Head of Sixth / Post-16 Raising Standards Leader Priorities – Northern Ireland News article - view all

Alps – the Advanced Level Performance Systems

In England over 1 600 schools and colleges use Alps. We provide them with challenging top 25% Minimum Expected Grades, systems for tracking students towards these grades, training for staff and value-added progress reports on A, AS and BTEC L3 qualifications. Our goal is school / college improvement and our aim is to assist them to improve the life chances and life choices of young people by creating a culture of success.  We are on a mission to support schools / colleges in raising student progress and achievement.

Alps is used by a minority of schools and colleges in Northern Ireland to date, but where Alps is used it has proven very effective at driving up attainment and student progress from GCSE.

Alps is delighted that in summer 2017 we are providing Value-Added reports on Post-16 L3 results – A, AS and Vocational (BTEC) – to all schools with sixth forms in Wales. Yet five short years ago our footfall in Wales was highly similar to our current footfall in Northern Ireland.

Therefore, our new goal is to ensure rapid growth in the use of Alps in Northern Ireland. To date we have had several meetings with the Education Authority to discuss potential post-16 raising achievement projects. In 2017-18 we will be making a concerted effort to raise awareness of what Alps can do to help your students make greater progress and achieve even higher grades.


Raising Post-16 Standards in 2017-18

Regardless of using Alps, here are a few ideas for you all to consider.

Now you know your grades for A Level, AS and BTEC in 2017, check the college / school Improvement Plan. Is there a target about improving Sixth Form student outcomes? If not, why not?

Ensuring whole-school post-16 targets are understood by all and that progress towards them is regularly discussed at SLT and department level can be key to ensuring post-16 improvement.

Setting challenging attainment targets will help you improve performance in terms of attainment and value-added progress. You can’t achieve outstanding value-added progress without improving raw grades, and you can’t improve students’ grades unless they make greater progress. You could additionally set High Grades targets at whole school level, A*-C% obviously but why not A*-A as well, and devolve appropriately, based on prior attainment of the cohorts, to subjects.

In September, I recommend you compare your 2017 final predicted AS and A Level grades to see which subjects and teachers predicted outcomes more accurately. This will also inform your monitoring, support and intervention in 2017-18. Accuracy of prediction is much tighter across Wales in the A Level year because teachers have got the AS UMS and grade to use to help them predict. Ensuring tighter prediction accuracy in the AS year is a goal for all to embrace.

Make decisions about AS re-sits for Y14 students in May 2017 soon, so students might be additionally time-tabled into Y13 AS classes for the unit they are re-taking. Those who can’t could be allocated specific periods of supervised study, set regular work and given additional twilight support. Improving their poorest AS unit in Y14 is a provenly successful strategy enabling students to secure or improve their AS grade at A Level.

With Y14, crack on with UCAS to drive the early completion of applications – personal statements and references – on as much as possible between now and the end of October, whilst ensuring you don’t ignore advice and guidance for those for whom University is not their preferred option. Make sure students are also exposed to the wide range of apprenticeships they might apply for too. Unifrog is a great tool for this. Students can easily find and apply for every course and apprenticeship in the UK – everything from university courses, to School Leaver Programmes, to Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

With your new Y13 the crucial jobs in September are:

  • Raising aspirations by setting challenging minimum expectations. You can download our target setting software at https://my.alps-va.co.uk/Go/DownloadADCS. It’s free!
  • We recommend setting students Alps A Level Minimum Expected Grades as their targets at the start of Y13;
  • Ensure there are ‘no ceilings’ in the students’ or their teachers’ heads;
  • Ensuring as far as possible that students have chosen courses which they are likely to pass, preferably with a higher grade and on which the progress they make will enable them to leave your sixth form with a ‘bigger bunch of keys’ than seemed likely at 16. Improving retention over 2 years by ensuring students succeed in Y13 is clearly important.


Schools and Colleges Using Alps

Make sure you use your 2017 Alps reports strategically. Organise robust Performance Management meetings with all Post-16 Heads of Department that focus both on evaluating 2017 performance and on planning to make a difference in 2017-18. If a department is significantly under-achieving, make it clear ‘what got you here won’t get you there’, agree what is going to be different and when you will be regularly checking up.

Excitingly, schools and colleges now have the ability to evaluate their data using in Alps Connect, our interactive online product. If you buy Connect, your report data will be in Connect in your myAlps account as soon as your reports have been processed. Connect enables you to interrogate the data rigorously looking for underperformance in student groups and teaching sets, comparing school and subject performance in terms of students from disadvantaged backgrounds and so much more.

To be on top of likely VA progress in 2018, have a look at your ‘Monitoring Point Zero’ group – This set includes the students who have progressed to Y14 and only the subjects they are continuing to study. By comparing these students’ actual AS grades or end of Y13 teacher predicted A Level grades against A level benchmarks, Monitoring Point Zero shows you what your A level VA will look like if your students achieve these grades in 2018. This will enable you to start the academic year knowing which subjects to prioritise in your Post-16 Improvement Plan and which students to prioritise for intervention with impact.

During the year you can upload monitoring data looking for key interventions, comparing Mock results with predicted grades and utilising the ‘How Do I’ and ‘What if’ scenarios so teachers have a firm grasp on what needs to be done to either move out of the blue or into the red.

Finally, above all, try your best to take every decision in the best interests of your students and never feel you can’t turn to the team at Alps for help and advice.