1. Why does St Catherine’s assess progress and give termly grades for Achievement and Effort?
The benefits of assessments are well known as they 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, is likely to be ambitious for her, particularly in terms of academic success. 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 the School 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 Year 7 and not 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.
2. What format does this assessment and grading system take?
To this end, we use our own St Catherine’s Assessment Grades, 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. The seven grades A1, (highest), A2, A3, B1, B2, C1, C2 are awarded to reflect a normal distribution that we would expect of girls new into Year 7 in this academically selective school. The grades reflect the former GCSE pass grades. Thus, a C grade is a satisfactory performance at this stage. B grades would be considered good, A3 and A2 very good and A1 exceptional. Within this scale we signal clearly that we expect all girls to pass the GCSE, and, after 5 years study, they will all gain very high grades as our data over time testifies. Our GCSE and A Level Results can be found here.
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 are also given (excellent to unsatisfactory). The School runs timetabled academic ‘clinics’ four days a week across the subject range, where additional help and support can be found from both class teachers and older girls studying the subject: the Sixth Form Subject Mentor.
This assessment method enables girls and parents to identify where academic strengths lie in relative terms within a very able cohort. 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. As the girls progress through Years 8 and 9, they become more aware of the standard required in each subject, and indeed the work they have to do to achieve it. Therefore, we allow a grade ‘drift’ to reflect this, so that the number of A1s - B2s increases significantly, and the corresponding number of C grades decreases greatly, too as their confidence grows.
When GCSE courses begin in earnest, in Years 10 and 11, the grades awarded are based on current I/GCSE grades, all of which, are now 9-1. It is worth remembering that the grades can be roughly compared to the former GCSE grades such that 7 represents the former grade A and 4 and 5, passes at grade C.
We have found this a worthwhile model over many years and, with it has come an overall increase in GCSE results achieved, as well as much ‘Value Added’, the educational term for the additional progress made by students beyond the expectation of them as assessed through our baseline test at 11+ on entry.
3. How are these grades communicated to girls and parents?
Assessment of your daughter’s progress takes place throughout the year and assessment grades - current working grades in each subject - are given at the end of every term, with the exception of U3 in the Autumn Term. Their first grade card is given in January. The grade may be awarded for one piece of work – an end-of-unit test, say – or, more likely, the total of two, three or more shorter pieces of work that form part of weekly prep or classwork during the term, depending on the subject matter being assessed, and this will vary from department to department. An effort grade for each subject is given, too.
These grades, 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. Are an individual’s results 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. Grade cards are given to the girls privately and they are asked not to share their grades with their classmates. Grade cards are provided to parents through a secure online portal. The system is not intended to, nor does it, create an unhealthy rivalry amongst the girls. Rather it highlights to both the girls and their parents’ their current strengths and any opportunities or areas for improvement, and over time supports girls achieving their full potential.