I began my journey as a Head of Year in 2010. I was fortunate that I got to start my role with a fresh intake of year 7’s. Four years on and I have just embarked on the final leg of this incredible journey. My year group are all grown up (mostly!) and are now preparing for their GCSE exams next summer. It is my job to get them there with as few bumps as possible and as many of them on or above target as I can. I am sure there are many interventions and schemes in place to support pastoral leaders in maximising the success of the students in their charge. I am going to tell you about what I will be implementing this year
Our school currently uses CMIS & ePortal to manage all student data and SISRA as the primary source of analysis of assessment data. At certain points throughout the year there are planned data collections for each year group. Teachers are asked to provide current working level/ grade, projected working level/ grade and a ranking out of 4 for each of the following categories:- Effort in Class, Behaviour, Home Learning, Contribution. Projected grades are based on the grade the teacher thinks a student will achieve at the end of the year if they continue with the same level of effort and attitude to their work.
Using SISRA I am able to establish the current projected headline figures for my year group and, by comparing them to FFT data, establish which measures we are on target to hit and which ones need further work. SISRA also allows me to drill down into the data and identify subjects, teaching groups and students who are currently projected to underachieve. SISRA uses a traffic light system (RAGGING) that makes visible in an instant areas of concern.
Using SISRA I identified my top 25 underachievers. Why 25? This was the ideal number to fit into a classroom for group meetings. I also had 5 pastoral leaders willing to work with them in small groups and it was felt that 5 students was the optimum number per group. These were the students with the largest average negative difference between their FFT points score and their projected points score. This ensured I was focusing on all abilities rather than just the C/D border line that the school league tables have encouraged over the years. SISRA also allowed me to see if the students negative scores were as a result of one or two key subjects or spread more evenly across all their subjects.
Before the summer I was lucky to be able to meet with the Head of Year 11 at Parliament Hill School. It was great to be able to share good practise with another pastoral leader outside of my school setting and I found it extremely useful. As well as ideas about the impending prom and being amazed by SIMS and 4MATRIX I took away with me some really useful strategies to trial with my year 11 underachievers.
The first of these was to place the top 25 underachievers on a motivational log. The idea was to get the student marked on their motivation and attitude to learning every lesson. Students are placed into 5 teams of 5 with a pastoral member acting as team leader. Teachers are then asked to circled either a +, -, or = to represent the motivation & attitude displayed to learning that lesson. At the end of the week each student scores are total up and added to their team score. These scores were placed into a league system and the team at the top by half term will win a team prize. The report displays termly targets that each student should be focusing on and their FFT and projected grades for each subject. It is hoped this section will encourage discussion between teacher and student as it shows other subjects they are on target for that may use similar skills. I also added a section at the back for students to record work and assessments that gets graded at their target grade to allow them to show progress and gain bonus points for their team.
Later in the year there will be a specific parents in touch evening which will target the top students of concern. Subject leaders will be invited to attend the event so parents have the opportunity to discuss subject specific concerns surrounding the underachievement. I also plan to get these students in for a whole day session when the rest of the school goes off timetable for Academic Review Day. The session will be a mixture of independent work on catching up controlled assessment or lesson content and covering good study and exam skills habits. These skills have been covered periodically over the years but I don’t think there is any harm in repeating them.
The second strategy I took away from Parliament Hill was linked to how I deploy my Pastoral Support Advisor. Over the last few years my school has transitioned from having deputy heads of year (we call them Assistant Directors of Student Development – ADSD) to having Pastoral Support Advisors (PSA’s). Our current set up is that we have one PSA who looks after years 7&8, supporting both DSDs (Director of Student Development – Head of Year to everyone outside our school!). One PSA looks after years 9&10, supporting both DSDs of these year groups. I have the lead PSA supporting my work with year 11 but also have the last surviving ADSD working with me. Parliament Hill also have PSA’s and for year 11 the PSA has her own dedicated tutor group. This group contains the most vulnerable year 11 students who the pastoral team are concerned won’t make it to the end of year 11. Usually they have severe attendance issues and the PSA is able to develop a closer relationship with these students than otherwise would be possible. Students can stay in the tutor group until they are ready to go back to their own form or can remain in the group until the end of year 11.
In addition to this the PSA has the mobile numbers of the worst attenders and starts calling them from 7am to ensure they are up and getting ready for school. If the student ignores the calls or switches off the phone, the PSA continues to call until she is successful. Even if she manages to get the student in at 12pm, this is viewed as a success as it is likely that without the phone call the student wouldn’t have bothered to come in at all. So my PSA has her own tutor group of 10 students who we have agreed would benefit from closer monitoring over the next half term at least. 4 of these are also in my top 25 underachievers and, as my PSA is also one of the team leaders, they have been placed into her team. The students still attend weekly PSHEE lessons with their form and tutor which allows them to maintain these relationships. To start off with my PSA will only be calling the students in her tutor group. Once we have trialled this to see how feasible it is, it may be expanded to others in the year group.
As a pastoral leader one of my roles is to support the HODs. I will be coordinating the after school revision timetable to ensure all subjects have priority sessions where they can guarantee students attend those sessions over other subjects. I will also be running a weekly DSD intervention session. This will be for those students who are extremely behind with their subject work and, so far, HOD intervention has not been successful. HODs sign up students for my session and I call home informing parents that the student will be staying behind with me the following week.
All of this is in addition to the individual referrals for mentoring, counselling, behaviour reports and parent meetings that are par for the course for a head of year. Hopefully I will start to see the impact of this in the next couple of rounds of monitoring.