7 signs your school is failing more able learners

Every school wants to do its best by all learners – including those deemed more able – but often a wake-up call is needed to put such learners in the spotlight of school improvement planning… 

Hilary Lowe, Education Adviser for the National Association for Able Children in Education (NACE) highlights 7 signs it’s time to review your provision for this group. 

Getting it right for more able learners is not only a question of individual entitlement and equity, but also one of wider importance. Current and future societal and technological developments make it ever more pressing for our education system to ensure all learners are challenged and supported to achieve as highly as they are capable, in a range of spheres.

Meeting the needs of those able to perform at the highest levels is not only good for these individuals and for our wider society, but also for other young people – who benefit from a more demanding curriculum and challenging learning environment. Ofsted too recognises that schools showing strong provision for able learners are likely to be doing well for a much wider group. 

With this in mind, how many of the following warning signs apply to your school?

1. Your more able policy is in demand among museums

If your school policy for more able learners was last updated (or seen) some time around the turn of the century, it’s definitely time for an update. If you’re not sure such a policy even exists, now’s the time to get one in place… and cover off points 2-7 while you’re at it!

2. You’re not sure what you actually mean by “more able”…

How confident are you that your school leadership and teaching teams could agree on a shared definition and understanding of what (and who) you mean by “more able”? Clarity on this is essential, along with clear processes and criteria for identification, provision and tracking.

3. … or by “challenge”

Effective provision for more able learners – and for all learners – should be based on a shared understanding of key terms such as “challenge”, “progression” and “high achievement”. Staff should be able to articulate and demonstrate what this looks like in practice, including in specific subject areas.

4. Planning for more able is ad hoc and inconsistent

You may be pretty sure your teaching staff consider more able learners when planning, but how much more effective could this be with a shared school-wide approach, guidance and training? Which brings us to…  

5. Staff receive little or no training in this area

Provision for the more able – overall and in specific subjects and areas of support – should be part of your formal CPD programme, supplemented by peer training, mentoring and staff meetings. 

6. You have no idea how your school’s more able compare nationally

Using available data to compare the performance of more able learners in your school against benchmarks of similar schools and national standards is a key step in identifying strengths and areas for improvement in provision for this group.

7. You have no designated lead for more able learners

This last point is key to driving forward and coordinating all of the above. Your more able lead should have a clear remit and role description, with clearly designated support from within the senior leadership team.

Help is at hand…

To start 2018-19, NACE is offering two free resources: a checklist for initial school review of more able provision, and a guide to updating/creating a more able policy.

To request your free copies, email [email protected], including your name, role and school.

Additional support for your school

With over 30 years’ experience in helping schools review and improve provision for more able learners, NACE offers an annual CPD programme and bespoke support for schools and groups of schools. This includes a new flagship three-day course for those leading on more able provision, based on the NACE Challenge Framework.

Special offer: 20% off NACE membership

Schools Improvement readers can benefit from a 20% discount when applying for annual NACE membership before 30 September 2018. To take up this offer, enter discount code SI-SEPT-2018 when applying online.

Follow NACE @naceuk

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