Key Stage 3 – A High Priority
In September 2015 Ofsted published a report that identified the weaknesses in teaching and learning in Key Stage 3 in schools where these school years was not made a priority. Too many secondary schools, the report said, did not give KS3 enough status, or indeed build on the progress made at primary schools.
In response to this, we have re-focused our attention on Key Stage 3. Everything we teach in Years 7, 8 and 9 is evaluated to make sure it has an impact on what the students learn at KS4, recognising that what happens in the early stages of secondary education impacts significantly on future outcomes. We have made KS3 a high priority for teaching and learning; we have changed the way we deliver subjects; we have made sure that the students do not repeat work they have already covered at primary school, but at the same time ensure the students have mastery of the key line objectives in English and Maths in particular that they need to be successful at KS4.
One of the ways we do this is by our IQ lesson. Introduced in January 2016, the students have a 25 minute lesson every day that, in KS3, concentrates on mastery of key skills. In the first term of Year 7 for example, every student has an extra 25 minutes of maths every day so that red line objectives like times tables can be secured. In the second term, every student has an extra 25 minutes of English, some following a reading programme, which we have found accelerates progress considerably.
These lessons have been very successful. Our data shows that progress in key skills at KS3 is rapid and sustained.
To support our focus on Key Stage 3 we have also introduced an Independent Study lesson for each of Years 7, 8 and 9. This lesson concentrates on, as the name suggests, teaching the students to take responsibility for their learning and operate independently. The skills of critical thinking, metacognition, problem solving and peer tutoring are taught specifically via a menu of differentiated units which the students can chose themselves.
Each piece of work is marked against six categories – clarity of communication, organisation of ideas, knowledge and research, IT skills, critical thinking and independent learning. Feedback is extensive and students are expected to respond to this and consider their own learning and progress. We have found that the skills learned in these lessons have been transferred to other subjects where teachers have seen significant improvements in attitude to learning and the ability of the students to respond positively to feedback, building on what they have learnt. From Spring 2016, 70% of year 7 and 8 had gained higher marks in their independent work by the end of the summer term.