We aim to ensure that students are challenged academically in all their lessons. This means that teachers must teach to stretch the most able students in a group and support other students to reach the same end point in a unit of work.
How we put students into sets
When Year 7 students enter the school, the year group is split into two halves, purely for the purposes of timetabling; these are not ability groupings. One half of the year is called “K”, one is called “S,” and both halves of the year study the same curriculum.
English, maths and science departments set students on arrival, based on both their Key Stage 2 results and on liaison with colleagues from our primary feeder schools. A typical setting structure, where there are 6 classes in each half of the year group, would be to have three pairs of sets that are equal in ability, e.g. Sets 1a and 1b, Sets 2a and 2b, and Sets 3a and 3b. An alternative setting structure is Set 1, Set2a and 2b, Set 3a and 3b, and a smaller Set 4 of the students needing the most support in order to accelerate their progress in the subject.
In Key Stage 4, these subjects are sometimes taught across the year group but the principle of paired sets remains in place. Pairing allows teachers to plan together to refine lessons and resources that will push all students to progress.
In Key Stage 3, some subjects are taught in clusters, such as art, humanities (history and geography), music and modern foreign languages. This, again, is done for timetabling purposes and the groupings for these are normally set by the humanities department. Once students make options choices later in their school career, they are set in these subjects too.
How students can move up a set
Departments review setting following each of the three Assessment Weeks that each year group has. One strong test performance would not typically be enough to move up, as experience shows that this can lead to yo-yoing between sets, which damages student progress. A combination of sustained strong achievement in assessments and teacher recommendation based on classroom performance can lead to an upward set change.
Sometimes students remain in the same group, even though they are achieving consistently highly; decisions are made on a case-by-case basis and it can be the case that, if a student is making rapid progress, then they are best remaining with the teacher who has supported the student to make that progress.
When students may be moved down a set
Before moving students down in the setting structure, we aim to support them in their current set. Assistant Principals work with teachers to implement classroom-based interventions to support students whose test results indicate their progress has slowed.
Students are placed in an appropriate set, based on previous attainment, and we believe that consistent exposure to high-quality teaching is the best way to keep improving. The monitoring of these class based interventions means that all teachers take responsibility for the progress of the students in their class.
Pairs of sets, as described above, means that a horizontal movement can sometimes be made, allowing a student a fresh start in a new class. Occasionally a downward movement is necessary, but the progress of that student is closely monitored still, as we work with the belief that all our students can make at least the same progress as their peers across the country.