• Mon. Dec 11th, 2023

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Class sizes reduced to increase exam success

Small is best for students at a trailblazing Sunderland school which is condensing class sizes to accelerate learning and boost exam performance.

Academy 360 has stripped back Year 11 Maths and English class sizes of 30-plus students to an average of ten to give pupils the best possible chance of exam success next summer.

Principal Rachel Donohue says students have reacted positively, telling staff how they like the ‘A-Level feel’ of smaller teaching groups allowing personalised tuition.

She said Academy 360 is determined to build on its rapidly-improved exam performance last summer – which saw it double its GCSE pass rate from 16% to 32% and gain national recognition.

Eight lessons per week out of 25 on Year 11 students’ timetables feature the smaller class sizes with children of similar academic progress and attainment grouped together.

Students are taught in university-style seminar round table sessions rather than in traditional rows of desks to encourage interaction, discussion and better learning. The smallest class size is eight students – the largest 12.

“We are keen to create opportunity and choice through accelerated progress and that means establishing a culture of achievement and high aspirations,” said Ms Donohue.

“Expectation of students to perform well in examinations has never been higher and we are committed to giving our students the very best opportunity to realise their potential.

“To have a Maths or English specialist teacher on a one-to-one basis is a wonderful opportunity for our Year 11 students.”

The benefits of the smaller Maths and English class sizes are:

  • Personalised feedback every lesson
  • Increased opportunity to deepen learning
  • Heightened student engagement
  • Direct intervention to close the gaps
  • Frequent exam practice
  • One-to-one learning

In addition, the Principal has added two hours of study to the end of the school day on Tuesday meaning that school now finishes at 5pm.

“Our students and parents are hugely appreciative of the measures taken to improve achievement outcomes and I can only thank them at this time for their support,” said Ms Donohue.

“We have a school full of talented young people who deserve the very best opportunity to choose what they want to do when they leave us.”

Last year, Academy 360 celebrated further success when increasing Year 11 college course enrolment from 53% to 93% under Ms Donohue’s leadership. This summer the school is determined to match or better that figure against the backdrop of even more demanding new examinations.

Ms Donohue will monitor the impact of the new smaller class sizes on academic progress to see if it can be implemented in other academic years at Academy 360.