1. Why does St Catherine’s assess for Progress and Effort?
The primary aim of our education is to inspire a love of learning. This is achieved through the enthusiastic and energising teaching at St Catherine’s and the interactive, exciting lessons that are delivered across the curriculum from U3 to U6. Learning also requires focus, however, and having a goal to work towards in the form of assessment is often motivating and inspiring.
The benefits of assessments are of course well known: they aid learning, measure progress and allow individual students to receive the educational support they need in order to succeed. Any parent looking to send their daughter to St Catherine’s, an academically selective school, will want her to achieve her full academic potential. We also want your daughter to develop the confidence and self-belief which will help her achieve and succeed in her studies and in life beyond school. So how can St Catherine’s help realise every student’s full potential?
The reality of today’s educational landscape sees universities both in the UK and overseas becoming increasingly over-subscribed. This means that universities now have cut off points that did not exist historically, namely the requirement for a top line up of I/GCSE grades. To support girls in delivering that potential, the system at St Catherine’s is intended to enable the girls to recognise where their strengths are and where there might be particular subject areas that may require extra help or, indeed, effort. This self-understanding is important from the beginning of their careers at St Catherine’s as working towards top I/GCSE grades starts at U3 (Year 7) and not L5 (Year 10). It is crucial therefore to ensure that the girls’ knowledge in all subjects is solid from the outset, so that strong building blocks form the foundation of their ongoing learning.
Every girl in our care will make considerable progress during her education here and we know that our assessment approach will provide motivation at every step of the way.
2. What format does this assessment system take?
From the Autumn Term of 2023, we have been using our own St Catherine’s Progress & Attainment Levels, through which we aim to achieve continuity within subjects and parity between different subjects, as well as giving the individual girl a means to assess her own progress over time in each subject.
Levels are awarded on the basis of work completed over the course of the term and may include end-of-unit tests as well as two, three, or more, shorter pieces of work that form part of weekly prep or classwork. This depends on the subject matter being assessed and will vary by department. The level awarded will recognise steady and consistent effort throughout the term, rather than being determined on a single test.
This assessment method enables girls, and their parents, to identify where their academic strengths lie. It is very important to remember girls at St Catherine’s are at the top end of the national cohort and on track to take their place in the GCSE outcomes that we celebrate every year.
In U3 (Year 7) a small range of Progress & Attainment Levels are used, this year is primarily about allowing the girls to build good learning strategies and form organisation and study habits. In L4 (Year 8) and U4 (Year 9) the Progress & Attainment Levels expand to align with the level of work being undertaken and bear no relation to I/GCSE grades at all. From Summer exams in U4 (Year 9) to U5 (Year 11) Progress & Attainment Levels expand even further and become more indicative of performance relative to GCSE standards.
It is, of course, extremely important that the girls are also recognised for the effort that they put into their studies and therefore effort grades ranging from 1 to 4 (excellent to unsatisfactory) are also awarded on a termly basis. We are always most impressed by a student who tries her best and excellent effort does, of course, also yield results and lead to pleasing progress.
The School runs timetabled academic ‘clinics’ four days a week across the subjects, where additional help and support can be found from both class teachers and older girls studying those particular subjects: the Sixth Form Subject Mentor.
3. How are these grades communicated to girls and parents?
Assessment of your daughter’s progress takes place throughout the year and Progress & Attainment Levels in each subject are awarded at the end of every term, with the exception of U3 in the Autumn Term. Their first term card is given in January. As well as a Progress and Attainment Level your daughter will also receive effort marks in each subject at this point.
These Progress & Attainment Levels, and your daughters’ overall progress, are discussed during regular parents’ evenings, or through individual meetings should you as a parent, or the School feel that a matter has arisen which requires immediate attention or dialogue.
4. Is an individual’s Progress and Attainment Levels dependent on the performance of the cohort?
No. Each girl’s Progress and Attainment Level is based on their individual performance and is not dependent on the achievement of their peers. There is by necessity a boundary between each Level and this may, for someone, be the different between one mark on one test. Parents and students are therefore urged not to place great importance on a specific Progress and Attainment Level, but to value consistent, effective study and steady progress towards long term goals. What matters is individual attainment in each subject.
5. Are an individual’s Progress and Attainment Levels published within the School?
Absolutely not! When work is returned it is private to each girl and she is advised not to reveal it to anyone. Progress & Attainment Levels are given to the girls privately and they are asked not to share these with their classmates. Most important is that our students recognise their own personal development. Progress & Attainment Levels are provided to parents through a secure online portal. Our GCSE and A Level Results can be found here.