As Half Term grades approach, I would like to explain a little about the Grammar School’s rationale for how we award our grades for effort and achievement.
In common with many schools, we award two grades representing Achievement and Effort. I would like to start by saying that the Effort grade is the one that you should focus on predominantly. Not all boys can achieve the highest achievement grade in every subject. However, every boy has it within him to target a top effort grade, no matter how naturally gifted he is in a particular subject. Consistently strong effort should be prized above all, because this is how he will manage to improve his subject attainment in the long-term.
|Achievement grades||Diligence (Effort) grades|
|C||Adequate||3||Adequate but should be improved|
|D||Causing concern||4||Causing concern|
In the early stages of Year 12, as boys are coming to terms with A Level material, it is the effort grade which teachers focus on. As the Sixth Form progresses, the Achievement grade is used to represent your son’s current work standard, measured according to the A-E A Level grade scale. Particularly, as we get close to AS and A Level examinations, we want you and your son to understand the likely grade he will achieve presuming ongoing hard work and effective revision.
Too harsh or too lenient?
Naturally teachers often find it hard to decide between adjacent grades. Consistency is not always a boy’s strong point, and a teacher may well be thinking simultaneously of excellent work one week and disappointing effort the next. Senior staff and I remind colleagues that they should not be distracted by the miraculously brilliant piece of work showing outstanding effort that arrives just before they are due to write their grades! Instead, they must consider performance over the entire grading period.
I have sometimes received comments from parents that a low grade has discouraged their son. Of course, none of us wants to do this, understanding that motivation is a key contributor to ultimate success. However, particularly as boys move towards the ‘business end’ of GCSE and A Level, it is important that teachers reflect their honest opinion, as we will not be doing your sons any favours if we let them believe that a minimum of effort is acceptable. I would much rather give you bad news while time remains for something to be done to improve affairs, instead of letting you find out when the C or D grade hits your doormat with exam results in mid-August.
This term, I have reminded my colleagues that a grade 2 for Effort means ‘good’. If a boy hands in incomplete homework, or misses deadlines, or rushes through it with the absolute minimum of thought and care, his effort cannot be described as ‘good’, and so a grade 3 is likely to be the appropriate grade. Heads of Year will focus particularly on boys with multiple grade 3s (or 4s) for effort to ensure that we can get them quickly back onto the right path.
As I mentioned in last week’s blog, everything changes from GCSE 2018, when numerical Achievement grades from 9-1 are introduced. As a consequence, the Grammar School will be reviewing its grading system for September 2017 and we will seek feedback from parents in advance during Spring Term.
A final word on A Level predictions for Year 12 parents
For the first time this year, the Grammar School has enrolled Year 12 pupils into a national project called ALIS. This has been in place for over 20 years and Loughborough High School has long been using it. Mr Parish will write to Year 12 parents in due course with full details, but I will explain briefly how we anticipate it will help Sixth Formers to focus their minds on their targets.
ALIS has tracked hundreds of thousands of students between GCSE and A Level over two decades and knows how an average student is likely to perform at A Level given the GCSE grades he has already achieved. It therefore is able to take your son’s GCSE grades and to predict him what he might achieve at A Level with average progress. Yes, this system treats your son as a statistic – please be assured that we treat him as an individual – but it is useful in helping to understand what sort of A Level grades he might aspire to. ALIS may indicate that his most likely A Level grades are below his expectations in which case this is a sign that he will have to work consistently hard to ensure that he out-performs the ‘average’ student to whom the project is comparing him.
My point here is similar to that made above about wishing to give tough messages early, while there is still time to improve. We need to be honest with you and with your son so that he understands that high grades are not an LGS birth right, but only achieved through consistent effort and a desire to work with dedicated teachers. I know that this approach can lead to disappointment in the short-term, but my experience tells me that it contributes significantly to exam success in the long run.
Mr Parish and I will present this in greater detail at the upcoming Year 12 Parents’ meeting on 22nd November.