The fast-track to success

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The fast-track to success

Treorchy Comprehensive School, Rhondda Cynon Taff, was the first school in Wales to receive a national award for its achievement in supporting more able and talented children. The school’s success in developing fast-track provision for these pupils has led to outstanding results at GCSE and to particularly high numbers of pupils studying mathematics, modern foreign languages and Welsh second language at A level.

Number of pupils: 1580
Age range: 11-18 years
Date of Estyn inspection: March 2012

Context and background to sector-leading practice

Treorchy Comprehensive School is a large 11-18 mixed comprehensive school in the county of Rhondda Cynon Taf. There are 1,580 pupils on roll including 364 students in the Sixth Form.

Most pupils come from primary schools in the traditional catchment area, although in the past three years more than 40 pupils each year have joined the school from other primary schools.

The school’s intake is from a varied social background and represents the full range of ability. The percentage of pupils eligible for free school meals is 23.5%.

Academic ability on entry is below national averages. The school has 16% of pupils on the special educational needs register. While most pupils come from English speaking homes, approximately 9% of pupils are fluent in Welsh.

At Treorchy Comprehensive School a very strong ethos of learning and achievement is underpinned by the school’s Mission Statement of ‘A Community School committed to excellence’.

This ethos has led to the development of a flexible and balanced curriculum that meets the needs of all learners. An integral part of this provision is the more able and talented element that challenges learners to fast-track their progress, leading to exceptional outcomes.

Treorchy Comprehensive School was the first school in Wales to achieve the ‘National Association for Able Children in Education’ (NACE) Challenge Award in 2007 and the first to be re-accredited in November 2011.

Description of nature of strategy or activity

Treorchy Comprehensive School has developed flexible learning pathways to personalise learning and meet the needs of all individuals. One element of this is the development of fast-track provision for more able and talented pupils.

Fast-track Welsh second language provision

Teachers have been employed to work in feeder primary schools to develop consistency and better progression in the teaching and learning of Welsh second language.

Pupils are identified on entry to the school to be taught bilingually in a variety of lessons in key stage 3. These pupils develop their linguistic abilities and skills to a level that enables them to achieve the highest GCSE grades in Welsh second language at the end of Year 9.

In key stage 4, these pupils continue their fast-track provision, working towards completing AS Welsh second language at the end of Year 11. Nearly all pupils then progress into the sixth form where they sit their A2 examination at the end of Year 12.

French fast-track provision

In French, pupils accelerate their learning and begin the GCSE course in Year 9. Many pupils choose to take French as an option at GCSE level and are entered for their examination at the end of Year 10. From June in Year 10, these pupils broaden their exposure to the French language by experiencing the CILT NVQ Business Language French course and study an AS taster module. This gives those pupils that choose to study French at post 16 an excellent base to start their A level courses.

Mathematics fast-track provision

A very few pupils enter Treorchy Comprehensive School having completed their GCSE mathematics and therefore require fast-track provision. In Year 7, the school identifies other pupils that would benefit from fast-track provision and all of these pupils sit a GCSE module in Year 9 and complete their GCSE mathematics in Year 10. From June in Year 10, pupils then work towards their additional mathematics GCSE completing this at the end of key stage 4. This provision allows pupils greater breadth of mathematical experiences and enhances their preparation for A level studies.

Post 16 more able and talented talented provision

More able and talented post-16 pupils are encouraged to follow Young Applicants in Schools Scheme (Open University) modules to complement and broaden their studies. Details of the scheme can be found at

What impact has this work had on provision and learners’ standards?

The development of fast-track opportunities has contributed significantly to the school being reaccredited with the NACE Challenge Award.

The fast-track provision is viewed very positively by pupils and has made a significant contribution to outstanding outcomes.

In 2011:

  • Year 10 pupils who entered GCSE mathematics or French achieved at grades A*-C;
  • Year 9 pupils who entered GCSE Welsh second language achieved at grades A*-B;
  • Year 11 pupils who entered GCSE additional mathematics achieved at grades A*- B;
  • Year 11 pupils who entered AS Welsh second language achieved at grades A*-D; and
  • Year 12 students who entered A2 Welsh second language achieved at grades A*-C.

Fast-track provision also impacts positively on the numbers of pupils opting to study these subjects at A level. There are currently 35 students following Welsh second language in Year 12. The mathematics department attracts enough students to consistently run two classes at A level and the modern foreign languages department is the sole provider of French and Spanish in the Rhondda valley.