Head of Sixth / Post-16 Raising Standards Leader Priorities – Wales / Cymru

Alps is delighted that from summer 2017 we will be providing Value-Added reports on Post-16 L3 results – A, AS and Vocational (BTEC) – to all schools with sixth forms – and many colleges – in Wales.

Now that you know your Alps grades for A Level, AS and BTEC in 2017, check your college / school Improvement Plans. Is one of the main targets about improving Sixth Form student progress? If not, why not?

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, you will also be evaluating your data using in Alps Connect, our interactive online product. 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 disadvantage (eFSM) and so much more.

To be on top of likely VA progress in 2018, upload a new data set to Connect via Alps to establish Monitoring Point Zero for your new Y13 (Y2). This data set should only include the students who have progressed to Y13 and only the subjects they are continuing to study. By comparing these students’ actual AS grades or end of Y12 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.

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

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 Y13 students in May 2017 soon, so students might be additionally time-tabled into Y12 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 Y13 is a provenly successful strategy enabling students to secure or improve their AS grade at A Level.

Early in the Autumn Term you will have a 1hr. 30 Strategic Priority Review with one of our Alps Consultants. (S)he will discuss your reports with you and your SLT, ensuring understanding and seeking to find all the issues whilst supplying possible solutions. You will be contacted by the Alps Operations Team to secure a suitable appointment.

With Y13, 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 Y12 the crucial jobs in September are:

  • Raising aspirations by setting challenging minimum expectations using Alps. We recommend setting students Alps A Level Minimum Expected Grades as their targets at the start of Y12;
  • 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 Y12 is clearly important.

The post-16 landscape is changing and providing you with new challenges and opportunities. Central to your success may be performing well against the new ‘Consistent performance measures for post-16 learning’.

Effectively these involve:

  1. Improving raw attainment at A*-C and A*-A;
  2. Improving progression into higher learning or employment
  3. Improving progress from GCSE to Level 3 qualifications

By encouraging you all to set challenging attainment targets Alps 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, A*-A% & A*-C%, at whole school level and devolve appropriately, based on prior attainment of the cohorts, to subjects.

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.

If you are successful in improving value-added progress and raw attainment in 2017-18 you can be absolutely certain that you will also Improve progress from GCSE to Level 3 qualifications, securing more young people the high quality post-18 destinations of their choice.

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.