Academic Update

Academic Update

Dear Parents / Carers,

Firstly, many thanks for your attendance at the recent Learning Coach consultation meetings. It was very encouraging to see such a high percentage of you attending the meetings and taking such a close interest in your child’s academic progress. With the GCSE and A-Level exam season just around the corner, the information in this fortnight’s Academic Update is broken down into year group-specific sections, as students in each year group face very different challenges over the next two months.  

Year 7 – 3Cert awards and student progress

Following some very helpful feedback from parents both at the Learning Coach meetings and to me personally via email, I would like to offer some further clarification on how the ‘3Cert’ grading and assessment system operates in Year 7:  

  • Students are assessed continuously on sets of ‘I can statements’ (also known as curriculum constructs) through classwork, Independent Learning and end of unit exams. These are openly available for every subject, using the following link, and should also be stuck into the students’ exercise books:

  • Depending on the understanding they show, students are deemed to be either ‘not yet achieving’, ‘emerging’, ‘developing’ or ‘mastering’ in each statement.
  • All of these scores are entered onto spreadsheets by the Year 7 teachers on an on-going basis, so that every time a student is credited with progress in one of the statements, it moves them closer to their next certificate.
  • Certificates are awarded in the following order: bronze, silver, gold, platinum, diamond. If no certificate is shown next to a subject, it means the student is working towards bronze in that area.
  • If students wish to know how far away they are from achieving their next certificate, they should ask their teachers, then focus on the subject-specific targets they are given, as well as look at the action points they are given in their exercise books. Remember, certificates can be awarded at any stage of the year, not just the end of term, so it is always worth them stretching themselves on every piece of work.
  • Students can always go back over work and give evidence of progress in past ‘I can statements’. Moreover, teachers will plan areas of significant weakness shown by the majority of students back into subsequent lessons. An example from my own practice is of students not being able to accurately use irregular verbs in the present tense in French. The majority of my class remain on ‘not yet achieving’ in this area, so it is an area of grammar we will be revisiting this term.

So essentially, as there were 8 Key Stage 3 levels before, there are now 5 categories of certificate. This may sound very similar, except that students arrive at an award in a very different way, receiving credit for all of the progress they make, whether it is in new areas of work or revisiting content and skills covered in previous lessons.

Year 8 – option choices and academic focus for this term

It has been a real pleasure for us to interview all of the Year 8 students over the past month. Students have come across as mature and reflective, and have certainly given us the impression that they are taking the prospect of starting their GCSE courses in September very seriously. My strong advice to students at this stage would be that wherever they have chosen one of their current subjects as a GCSE course, they should increase their efforts and aim for as high an exam mark in June as possible, so that they are as prepared as they can be for September’s step up in level. Equally, they should constantly strive to improve the level of their literacy and numeracy, as improvements in English and Maths almost invariably lead to improvements in many other subject areas, as well as in English and Maths themselves.

Years 9 and 10 – clarification on 9-1 course grading

As we try to get used to the new 9-1 GCSE grading system, I thought it would be useful to re-clarify how the new system works, as I know that some of you have sons and daughters in upper years, who have been / are going through a completely different grading system. The information below should help to clarify the changes:

Especially in light of recent government announcements, the key things to note here are:

  • Grade 4 is deemed to be a ‘standard pass’, and is the equivalent of the bottom two thirds of the current C grade.
  • Grade 5 is deemed to be a ‘strong pass’ and is the equivalent of the top third of the current C grade and the bottom third of the current B grade.
  • Grade 9 is not the same as A*. It is a new grade, designed to recognise the very highest performing students, so there will be fewer grade 9s than there are currently A*s, (typically, fewer than 5% of entries).

The overall message seems to be that the difficulty of the courses have increased and it is more challenging to achieve the top grades on these exam papers. Our initial experience of the 9-1 GCSE English and Maths courses suggests that this is the case. It is, however, vital that students remain positive, resilient and work as hard as they can to achieve their full potential. Everybody around the country is in the same position, so if we try our hardest, we will do well.

Year 10 – RE GCSE support

Most importantly, the full GCSE RE exams are on Monday 15th and Wednesday 17th May. The follow RE revision opportunities are still available for all Year 10 RE students:

  • Revision classes from 3.30-4.15 with Ms Malik and Miss Taylor most nights this week. Please see them for exact details.
  • A walking, talking mock exam during periods 2 and 3 in the theatre on Friday 12th May.
  • A walking, talking mock exam during periods 4 and 5 in the theatre on Tuesday 16th May.
  • Breakfast club on the mornings of each exam, where students can come into the Academy from 7.30 if they wish, have a free breakfast, and revise with their teachers and peers. Please note that the free service only runs from 7.30 – 8.00.
  • Weekly emails including links to resources from Ms Malik.
  • Finally, teachers have offered students the opportunity to send them work they have completed (i.e. past paper questions) if they wish to have it marked and receive bespoke feedback in the run up to the exam.

Years 11 support during the exam period

Make sure you are fully aware of your child’s exam timetable, which will have been emailed to them, so you can ensure that they have a clear and manageable revision plan in place, prioritising the right subjects at the right time. We will be supporting the students in the following ways:

  • After school intervention and some weekend lessons (you will be contacted individually via text with details of any weekend classes).
  • Re-constructed timetable before half-term to maximise lesson time of courses that have already been completed.
  • Half-term revision classes.
  • Breakfast club on the mornings of each exam, where students can come into the Academy from 7.30 if they wish, have a free breakfast, and revise with their teachers and peers. Please note that the free service only runs from 7.30 – 8.00.
  • Pre-exam revision classes after half-term, with a completely re-written Year 11 timetable.
  • All Year 11 students will complete the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL), an IT User Skills qualification that will enhance their CVs.
  • They have already been issued with free revision guides for every subject, so you should be seeing these very much in use right now.

My top tip…

Most teenagers admit that the most distracting thing above all is their mobile phone, so ask your son / daughter to hand you their phone at the start of each revision session. Once they have explained what they have learned at the end of their session, it will feel like a reward for them getting their phone back!

Sixth Form

Exactly the same applies to Sixth Form parents as it does to Year 11 regarding organisation – make sure you are fully aware of your child’s exam timetable, which will have been emailed to them, so you can ensure that they have a clear and manageable revision plan in place, prioritising the right subjects at the right time.

At this stage, however, unlike in Year 11, it is actually less about what the teachers are doing and much more about what the students are doing to prepare for the exams. Such is the demand for independent study at A-Level, the teachers are really guides at this stage in the year, pointing students towards their strengths and areas for improvement and providing them with the resources and strategies to prepare for the exams:

  • One particular resource some courses have used to very good effect is called ‘My PLC’, where students are able to diagnose their progress in every area of their chosen A-Level courses. All students can sign up to this free of charge if they see Ms Power for details.
  • Having a very clear picture of the marks they already have, and therefore the marks they need in each exam to achieve their desired grade and above is very helpful. This helps students to figure out exactly where they need to focus their efforts to pick up the marks they need.
  • When you complete past papers, send them to your teachers to mark so that you can continue to act on feedback given right up to the exam days. Students will be on study leave after half-term, but teachers will still be available for students to come in and see or to receive work.

If you have questions about any of the above, please do not hesitate to contact me at

Thomas Cragg
Vice Principal – Curriculum

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