on a greater number and wider range of students.
Reflections: As a leader, the creation of the Transition Pathway provided a fantastic opportunity to make creative changes to the curriculum. Leaders need to be constantly looking at their provision and, even if it is successful, ask searching questions and be brave enough to adapt to changing circumstances.
Contact: Michael Muldoon, Vice Principal, firstname.lastname@example.org