Pendle Vale College (11-16) is an average-sized mixed secondary school (with 1,050 students) in the deprived area of Nelson in Lancashire. The proportion of students from a minority ethnic background and those whose first language is not English are well above the national average. Over a third of our school population is eligible for pupil premium and attainment on entry is well below the national average.
The revision challenge
Terminal exams have become critical to the success of almost all subjects at KS4. If students are unable to perform adequately in their exam, they risk leaving without a qualification at the end of the course.
This is an issue across all subjects, but in one of our Business Studies classes, it became apparent – from observing pupil attitude and actions – that students needed to take more responsibility for the organisation and management of their revision. So we focused on a Year 10 Business Studies class of middle to low attainment, with end of year targets of BTEC Level 1/2 Pass or Merit. One student has special educational needs (SEN), five receive pupil premium funding and nine have English as a secondary language (EAL). The group is mainly boys who are a particular area of focus for us in our drive to raise standards.
During conversations to explore their perceptions, we discovered that the class believed that revision is something that happens ‘in the weeks leading up to your exams’. They were unfamiliar with breaking up revision into smaller, more manageable, chunks over a longer period of time. They believed revision was usually led by their teacher in the form of ‘catch-up sessions’ and ‘last-minute cramming’.
The Business Finance exam is a core component of the BTEC Business Course, and a poor mark in this exam will impact heavily on their overall grade for the course. We wanted to use research and our knowledge as experienced classroom teachers to develop a strategy that:
- Improved exam marks over time
- Equipped the class with a revision strategy to support their terminal exam and which they can apply across all their other subjects
- Showed pupils their own progress
- Enabled pupils to retain their learning independently over time.