Kingswood Academy is one of the highest performing secondary schools in the country and ranked 16th out of 6431 schools nationally for the progress that their students make. The Northern Powerhouse Partnership also recently published a ‘Fairer Schools Index”, published in the TES, which placed Kingswood Academy as the second highest performing secondary school in the country when context is taken into account.
Kingswood Academy has a high proportion of students that are in receipt of the pupil premium and the academy is passionate about removing any barriers to learning and personal development. They also provide all students with the support, care and guidance that they need to go on and fulfil their dreams and live happy and successful lives. Through their world-class teaching and learning offer, delivered by great staff, the academy firmly believes that there are no limits on what young people can achieve.
Traditionally, the academy takes all year 11 students away for four residential weekends during the exam period to support their revision. During these residential weekends, teachers support students with their learning and there is a strong focus on student wellbeing and management of stress during the examination period. As a part of these visits, students enjoy activities such as outdoor pursuits, team building, bowling, cinema and much more. The provision also helps to remove barriers that some students face at home by giving them a place where they can fully concentrate on their exams without external distractions.
The challenge for all schools this year has been the uncertainty around examinations and keeping year 11 students motivated and fully focused on preparing for their future. Despite examinations not taking place this year, students need those core skills and knowledge to be able to go on and be a success at post-16.
Kingswood Academy’s remote learning offer has been extremely strong. It mirrors exactly what students do in school with every single student having every single lesson taught live via Google Hangout. These lessons follow the usual timetable and work is completed in real time via Google Classroom. The Kingswood teaching and learning standard includes differentiated learner pathways, where students are given carefully constructed ‘hinge questions’ that test their ability to meet the learning outcomes. Students are then given specific feedback based on their responses and this then determines whether they start on a red, amber or green task. This ensures that the levels of challenge and support are appropriate and leads to all students making accelerated progress. It allows students who already have good knowledge of a topic to be moved on to more challenging content quickly while those students who require extra support are identified and swiftly supported.
Kingswood Academy has previously used tutoring for native language tuition. The academy has a small proportion of students annually that have additional language skills so this approach has allowed these students to have the opportunity to gain further qualifications.
The Academies Enterprise Trust promoted the NTP as part of their central Covid-19 catch up strategy and this programme aligned perfectly with the academy’s own Covid-19 strategy. Initially, the Trust’s catch up programme was rolled out throughout the summer holidays where a cohort of year 11 students received weekly lessons. The academy is now using tutoring to support cohorts of students in years 10 and 11, and also Key Stage 3 students. The tutoring helps to fill in the gaps of knowledge and the skills that students might have missed out on due to the pandemic.
Tutoring during lockdown
The academy identified the right students to be on the programme based on how they had performed in recent assessments. The academy carefully analyzed performance data to identify the needs of each student and then spoke to parents to inform them about the impact high-quality tutoring can have. The academy chose to make tutoring optional as they felt it was important that students and parents were fully committed to the programme. The academy has had excellent engagement from both parents and pupils throughout.
The Trust has also been brilliant in terms of providing laptops for student working at home. The academy has issued over 400 laptops with the aim of removing any barriers that might preclude students from accessing remote learning.
This year the academy has completed two sets of mock examinations with year 11. The first set in October and then the second set just before Christmas. These two sets of data clearly demonstrate that we are rapidly closing Covid-19 learning gaps. It is hard to quantify definitively where the impact has come from, but we have seen an improvement in our students’ outcomes due to a combination of high-quality remote learning, excellent teaching in school, the NTP tutoring and numerous other strategies that the academy has implemented. There are also softer indicators in terms of our students’ confidence which we have seen improve as a result of the tutoring.
With MyTutor, teachers give the tutors an action plan for each individual student. This is key as it means the tutors know specifically what each individual student needs to focus on. This ensures they’ve got a laser-sharp focus in terms of planning and making sure they are covering the right topics and misconceptions.
Advice to other school leaders
- Culture is vital! The culture at the academy is one where staff do everything they can to ensure that all students get the absolute best education. The academy has a solution-focused culture and spends a lot of time developing grit, resilience and determination through our ‘Character Education’ programme. This has stood the academy in good stead and has meant that the roll out of the NTP has been very smooth.
- Know your students! Gather data, find the gaps in learning and be forensic. The academy looks at question level analysis so they know for each individual student, for every subject, which specific topics or skills they performed well on and what they need to further improve through intervention.
- Maximize the tutors! The academy expects each session to be high-quality tuition that adds value to our students. Clear lines of communication are also key to ensure tutors know exactly what is expected of them and what skills or knowledge need to be addressed for each student.
- Consistency is key! The academy purposely schedules the tutoring session for each year group at the same time each week. This means students have a regular routine and a consistent time every single week. The academy also sends out reminder emails and texts to parents to make sure that their child’s attendance to the after-school tuition is excellent.
Nick Heywood is Deputy Headteacher at Kingswood Academy in Hull, part of Academies Enterprise Trust. They are accessing tutoring through NTP Tuition Partner MyTutor.