Improving wellbeing at Hinchingbrooke School

By Kate Tandy, Vice Principal at Hinchingbrooke School, Huntingdon

At Hinchingbrooke School, we believe that the wellbeing of our staff is essential for creating an environment that promotes learning, respect and positive relationships. With ever-increasing demands on staff in terms of changing curriculum, funding pressures and supporting students with increasingly complex needs, it became clear to us that we needed a clearly defined and holistic approach to ensuring that our staff were able to successfully undertake their demanding roles.

One of the biggest challenges for classroom teachers currently is getting their heads round, and keeping track of, the wide range and depth of data used to track student progress. Previously, this data was not always available in a timely manner, or in a format which was easy for classroom teachers to access and use. By using GL Assessment’s Cognitive Abilities Test (CAT4) for all Year 7 and new students, we are able to ensure that staff have relevant data at their fingertips when they need it most.

With all tests marked electronically, and data fed back almost instantaneously, staff can quickly assess students’ strengths and needs, implementing curriculum and classroom strategies well before the beginning of the academic year. Through testing Year 6 as part of their Summer transition days, we can identify students in need of more significant interventions in time to build grouping and staffing into next year’s timetable. Indeed, the need for nurture groups at Key Stage 3 was flagged by data provided through CAT4.

Similarly, we use CAT4 testing alongside the New Group Reading Test (NGRT) and Key Stage 2 data as a basis for target-setting. By repeating NGRT for all students every year, we can track student progress in a way that is not always possible using individual subject grades. The language focus of NGRT also allows us to assess the impact of language interventions, both whole-school and with specifically targeted groups. The fact that this regular testing is so easy to carry out saves staff marking and assessment time, while still providing maximum information on students.

With all tests marked electronically, and data fed back almost instantaneously, staff can quickly assess students’ strengths and needs, implementing curriculum and classroom strategies well before the beginning of the academic year.

The fact that this regular testing is so easy to carry out saves staff marking and assessment time, while still providing maximum information on students.

As well as using CAT4 and NGRT data to identify students who would benefit from language intervention, we also use the Pupil Attitudes to Self and School (PASS) survey with specific groups of students accessing our alternative provision, in order to better understand their attitude towards school.

One common frustration experienced by staff in the past has been the cumbersome and time-consuming processes required in order to formalise concerns regarding students’ SEND needs. By using Exact to screen students, we are able to quickly and effectively identify those who would benefit from further specialist assessment, taking the pressure off classroom teachers being expected to not only identify but also provide evidence of student needs.

Of 300 students in Year 9 screened at the end of last year, 90 were identified as benefitting from further testing. Those who have been identified as being eligible for exam access arrangements have benefitted not only in terms of barriers to learning being removed, but also they have found that the access arrangements help improve engagement and behaviour. This obviously has a big impact on staff wellbeing by making classroom environments more positive and removing some of the stress, which is often associated with challenging behaviour.

In the future we plan to use Exact to screen all students, ensuring nobody slips through the net and that students benefit from the support to which they are eligible across all years of secondary school. However, the benefits of Exact can also be seen in the shorter term. For example, of the 26 students in Year 11 identified as requiring further testing, 19 were eligible for extra time when sitting their GCSEs. One of these students, who had been in the bottom 10% for progress throughout Key Stage 4, ended up in the top 10% in the year group when it came to his actual results, due to having that extra amount of time to consider and write his answers. Having set aspirational targets for our students using this range of data, it can put staff under pressure to ensure these targets are realised. The fact that we can also use testing and data to assist students in achieving these goals alleviates some of this pressure.

In order to formalise our commitment to staff wellbeing we have established (and are continuing to develop) our Wellbeing Charter, which has proved popular with staff. The Charter includes free on-site gym membership for all staff, access to discount schemes and commitments to organise and promote opportunities for staff to socialise. However, much of this is ‘icing on the cake’ and would not have the desired impact if staff were still finding the day-to-day aspects of the job challenging and stressful. The impact of using GL Assessment to provide efficient, yet accurate testing has been significant in terms of ensuring staff have the data they need and are supported in being able to help students achieve their potential, regardless of their needs.

Hinchingbrooke School is one of our Centres of Assessment Excellence

The impact of using GL Assessment to provide efficient, yet accurate testing has been significant in terms of ensuring staff have the data they need and are supported in being able to help students achieve their potential, regardless of their needs.