Improving marking and assessment through pupil participation

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Ysgol Uwchradd Aberteifi  - school council image

Ysgol Uwchradd Aberteifi has demonstrated its inclusive ethos through the activities of the school council. The council regularly undertakes projects on aspects of school provision, providing pupils’ opinions on teaching strategies, reviewing the quality of marking and feedback, and raising awareness on all types of bullying, working closely with the Senior Leadership Team.


 
Number of learners: 586
Age range: 11-19 years
Date of Estyn inspection: January 2015

Context

Ysgol Uwchradd Aberteifi is a naturally bilingual school for pupils aged between 11 and 18 years, maintained by Ceredigion local authority.  The school is situated in the coastal town of Cardigan and admits pupils from a wide rural catchment area.  There are 586 pupils on roll and 97 students in the sixth form. 

Almost 20% of pupils are eligible for free school meals.  This is slightly higher than the national average of 17.1%.  Around 13% of the school’s pupils live in the 20% most deprived areas of Wales.  The school has a special education unit called Canolfan Seren Teifi.

Forty per cent of pupils are on the special educational needs (SEN) register, and 1.6% of pupils have a statement of SEN.  These figures are considerably higher than the national averages.  Thirty-two per cent of pupils come from homes in which Welsh is the main language.  However, 51% of pupils speak Welsh as a first language or to an equivalent standard.  A very few pupils speak English as an additional language. 

Culture and ethos

The headteacher communicates a clear and well-understood vision about improving the school to staff, pupils, governors and parents.  The school is an inclusive community, and has a very supportive and caring ethos.  It has a strong culture of celebrating diversity.  All pupils, whatever their needs and backgrounds, are encouraged to succeed in line with the school’s mission statement, ‘Every pupil will succeed’.

Action

The school council makes a significant contribution to school improvement at Ysgol Uwchradd Aberteifi.  The headteacher and senior leaders also work with focus groups on specific issues that arise, such as the quality of the school environment, standards of wellbeing, the consistency of marking and assessment and target setting. 

Members of the school council carry out work to raise awareness of all types of bullying and to promote a “zero tolerance” policy.  Pupils lead whole school assemblies, work with senior staff to develop the anti-bullying policy and protocols, and develop anti bullying information leaflets for pupils and parents.  This has a significant impact on improving the pupils’ understanding of different types of bullying and the procedures used for dealing with it. 

The school council recently undertook a teaching and learning review of marking and assessment.  They collected pupils’ views on the effectiveness of the marking and assessment policy.  They presented their conclusions and recommendations for improvements to the senior leadership team at the end of the review.  The senior leadership team accepted the recommendations, fed back to faculty leaders and included pupils in reviewing the monitoring cycle and school development plan.  As a result, marking and assessment are more consistent across the school and pupils have a very thorough understanding of the assessment policy. 

In addition to the in depth review, pupils complete a whole-school survey on teaching and learning twice a year.  The outcomes of the survey are analysed by senior leaders and faculty leaders and used to inform the faculty reviews, faculty self-evaluation and improvement plans.  Senior leaders use the outcomes of the surveys to identify strengths within and across faculties.  They share examples of good practice highlighted by pupils across faculties. 

The school council conducts online surveys to gather pupil opinions, comments and feedback.  For example, it developed the ‘quality teacher code’ by collecting pupils’ views on teaching strategies and approaches.  As a result, the school refined its teaching and learning model, making sure that lessons are planned to include stimulating starter activities, a brisk pace and a wide range of meaningful tasks.  Pupils and staff have recently developed this work to include a ‘quality pupil code’.

The school council works effectively with the governing body.  The associate pupil governors attend the termly governing body meeting and every agenda includes an item dedicated to the school council.  They take an active part in the recruitment of new staff.  They are involved in lesson observations when appointing new staff, conduct their own interview panel and feed back to the appointing panel of governors and senior leaders. 

Outcomes

The school’s focus on improving pupils’ wellbeing has had a significant impact on improving attendance, behaviour and outcomes across the school.

Through the school council, pupils have had a significant influence on issues such as improving the quality of marking and feedback, refining anti-bullying policies, reducing instances of bullying and improving the quality of the school uniform.  Almost all pupils contribute to decisions about the school’s environment and facilities, for example the development of the new gymnasium and the extensive programme of clubs and activities.  Pupils’ participation in decision-making is a strong feature of the school.

Pupils’ behaviour is exemplary and nearly all have positive attitudes towards their learning.  There have been no fixed term exclusions during the last 18 months and there has not been a permanent exclusion for three years.  These figures compare well with local and national averages and demonstrate a significant improvement over the past three years.

Pupils’ attendance is outstanding.  Attendance rates over the last four years have placed the school in the top 25% of similar schools based on eligibility for free school meals and above modelled outcomes.  The attendance of pupils eligible for free school meals has increased year on year and is consistently well above that of the same group of pupils in similar schools and nationally.

Links

www.ysgol-uwchradd-aberteifi.co.uk