Central to a successful mastery curriculum is regular assessment of what pupils have understood, with pupils not progressing until their knowledge is secure. The readiness quizzes and assessments on have been invaluable in ensuring teachers know which pupils need extra support, with Daniel saying, “I’ve been teaching 17 years and I’ve never been in a position where I know so much about my pupils.” For older students, Daniel’s team used the assessments to identify which pupils needed corrective teaching. However, for the Year 1 pupils at the beginning of their formal education, Daniel decided to go a step further — classes did not progress until every pupil was scoring above 80% in their assessment. Daniel is excited to see the pay-off of this approach in the long term, with teachers secure in the knowledge that every pupil is ready for what comes next in the curriculum.
Gareth had previously attended a ‘Teaching for Mastery’ day in Cardiff and both he and Daniel read Teaching for Mastery by Mark McCourt. Both were committed to implementing what they’d learned in their school. Daniel could see from the start that using to begin to introduce the principles of teaching for mastery would be most successful if his team went ‘all in’, so every year group was added to the platform. Pupils first completed a series of diagnostic assessments which enabled teachers to identify learning gaps and decide on the best starting point. From here, pupils were able to follow the curriculum. With the planning already in place, staff saved huge amounts of time which could then be channelled into other areas of their teaching practice. Perhaps the most useful element of following the curriculum proved to be its structure, with each objective building on what came before. In Daniel’s words, “We’re confident that what we’re delivering is building on prior learning, and we’re confident we’re going in the right direction.”
Of course, pupils will have different strengths across different objectives, and this means that fixed groups don’t always work. Daniel’s team therefore trialled a system with Year 5 classes whereby, for every new unit, pupils were regrouped according to their pre-requisite assessment data. This meant regular class changes to ensure every pupil was always learning at the level of challenge appropriate to their understanding of a topic. Such was the success of this scheme that next year it will be expanded across the whole school, with pairs of year groups combined into a four-class ‘band’. This will offer even more flexibility in grouping, and allow every pupil to work at the edge of their ability range for each individual topic.