Northumberland Park serves one of the most deprived wards in greater London. There are more than 1,000 students on roll and there is a diverse student population: 72.6 per cent have English as an additional language (EAL) and the largest ethnic groups are those with a Turkish, African, Caribbean or White European heritage; 45.3 per cent of students are eligible for free school meals and 7.4 per cent have an SEN statement or are School Action Plus.
I started at the school in September 2012 as curriculum leader for key stage 4 when the English results were
41 per cent A* to C. With the hard work of the team and students, our results increased to 61 per cent in 2013 and 69 per cent this summer. In April, I was promoted to head of the communications faculty and we have four new members of staff in the English department.
The department’s overall goal is to continue to raise attainment to match and exceed national benchmarks and we have put in place several interventions to meet this goal.
Using small group tuition
The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) research suggests that intensive tuition in small groups has an impressive effect size. With this in mind, I invited year 10 under-achievers to attend small group tuition sessions in the summer term of 2014.
With the support of an EAL specialist, the lessons focused on developing accuracy and confidence with writing. The aim for every lesson was to produce a piece of writing to be published in the school newsletter or the English department magazine.
Revision loyalty cards were also distributed to encourage students to attend the small group tuition. The aim was to motivate them to write not just at school but at home too.
Evidence from the EEF suggests that initiatives which support parents in working with their children to improve their learning are beneficial. This term, parents of a group of targeted year 10 students have been invited to attend a Parent Support Coffee Morning.
Parents will be taught strategies on how to support their child with coursework and controlled assessment at home. They will also receive key information about the GCSE English language and literature courses including coursework deadlines and useful revision websites.
To ensure this is accessible to all parents, a Somali speaker will be present to translate. Students will be interviewed to find out exactly what type of support they need at home and parents will have the opportunity to listen to their children talk about the work they do in class. Parents will continue to receive letters, revision schedules and key updates about what is going on in English in order to keep them engaged and informed.
Improving teaching and learning
To improve teaching and learning within the department, learning walks and book scrutiny take place every half-term with teachers receiving individual feedback.
Sometimes this might mean having to hold a difficult conversation with a member of staff and also monitoring to check that action steps have been met.
From this term, I’ll be introducing Lesson Study and a “Watch Others Work Week” where teachers can observe colleagues and share best practice. Continued training is key – we hold mini-CPD in department meetings and the English department bulletin contains a link to an interesting teaching and learning blog.
Using data effectively
On our management information system there are detailed trackers for coursework, controlled assessment and mock exams. For mock exams, teachers have to enter the marks students achieved for each question and they can then use this information to inform future planning. The colour-coded trackers allow teachers to see whether students are making progress as well as enabling students and teachers to estimate what marks are needed in the exams.
We have built days for moderation into the school calendar and planned department meetings to ensure our marking is accurate and consistent. Data is analysed frequently, and in our weekly meetings we decide which students need which interventions. An intervention tracking system records the intervention that the teacher is putting in place for each student. This year, we are making data a standing item on the department meeting agenda.
Weekly writing skills lessons
One hour of English lessons per week is dedicated to developing students’ writing skills and technical accuracy. Students complete exam-type writing tasks every week with the aim of increasing the amount of extended writing students can complete in timed conditions. To ensure lessons are relevant, the subject matter of the writing skills lesson is linked to whatever the students are learning about that term. This ensures that all aspects of English are integrated.
Throughout last year, moderation and feedback proved successful and marking, particularly at the C/D level, became more accurate. Book scrutiny showed that students in all classes were writing more and student and parental voice was positive. We now aim to continue making progress this year.
Recommendations for others
Teaching LeadersTeaching Leaders is an education charity whose mission is to address educational disadvantage by developing middle leaders working in schools in the most challenging contexts. Visit www.teachingleaders.org.uk
Create detailed assessment trackers that allow teachers to see easily if students are on track with making progress.
Use the findings of the EEF to develop interventions that meet the needs of your students and staff. The EEF Toolkit is particularly useful.
Evaluate all interventions to see what has the most impact. Interventions are only sustainable if they have impact.
Embed writing skills lessons into your long-term planning so students have the chance to do extended writing and exam-style questions every week.
Support and challenge staff. If in doubt, always ask yourself: “What is in the best interests of the students?” This motivates me to have those difficult conversations with staff if needed.
Natasha Raheem is head of English at Northumberland Park Community School in London and a graduate of the Teaching Leaders programme.