A research collaboration between state and independent schools to identify which strategies and approaches make the difference for achieving A/A* grades in key facilitating subjects at GCSE and A-Level.
Learning with Independent Schools
The overriding key concern in this London Schools Excellence Fund (LSEF) project was to better understand the teaching and learning approaches that make the difference for achieving A/A* grades in key facilitating subjects at GCSE and A level. The rationale for this work was based on recent research published by The Sutton Trust, which reported that just five schools in England (3 in London) sent more pupils to Oxford and Cambridge over three years than nearly 2000 others combined. Their study highlighted that many state schools struggle to get their students the top grades required to enter our top universities and, as a result, state school students are under-represented in these institutions. In contrast, independent and selective state schools tend to dominate the highest A level grade score tables. This LSEF project was therefore seeking to learn with independent schools about the KS4 and KS5 strategies and approaches used to achieve such large numbers of A/A* grades in English, Maths and the Sciences, which then enable so many of their students to gain places at highly competitive universities. The learning from this research was aimed at increasing state school teachers’ professional understanding and confidence around what is needed to provide the ‘stretch’ element that currently seems to be missing for many academically-able state school students.
At the end of the project, both groups of teachers, state and independent, said they’d benefitted from the different cross-sector research experiences and opportunities they’d been involved in, including peer-to-peer lesson observations, teacher exchanges, subject development CPD sessions and reflection days, and the collaborative development and testing of high level resources to stretch and challenge students.
I used to think an A* student was one which can just answer questions correctly and gain marks on the paper (which is what essentially enables a student to achieve such a grade), I now understand it is more of a thinking process and an application of skill that differentiates the high achievers from the rest…The confidence of students to make conjectures, take risks and think independently. I used to base this on ability alone but even the highest able cannot achieve an A* if they don't have the above skills.
Christ the King Sixth Form College was awarded further funding through the Subject Knowledge Hubs programme.