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Identification and transition
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Transitioning from Year 11 during a global pandemic

Posted By Renata Joseph, 10 June 2020

Renata Joseph, NACE Trustee and Headteacher of Saint Cecilia’s Church of England School

Students in Year 11, like those in Years 6 and 13, are acutely feeling the impact of the pandemic. More than anything, what came across in the early days of lockdown – from learners and their families alike – was the loss of closure: not being able to complete courses and in some cases not having a chance to say goodbye to friends and teachers.

Supporting this year group has raised additional challenges: this is a group of young people who at the time of lockdown were developing maturity and independence through revision, refining decisions regarding next steps, and who now will go on to study for A-levels without ever having sat a formal exam. Whilst assessment centre grading may continue to play a part next year, there are important rites of passage that these young people will not experience. The exam system brings with it the opportunity to develop and demonstrate a number of key skills: independent study, prioritising learning and being able to perform in a traditional way.

How do we then bridge that emotional and academic gap for current Year 11s?

At Saint Cecilia's Church of England School in London, we’ve given a great deal of thought to this.

First, we have signalled to all Year 11 learners that we will honour the offers we have made to them and are looking forward to welcoming them into our sixth-form community. We believe asking learners to start afresh somewhere unfamiliar in September would be completely the wrong thing to do. So much of what they “know” has been changed over the past few months.

Making our learners feel part of this community is key, and we’ve spent time talking about our “going for green” scheme – which focuses on individual learners’ responsibilities when they join, ensuring that attendance, attitude and focus are established early on.

We have therefore built our bridging work programme with a focus on self-motivation and learners engaging in their passions – with a mix around building knowledge and articulating views.

Our wider reflection is that, like all schools, we won’t get everything right. We have work to do in the new academic year around ensuring the wider independence of these learners – and around further raising our knowledge, understanding and use of technology. But acknowledging gaps and making improvements is part of this journey that we are all currently on.

This article was originally published in the summer 2020 special edition of NACE Insight, as part of our “lessons from lockdown” series. For access to all past issues, log in to our members’ resource library.

Tags:  KS4  KS5  lockdown  motivation  remote learning  resilience  transition 

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Using an FPQ project to support KS2-3 transition: what, why and how?

Posted By Stephen Hill, 13 January 2020

King Richard School is a secondary school in Cyprus, which in 2019 became one of the first schools outside the UK to attain the NACE Challenge Award. The school’s More Able Coordinator, Stephen Hill, explains how the use of the Foundation Project Qualification (FPQ) has helped to ensure more able learners are challenged and supported throughout the KS2-3 transition.

In June 2019 King Richard School (KRS) successfully attained the NACE Challenge Award. As part of the process of working towards the Award, our more able learners at Key Stage 3 identified the Foundation Project Qualification (FPQ) and Higher Project Qualification (HPQ) as projects they found most challenging, were extremely proud to have achieved, and in which they enjoyed working hard to pursue a “passion” of their choice as well as developing research and critical thinking skills.

We introduced the FPQ and HPQ in 2016, following advice and inspiration from Ian Silverton at Tendring Technology College in Essex. We decided to introduce the initiative as it was a fantastic opportunity to create stronger links with our feeder primary schools, provide new students with skills in independent academic work, inspire interest and set high standards for more able learners at Key Stage 2, before their arrival at KRS.

To implement this project, we work closely with our two principal feeder primary schools. Students are selected to participate in the FPQ based on their KS2 data and the recommendation of their Year 6 teacher. Having completed the FPQ, they can opt to take the HPQ. We invite selected students to a more able day at KRS during the summer term. We use this day to focus on higher thinking skills, more advanced academic standards and to introduce the FPQ. Students then have the summer holidays to consider their question and conduct initial research.


The key focus of the FPQ project is to provide opportunities for learners to reveal their abilities. It is designed to allow more able learners to be challenged and enriched; to encourage depth, breadth, self-direction and independence; to inspire high-level knowledge and skills; provide opportunities for learners to be challenged at the highest levels in and beyond the classroom; and stimulate creative and critical thinking.

The project develops and extends from one or more of the student’s study areas and/or from an area of personal interest or activity outside their main programme of study. It involves extended autonomous work, requiring learners to apply organisational skills, use resources and review project outcomes.


  • The initiative provides the starting point for effective provision at KS3 through visiting feeder primary schools to gather information about individual learners. The project allows the more able coordinator to get to know the range of abilities of children joining in September.
  • The FPQ challenges learners to research and write an essay independently, therefore developing their ability to conduct and synthesise research, manage their own time, and take on feedback from school subject leaders as their project supervisors.
  • It inspires interest and independence. Learners are expected to be self-motivated and self-directed, seeking support when they need it.
  • It sets and maintains high expectations for learners. In turn more able learners gain increased confidence and positivity about moving to a new school.
  • Thinking skills sessions aim to develop learners’ inference, deduction, analysis and communication skills, as well as building confidence, resilience and understanding. Sessions have a strong focus on questioning and metacognition.
  • It engages parents and carers during the transition period.
  • It encourages personal aspirations for further study and career development.


The FPQ requires teaching of the necessary skills. It is expected that up to half of the 60 guided learning hours will be spent on this taught element. The remaining 30 hours are allocated for the student’s independent work and for individual supervision and guidance.

Taught sessions cover topics such as creative and critical thinking, note-taking for research, time and project management, public speaking, ICT skills, academic referencing and ethical issues such as plagiarism. Students also attend four meetings with their supervisor in order to review progress made, explore new options and discuss problems. Credit is given for the process of developing as a learner.

Key takeaways for effective implementation:

  • Ensure there is a clear structure to the overall process.
  • The planning phase is essential. Work with each learner to develop a strong project question.
  • Give prominence to meetings with the student’s allocated supervisor to discuss the project process and issues.
  • Focus attention on planning and research within the production log. Give an emphasis to the evaluation of the project process.
  • Maintain clear communication with staff, students and parents. Google Classroom can be a very useful tool for this.


Read more: 10 ways to support more able learners in KS2-3 transition

Tags:  collaboration  enrichment  independent learning  KS2  KS3  research  transition 

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Identifying more able learners: beyond the numbers

Posted By NACE, 08 July 2019

Struggling to identify the more able group in your school? You’re not alone! Identification is a complex matter, requiring a holistic and whole-school approach which looks beyond percentages, across domains, and focuses on providing opportunities for learners to show what they can do. Read more…

What is the definition of more able?

In England and Wales, Ofsted and Estyn define the more able in terms of those whose progress and attainment significantly exceed age-related expectations.

NACE looks beyond this to include those who may be underachieving or whose skills and knowledge may extend beyond national measures of progress and attainment. This approach encompasses those learners already achieving and attaining to the highest grades/levels/outcomes, along with those who may currently be underperforming or who have barriers to their learning.

In Wales, a national definition of more able and talented (MAT) learners that aligns with the new curriculum is currently under consideration by the regional school improvement consortia – find out more here.

How do we identify more able learners?

This is a complex matter and a whole-school issue which should be discussed and agreed by all staff, taking account of the specific school context and intake, and subjected to regular review. It is important to encompass a range of methods, looking beyond test results and teacher assessment. Criteria and factors to consider include:

  • Nomination by self, staff, parents and peers
  • Teacher observation and assessment
  • Data and pupil tracking processes
  • Transition information
  • School intake and context, including social and economic factors
  • Checklists of characteristics (general and subject-specific)
  • Identification through classroom and extracurricular provision
  • Consideration of ability beyond core subjects/academic domains

School policy for identifying more able learners should include approaches to identify and support underrepresented groups and learners at risk of underachieving, including those with special educational needs and/or disabilities and those from disadvantaged backgrounds. It should also acknowledge that an individual learner may be highly able in one or several domains but not in others; for this reason it is important to consider each subject or area of attainment separately.

Ultimately, the key is to focus on the opportunities provided for learners to reveal their abilities. The process is ongoing: provide – identify – provide.

See below for additional support and resources available from NACE.

What percentage should be identified as “more able”?

The percentage of more able learners in a class or school will vary. NACE does not specify an actual percentage but recommends that every school has a robust – while ongoing and flexible – method of identifying its more able cohort. A focus on numbers or percentages can be misleading: X% of what?

Focusing on a percentage can fuel the common misconception that more able learners are “good at everything”. It also makes schools reliant on data to support the identification of more able learners; this carries the risk of overlooking the many highly able young people who may, for a range of reasons, be underachieving.

Who are the exceptionally able?

The term “exceptionally able” is used to refer to those who demonstrate or have the potential to demonstrate extremely high levels of ability, compared to their peers across the entire population. Displaying high ability across multiple domains does not automatically make an individual exceptionally able.

What is challenge for more able learners?

Embedding a climate and culture of challenge and high expectations in your school is likely to raise both expectations and attainment across the board. However, challenge means different things for different groups. As with all groups of learners, it is important to have a clear focus on provision and outcomes for more able learners, to ensure these young people have their needs identified and met effectively.

Challenge for the more able means:

  • A curriculum designed to allow more able learners challenging and enriching learning opportunities;
  • Teaching with planned opportunities for depth, breadth and pace in learning;
  • Learning which involves self-direction and independence;
  • Assessment practices which reliably pinpoint learners’ achievement and progress and inform teaching and support strategies.

Within the current focus on curriculum in schools and at the level of national policy, all schools can improve their ability to identify potential and enable learners to excel by developing an engaging and rich education, imparting high-level knowledge and skills, providing opportunities for learners to be challenged at the highest levels in and beyond the classroom, and encouraging creative and critical thinking.

What additional guidance is available from NACE?

Our members’ resource library includes lists of identification characteristics (general and subject-specific), school case studies of effective practice, and examples of school materials used to identify and respond to the needs of more able learners. To access these resources, log in or join NACE.

For schools working with the NACE Challenge Framework, Element 2 (“Identification and transition”) provides detailed criteria to ensure a rigorous and effective and approach to identification, including a strong focus on identifying and responding to underachievement. Find out more here.

Read more: Common myths and misconceptions about more able learners 

Tags:  faqs  identification  myths and misconceptions  Wales 

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10 ways to support more able learners in KS2-3 transition

Posted By NACE team, 03 September 2018
Updated: 21 August 2019
At our summer term NACE member meetup, primary and secondary members convened to share strategies to improve support for more able learners during KS2-3 transition. Canons High School’s Laura Markey and Athena Pitsillis opened the discussion with a presentation based on their NACE Essentials case study (available in our members’ area), followed by a “speed-sharing” session and networking lunch.

Here are 10 approaches to try…

1. More able workshops

Several members shared examples in which more able learners are selected during KS2 to attend workshops in a particular subject at their prospective secondary school. One example came from Basildon Lower Academy, which runs challenge-based workshops for more able learners in Years 5 and 6. Assistant Headteacher Sharon Rayner explains some of the benefits: “Students are identified early by primary schools, and we are able to work closely with students and parents to ensure work is set at the appropriate level when they join us. This has led to greater progress between entry and first assessment point.”

Bexleyheath Academy also runs workshops in core subjects, bringing together KS2 and 3 students to work collaboratively. Ayfer Mack-Poole, the school’s More Able Lead, recommends selecting KS3 students to help run the workshops to further develop their skills and confidence.

For tips on how to create an impactful more able workshop, read this blog post from Osborne Cooperative Academy Trust’s Philippa Buckingham.

2. Extended collaborative projects

Building on the idea of collaborative workshops, Mission Grove Primary School shared details of an extended collaborative project for learners in Years 6, 7 and 8. Working together over six weeks, learners produced a short film. Year 6 learners then used the skills and knowledge acquired to help others in their school produce their own films.

“The project allows secondary staff to get to know the range of abilities of children who will be joining in September – this includes academic abilities but also skills around teamworking, collaboration and creative abilities,” says Assistant Headteacher Ed Fincham. “Learners gain increased confidence and positivity about moving to a new school, and are able to immediately apply their new skills and take on leading roles in the follow-up project.”

3. Student learning passports

Many members emphasised the importance of sharing information about learners across phases, to ensure appropriate levels of challenge and support. At Sarah Bonnell School, this is supported by detailed “student learning passports”. These include SATs and CATs data, alongside teacher observations about how the student prefers to learn, and strategies to provide stretch and challenge.

The passports are shared with all teaching staff and are used to inform more able twilight sessions, teaching and learning briefings, and peer lesson observations. “Triangulate the data early on and then interview students to get a good picture of their feelings,” Assistant Headteacher Joe Begley recommends. “Share with teachers on a number of occasions to ensure the profile is kept high, and see if you can build it into an observation cycle or area of action research or performance management.”

4. Sharing KS2 work with KS3 teachers

This was another common idea shared at the meetup, aiming to help secondary teachers understand the quality of work being completed by incoming students, in order to sustain attainment and progress from the start of KS3. At La Sainte Union School, new Year 7 students are asked to bring in a piece of work they’re proud of, while their Year 6 teachers also select a piece which shows their abilities.

“Pupils like to ‘show off’ their work – it gives them a sense of confidence and pride,” says Head of Year 7 Hayley Boyd. “We hope this encourages them to maintain this sense of excellence as they start secondary school.” She recommends encouraging all secondary teaching staff to look at and refer to the work during the first few lessons of term, even if outside their subject area.

5. Independent essay-writing at KS2

To help learners prepare for the increased independence of KS3, several members mentioned The Brilliant Club’s Scholars Programme, which runs university-style tutorials and university visits for learners from Years 5 to 12. Based on this initiative, St Andrew’s CE Primary School challenges learners to research and write an essay independently, developing their ability to conduct and synthesise research, manage their own time, and take on feedback from school subject leaders.

“The project inspires interest and independence, without the oversight or micromanagement of classwork,” explains Year 6 Teacher and Creative Curriculum Lead Sam Penberthy. “Learners are expected to self-motivate and self-direct, seeking support when they need it.” To ensure the project is successful, he recommends prioritising the planning phase, working with each learner to develop a project question.

6. Year 7 reading journals

At Little Ilford School, incoming students are encouraged to keep a reading journal, used alongside general and subject-based curriculum-linked reading lists. The idea, explains MFL Lead Practitioner Beth Hickling-Moore, is to “instil or maintain a love of reading for pleasure, often fostered at primary school, while stretching learners to extend their knowledge in different subject areas.”

While the impact has yet to be fully evaluated, she adds, “We hope that students develop a drive to explore subjects beyond lessons through literature, and in turn develop a love for reading.” She recommends starting by introducing reading lists for a few subject areas, noting that lists linked to the history and MFL curricula have so far worked well, featuring texts such as Twelve Years a Slave, Manolita Gafotas and Le Petit Nicholas.

7. Cross-curricular projects

Cross-curricular projects were another recurrent theme of the meetup, aiming to provide a challenging, creative and collaborative start to KS3 that sets and maintains high expectations for both learners and staff. At Canons High School, for example, all incoming Year 6 students are given a copy of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas to read and work on during the summer break. During the first two weeks of term, the novel provides the basis for a series of projects spanning all subjects, with a selection of work showcased at an event for parents.

At Capital City Academy, summarised curriculum maps are shared across all departments to encourage teachers to highlight links across subjects, prompting learners to make their own connections. For optimal impact, G&T Lead Rachel Belfield recommends using this approach alongside SOLO Taxonomy (log in to our members’ area for our NACE Essentials case study and accompanying webinar on SOLO).

8. Year 7 thinking skills group

At Burton Borough School, learners are encouraged to join the recently launched Year 7 thinking skills group. Drawing on a diverse range of texts and films, thinking skills sessions aim to develop learners’ inference, deduction, analysis and communication skills, as well as building confidence, resilience and understanding. Sessions have a strong focus on questioning and metacognition.

While the initiative is still in its early days, More Able Coordinator Tom Allen says it is already having a positive impact: “It has been great for getting students from different primary schools to share ideas and recognise their own and each other’s abilities.” He recommends using participants as peer advocates for the group, and offering training in questioning for staff members involved in delivering sessions.

9. Staff visits to feeder schools

Many members highlighted the importance of secondary staff visits to feeder primary schools – allowing secondary staff to see the level at which students are working, and to gather detailed information about individual learners as the starting point for effective provision at KS3.

Donna Wenden, Headteacher of Lawford C of E Primary School, also highlighted the benefits of having primary school representatives on the governing body of the secondary school. Through such ongoing involvement, primary staff can help to sustain progress and challenge by participating in work scrutiny and observations, sharing examples of work across the key stages, and ensuring high expectations are maintained.

10. Engaging parents and carers

Last but not least, members agreed on the importance of engaging parents and carers during the transition period. Secondary members often do this by inviting parents to events at regular intervals before and during their child’s first year of KS3, offering opportunities to ask questions, meet pastoral and teaching staff, and see first-hand what and how their child is learning.

Several members also shared examples of student-led approaches to parental engagement – allowing learners to share their work through exhibitions, presentations, performances or discussions. At Sarah Bonnell School, staff and students receive training in “learning conversations”, in which learners and their parents meet with a member of staff for a learner-led discussion. Sam Walsh, Head of Year 7 and Transition, explains: “This approach gives ownership of assessment and progress to students. They need to understand what they can do well and where they need to develop. It shows students what they are capable of, develops their capacity for self-reflection, and also allows for a direct comparison between subjects.”

Tags:  collaboration  enrichment  independent learning  KS2  KS3  parents and carers  resilience  transition 

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7 steps to create an impactful and inspiring more able workshop

Posted By Philippa Buckingham, 02 July 2018
Updated: 07 August 2019
As More Able Coordinator at the Osborne Cooperative Academy Trust, Philippa Buckingham has introduced a fresh approach to more able workshops – running whole-day immersive experiences which leave learners engaged, enthused and excited about the prospect of making the transition from primary to secondary school. In this blog post, she shares seven key steps in the process…

More able workshops can sometimes be underwhelming, expensive (especially if using an external agency) and difficult to measure in term of impact. It is for this reason that for the past three years I have attempted to create stimulating, feasible and impactful more able workshops, run at St Clere’s Secondary School for Year 5 pupils from across the Osborne Co-operative Academy Trust.

Below are the seven steps I took to create effective more able workshops:

Step 1: Research

I strongly recommend schools conduct their own qualitative research to ascertain the views of learners and practitioners towards provision at a localised level, and then use this to plan effective programmes of learning for more able pupils.

I conducted eight focus groups in my secondary school from a cross-section of year groups and also met with the headteachers of the primary schools in the Trust.

The following areas were identified for improvement:

1) Learners felt they did not know why they were attending certain workshops. Often, for example, their specialist area was not reflected in the day, while other students who excelled in certain subject areas were resentful at being overlooked.

2) Learners were often annoyed that they lost valuable “free time” and wondered why the event couldn’t have been better embedded in the curriculum.

3) Primary headteachers felt the level of practical organisation needed to transport the students to St Clere’s was not justified for short sessions. They were also often unclear about what the students were learning and how this complemented the primary curriculum.

I used this research to serve as the backbone of planning for future more able workshops.

Step 2: Identification

Selecting learners to take part in more able workshops can be a contentious issue. The fact that some students felt resentment at not having been chosen for more able days in subjects they excelled in boiled down to a solely data-driven approach to more able identification.

Students who are high achievers in all subjects often make up about 1% of the population, so it is not reflective to use the same learners for each session (although I acknowledge data plays an integral role). Furthermore, CAT scores are not always an accurate measure of ability for all; often more able learners underperform. Empowering teachers to use their expertise to nominate students means the more able identification process is more accurate and thorough.

I asked our primary feeder schools to nominate more able learners using teacher nomination, data and work ethic. I believed this changed the make-up of the enhancement workshops and made them much more conducive to learning.

Step 3: Communication across KS2-3

One of the integral processes that must be followed for purposeful learning workshops is clear and effective communication with feeder primary schools. The transition period from KS2-3 is often in need of much greater and effective bridging. I established a reciprocal relationship with the primary schools to discuss:
  • What learners know
  • What they need to know
  • The impact of the workshop on learner performance
Enhanced communication between all participating schools means that we learn from each other as practitioners and challenge the children adequately within the Trust.

Step 4: Organising whole-day events with a storyline

Rather than use an afternoon or holiday for the more able workshops (in response to student feedback) I communicated with the primary schools and organised whole-day events where learners would attend St Clere’s on an agreed date during term time. This meant we had the learners for a period of four hours. I used this time to plan theatrical narratives that engaged the students throughout the day. Two examples of our English workshops are below:
  • The first piece of interactive theatre involved the Queen of Hearts locking Wonderland (the school) as nobody was able to articulate how beautiful her roses were. We pretended the school was locked with vines and tape and that we had to smuggle the students in. The English staff dressed up as key characters whilst the students snuck around the school learning a new writing technique from each character, before being caught by the Queen and having to save themselves by reading their poetry. The entire school and all staff were able to get involved as they had to pretend they were angry at the students trespassing when we passed their lessons.
  • The most successful workshop involved a mysterious man (Richard III) breaking the Queen's heart (based on Dickens’ Miss Havisham) and the Queen imprisoning the students until they could figure out what had happened to her. I used extracts from Great Expectations, Carol Anne Duffy and Shakespeare interwoven into the plotline so the students were dealing with challenging works of literature and engaging characters (teachers dressed up) – they loved it.

Step 5: Creating an unforgettable learning environment

One of the most effective approaches I have found to get students engaged with their education is by creating an environment they find memorable. We often remember things that are different: troubling, exciting, strange, puzzling, curious, personalised, fun… It’s only after writing such a list that you comprehend how school can sometimes be the antithesis to this.

With the aforementioned in mind I decided to use the school space but turn it into Alice in Wonderland, a site of curiosity and wonder, to deliver a memorable and inspiring day. Turning an educational site into an open performative theatre may seem like an expensive and daunting task, but it needn’t be.

Start by thinking big, then work out what is feasible and practical. For example, for the main learning venue I used the drama theatre, but I placed vine leaves, posters, roses, arrows and clues on route to give the impression the event covered a much wider area. I used the school’s reprographics department to create theatre programmes, badges and merchandise, having designed my own artwork, to give a professional and memorable feel to the day.

Choose staff who are enthusiastic and willing to dress up! I selected a team of staff members who were very supportive and open to acting as well as teaching. As for the rest of the school, I made them part of the theatre by giving them strange phrases or questions to use on the Year 5 students if they encountered them. For really shy members of staff I just asked them to eye the students suspiciously as they walked past. All of this gave the workshops a very special atmosphere and encouraged secondary colleagues to work together and become part of the event.

Step 6: Using stimulating texts

Often students can be quite reluctant to engage in texts such as Shakespeare and Dickens because they feel the vocabulary is indecipherable (or at least they use this as an excuse) and dismiss great writers. I used key texts but approached them theatrically – for example recreating Miss Havisham’s mummified wedding cake, or literally giving the students onions as per the line in Duffy’s poem Valentine.

Not once did the students complain that they didn’t understand the texts or couldn’t engage with them. This is because they were used as they were meant – as a story, as a performance, to enthuse and engage. Running creative workshops affords you this possibility and I believe has greater implications for teaching in general.

Step 7: Measuring and reflecting

Assessing the effectiveness and impact of the more able workshops – tracking engagement and learning – is one of the hardest steps in the process, and for me this is still ongoing. I initially started with a questionnaire for the students, qualitative feedback from teachers (to notice if the students improved) and assessment of learners’ work created on the day alongside their projected levels.

Thus far the feedback from staff and learners has been positive. It was important for me to ensure the workshops were inspiring and pushed the students in their learning and I believe they achieved this. Some of the feedback received is below:

Feedback from learners:

“The characters made us feel like we’re actually there which gives us a bigger understanding and creativity within our writing.”

“The most enjoyable part of the workshop was the venue and the props. It made you feel like you were really there so it helped us work harder and think more.”

“I enjoyed the effort everyone put into the characters, the kindness and also meeting new people from different schools.”

Feedback from primary staff:
“Taking part in the workshops has given the children a real confidence boost and their vocabulary, language and ideas are much more adventurous.”
– H. Lyhne, Assistant Head and Year 5 Lead, Thameside Primary School

“Our pupils enjoyed the day and described it as problem-solving through English and drama. One of them reflected, ‘It blew my mind – it was not what I expected at all, but every aspect of being there was amazing.’ The experiences are helping to raise aspirations and identify tangible next steps for them.”
– D. Emmanuel, Deputy Head, East Tilbury Primary School

“The children had a fantastic time attending the literacy workshops at St Clere’s. The children said how fun and exciting the activities were and how they would love to go to St Clere’s. The workshops have had a great impact on the children's imaginations and descriptive writing techniques.”
– Helen Hill, Teacher, Horndon-on-the-Hill Primary School

Feedback from secondary staff:
“Through the activities the students were able to explore their own creativity and use this to stretch their knowledge. As a teacher, I found this helped me to explore techniques that I can use in the classroom to challenge and bring learning to life for the more able.”
– L. Brooks, English Teacher and Teacher in Charge of Progression and Provision KS3, St Clere’s Secondary School

“I found the workshops really helped open up my eyes to the positive effects of ‘thinking outside the box’ in teaching; the pupils were clearly engaged and keen to stretch themselves, fully appreciating and responding to the innovative sensory learning experience. As a result, the sessions have had a lasting impact on my own practice in that I am keen to use the techniques I learned in the session in future lessons and continue to explore innovative approaches to teaching.”
– H. Lebeze, English Teacher, St Clere’s Secondary School

“The Alice in Wonderland day helped me to develop my confidence as a practitioner using creative approaches to teaching the more able. The pupils absolutely loved it and were able to access texts like Shakespeare without any of the usual fear: they were too busy having fun to notice how many higher-level skills they were developing!”
– L. Smith, English Teacher and Teacher in Charge of Progression and Provision KS4, St Clere’s Secondary School

“I found this to be an extremely worthwhile experience for both teachers and students alike. It was refreshing to enjoy the passion, flair and creativity of prospective students.”
– Mrs C. Curran, Second in English & Head of Media Studies, St Clere's Secondary School

“This has been an excellent opportunity to work creatively with younger students and bridge the curriculum across KS2 and 3. The children gained confidence and skills during these workshops, which can now be applied to all areas of the curriculum.”
– A. Hughes, Headteacher, St Clere’s Secondary School

As a trust we are currently working on establishing common more able identification criteria and sharing tracking and monitoring of more able learners, which will further improve the measurement of impact.

Developing the more able workshops has led me to experience some of the most extraordinary moments in my career. I have witnessed students excelling through immersing them in an environment that is conducive to learning. There is also something empowering about undertaking a major project within your institution and demonstrating that school buildings are places of learning – and of wonder.

Does your school, trust or cluster run workshops for more able learners? Get in touch to share your experience.

Tags:  collaboration  creativity  literacy  oracy  transition  workshops 

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Supporting transition through challenge

Posted By Georghia Ellinas, 08 November 2017
Updated: 08 April 2019
Georghia Ellinas, Head of Learning at Globe Education, explains how the challenge of performing a Shakespeare play can support both academic and social transition to secondary school.

Transition has been highlighted by Ofsted repeatedly in recent years – in Moving English Forward (2013), for instance, and again in Key Stage 3: The Wasted Years? (2015) – and schools are increasingly recognising the importance of improving provision and support as learners enter KS3.

For more able learners in particular, inadequate levels of challenge during the transition phase can have long-lasting and significant impact, as outlined in Ofsted’s report The Most Able Students: An Update on Progress Since June 2013 (2015): “By the time the most able students have reached Key Stage 4 when the ‘serious tracking’ begins, they have often been left to flounder for too long and are not able to maximise their potential.”

Support for teachers and learners

For the past four years, Globe Education has been working with schools on a project to support both the academic and social sides of transition, aligned to the national curriculum requirement of studying two complete Shakespeare plays during KS3. Dubbed “New Journeys with Shakespeare”, the project brings together all Year 7 students to rehearse and stage a 30- to 60-minute ensemble performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream – selected for its themes of transition, entry to an unknown place, friendships breaking and mending, and the impact of individuals’ behaviour on those around them.

Starting at the first secondary school intake day for Year 6 students, a Globe Education Practitioner tells the story of the play, prompting learners to start using the language, engaging with the characters’ moral dilemmas, and exploring the relevance of the themes to their own experiences. Training is delivered to support the primary and secondary English teachers involved, followed by a second workshop for students at the start of their first term in Year 7.

Setting high expectations

“New Journeys with Shakespeare” is for all students; it isn’t specifically designed for more able learners, but it guarantees a challenging curriculum offer on entry into Year 7, providing ample stimulation for able readers and those who enjoy grappling with more complex language features. Often there can be a perception that KS2 hasn’t been as challenging as in fact it is, or that learners haven’t had experience of Shakespeare – and this perception can mean they’re not always given the opportunity to read challenging texts from the start of KS3.

This project raises the bar right from the start of secondary school – for both learners and teachers. Heads of department involved in the project comment on the way it brings the department together, challenging them to reconsider their approach to Shakespeare. Having started the school year with such an exciting and stimulating project, you can’t go back to something boring and dull. Students’ expectations have been raised, and the curriculum must match this.

As well as supporting collaboration across the department, the project means teachers get to know their students very quickly, due to the high levels of interaction it demands. Even those children who tend to be shy and retiring play a part. This in turn helps to establish and raise teachers’ expectations of their students, having got to know them well from the start.

Building a strong social bridge

This is a very collaborative project, requiring learners to work together closely to prepare for the performance, and this builds trust, respect, confidence and self-esteem. Often there’s an assumption that more able learners are able in all areas. This this isn’t necessarily true; they may not have well-developed collaboration skills, or the confidence to perform. The project’s inclusive element means everyone is part of the group – no one is separated out – helping to create a strong social bridge into KS3.

Globe Education encourages a promenade performance, with peers, family members and carers coming into the school to watch the play as it moves through a series of different areas. The learners take over the space in the school, and they’re the stars. Often that doesn’t happen until much later, when they get to Year 11 or 13, but here they get that sense of ownership and recognition right from the beginning. It’s a challenging start, but one that is collaborative and supportive, giving them a strong foundation for KS3 and beyond.

How to get involved

NACE is delighted to be working in partnership with Globe Education this year, to support NACE members in providing challenge through all phases of the English curriculum. To access free resources to support teaching and learning using Shakespeare – including lesson plans, revision guides, videos and interactive online tools – visit The Globe’s Teach Shakespeare website.

Globe Education’s transition project is currently running at three secondary schools in London and one in Lincolnshire. To discuss opportunities to run a similar initiative at your own school, or to develop a bespoke project, contact the Globe Education team on +44 (0)20 7902 1435 or email

Tags:  drama  English  KS2  KS3  Shakespeare  transition 

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