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supporting high-ability students

John Tansey

HPA or high-abiliy?

Why support HPA students?

National average progress for HPA students

Possible reasons for under-achievement

CATs examples

Implications for teaching

Beyond the classroom

Neurodiversity in high-ability students

How are high ability students identified?

  • Ofsted refers to 'High Prior Attainment' (HPA) students which they define as students with an average SATS score of 110 and above across English and Maths.
  • This is what the government bases progress 8 data on.
  • We are keen to use other metrics, such as CATs to help identify students who have high academic potential, but who may not have achieved in SATS due to illness, cultural differences, supply teachers in year 6 etc.
  • CATs require no prior learning and are designed to be culturally neutral. We'll look at them in a bit more detail later.
  • I have also asked teachers if we have 'missed' any students with high academic potential.

Why do we need to support students who will be fine anyway?

  • The most important thing is to help all our young people achieve their potential.
  • Students who underachieve according to ability could feel frustrated and angry, those who achieve according to ability will feel increased self-esteem and a sense of empowerment.
  • This is common sense, but there is also a lot of research to back this up - a study from King's College London concluded: 'underachievement at secondary school for high ability students is associated with general mental health problems.'
  • This could be a chicken and egg situation - but either way, it's important to identify and support these students.


National average progress for HPA students

  • The Sutton Trust published a report in 2018 (obviously, pre-pandemic). Current figures are unavailable.
  • Average progress in the UK for HPA students was 0.02
  • For 'disadvantaged' HPA students it was -0.32
  • At ICC last year, the progress overall was -0.53. The progress for LPA students was -0.22
  • The progress for all HPA students at ICC last year was -1.15
  • It is reasonable to say that this is the group that should be targeted if we want to improve our overall progress score, and if we want more of our young people to reach their full potential.

Neurodiversity in HPA students

Possible reasons our high-ability students fail to meet their potential

  • After-effects of the pandemic - it has hit students with our profile far harder than others.
  • Lack of academic precedent at home - it's possible that if parents haven't achieved academically, students may not think it's for them.
  • They (and their parents) may be delighted with a 6 or a 7 when really their ability suggests an 8 or a 9.
  • Social pressures. Boys are particularly reluctant to appear 'keen' and want to fit in with their peers - which may mean hiding their ability.
  • They cruise along in second gear. Often they are well behaved, hand in 'good' work and everyone is happy with them. It's extremely easy to miss students like that.

CATs examples

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Implications for teaching