This is the intervention season, the time when teachers, especially of core, headline subjects, (and those with large proportions of coursework) wander around the school looking harried. Where after school sessions are the norm and middle managers seem glued to their laptops and spreadsheets checking up on the progress of little Jonny. It’s what we do at this time of year.
But should it be?
In an ideal world, surely we shouldn’t need to be all this dashing around at the last minute?
While analysing a large cohort for intervention I started thinking about this, prompted by a twitter discussion with @11three and their blog post on school data. Didn’t we have this wrong? Why were we doing this? I know that we want the best outcomes for our young people, but why were we doing it like this? It is not efficient and is reactionary rather than being proactive.
So, how can we be more proactive?
Firstly, we need to analyse who we target each year and why. It is easy to sit back and blame home life, poverty and so on but:
“recent research is consistently revealing academic factors – known as ‘early-warning data’, ‘risk factors’, or ‘on-track measures’ – that more accurately predict whether or not a student is likely to drop out than socioeconomic factors do.” (Pinkus, 2008)
Now although this is talking about the American system, groups of our youngsters have, to all intents and purposes, dropped out – they merely turn up to school each day. Often we are not surprised by the groups needing intervention, so, if this is the case why are we not targeting them sooner? I’m sure that the list will change from school to school, but I would be willing to bet that those with low KS2 results, poor attendance and SEN make up a fair chunk of any intervention group. This echoes Pinkus’ findings:
“Early-warning signs…an attendance rate of under 80%…’unsatisfactory’ behavior…failing grade in math or English.”
So why wait until now? Why the knee-jerk reaction? The focus needs to be on the causes – but we expend so much energy with this last minute rigmarole that we don’t have the time to consider how it can be avoided, and, by the time the current year is over, we are just so relieved that there is a tendancy to want to forget all about it until the next year.
We need to identify the pupils who are have the markers earlier in their school career for underachievement and do something about it early. Some strategies for intervention can, of course, be done in departments. But for it to be really effective, there needs to be action and motivation at a whole school level, from the top – and this needs to go beyond having meetings and monitoring staff. How precisely to do this? Well, that’s going to take some thought…