Where did it all go right?

Like most teachers I was up early on results day desperately refreshing the exam board’s website and waiting for our results to come in. After what felt like a life time they appeared on the screen. I looked. I refreshed again in case there had been a mistake. I looked again. There they were. The best results we had ever achieved as a department by some way and the end of a slight but worrying three year decline in results. Some 93% of students at A*-C and around half achieved A/A*. It was tempting at first to put it down to a particularly strong year group but the data didn’t support this. They were no stronger than previous years and no stronger than years coming up below. Many pupils had exceeded their targets. So if we rule out “luck” we need to ask ourselves “where did it all go right” and then see if we can build on it this year.

  • High Expectations – Firstly we raised our expectations. Targets were set high and we made “Expect Excellence” our department motto.
  • Show success – If expectations were set high pupils had to know how to achieve them. We modelled excellent work and shared examples of their own work. We made sure that pupils knew exactly what was expected of them.
  • Perfect practice makes perfect – We did a lot of past papers and exam questions. Where possible I marked them with pupils in small groups so that they could see why they were or were not getting marks. Any answers that weren’t perfect were redone.
  • Use the data/know the pupils – This year I embraced data analysis like never before. I used this data to target intervention in class and after school. In the past we ran revision sessions but they were very unfocused and tended to just go back over content. This year we focused on the exam skills lacking in those attending.
  • No I in team – This year’s results really were a team effort. Everyone in the department worked with one aim and in a school that was focused on the same goal. SLT were very supportive and stepped in where needed. Parents were heavily involved and I made time to phone home whenever possible – especially to give praise. I think this raised the profile of the subject and helped pupils to see its importance. It was less likely to be sidelined in favour of Maths and English.
  • Work hard party hard – Party hard may be over stating it but I wanted to make sure that with all this focus on results we didn’t lose the love of our subject. I wanted our pupils to enjoy their lessons and be enthused about Geography. Over the last week I have received emails from many of my students telling me how much they have enjoyed their lessons this year and we have more than doubled our uptake at A level.

We all worked very hard this year but I wouldn’t say I worked more hours; I just worked smarter. Rather than spending hours marking notes made in books I gave feedback on their work as they were doing it and saved the time to mark specific exam papers and to plan better lessons. Rather than spending time planning revision lessons for a few pupils who chose to turn up I used the time to plan lessons. Rather than spending time carrying out data analysis for SLT I spent the time doing it for myself and my team.

This was a very good year for us and means I can go back in to work this term confident that I am on the right path to help develop an excellent department for our pupils. The only way is up.


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