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New course will boost performance in GCSE English

ASDAN’s Accelerating Progress English course is designed to help students gain a grade 4 or 5 in this GCSE subject in England. We interviewed course author and experienced English teacher Tom Walker to find out more about the course and the impact he believes it will have on learners.

Why is there a need for the Accelerating Progress English course?

Tom Walker, course author

The current English GCSE specification is broader, more challenging and requires whole-text understanding. This extra degree of difficulty means that certain students require extra support to help them secure a pass. Figuring out the best way to provide this support is the challenge schools face. Careful planning and support is required to enable all students to secure a minimum of a grade 4 or 5. Accelerating Progress is a well crafted course that addresses key challenges faced by GCSE learners in this subject.

What does the course aim to achieve?

The course identifies the key skills that hold learners back from gaining a grade 4 or 5. These skills were selected following teacher feedback, exam script analysis and reviewing the outcomes from a range of students in Years 10 and 11. The skills are:

  • understanding the purpose of a text
  • understanding the audience a text is written for
  • explaining the effects of language and structure
  • understanding writers’ choices, such as point of view
  • being able to retrieve information

One of the key elements of the Accelerating Progress course is that it develops whole-text understanding – an important requirement of the current GCSE. Without this, the learners struggle to analyse the effects of language and compare writers’ ideas and perspectives in a way that helps them score well in the exam.

What impact will the course have on learners?

The course gives learners regular opportunities to experience success in the classroom through engaging and accessible challenges. This will boost their confidence, helping them perform better in English and secure a grade 4 or 5 or above. The personalised learning aspect – the way in which the learner has choice over challenges – generates engagement, motivation and enthusiasm. Students who have choice in the classroom are more likely to take ownership of their learning.

Does the course help develop essential skills?

Whether you call them essential skills, core skills or soft skills, this course helps students develop important new qualities and characteristics. They improve their teamwork ability by working with peers on challenges, while the personalised learning element of the course and the space you are given to complete work promotes greater autonomy.

Another important skill the learners develop is how to improve their own learning and performance. The learners develop this through discussion with their tutor on the skills that need to be focused on as well as agreeing an action plan on how to develop those skills.

What’s unique about the course?

The way the course is targeted at helping learners achieve a grade 4 or 5 is unique. This makes the course powerful for a certain profile of learner who needs support in gaining the vital pass grade that will unlock their progression to post-16 education as well as helping them succeed in training, apprenticeships or employment. I haven’t seen any other course that has such a specific focus and with such excellent teaching resources.

The course promotes progression to ASDAN’s Certificate of Personal Effectiveness (CoPE) Level 1 and 2 qualification. Up to six credits gained from Accelerating Progress can be put towards achieving this nationally recognised qualification (12 credits required).

How is the course suitable for post-16 students resitting GCSEs?

There is sometimes an assumption that students mature significantly over the summer after Year 11 but this is not often the case. If a learner has done badly in GCSE English, it’s likely they face the same skills deficiencies in post-16 education and so the course remains very much relevant for them. Just like at GCSE, students in post-16 education may feel disengaged and disempowered when it comes to English. The flexible nature of the course lends itself well to supporting GCSE resits and boosting confidence and interest in the subject.

Free Accelerating Progress webinar recording

Tom delivered a 45 minute webinar via the Best Practice Network on the Accelerating Progress English course. He discussed the research behind the creation of the course and the impact he believes it will have on learners.

About Tom

Tom Walker, currently Director of English at a multi-academy trust in the South West, is an experienced English language and English literature teacher at Key Stages 3, 4 and 5. He worked in Bristol schools from 2007 to 2019 and is a former head of post-16, teaching A-level literature and law.

In his early career, Tom was second in department and then head of department for English. He led the English team through a number of curriculum changes and improved outcomes for the department, specifically with marginal learners around what was the C/D borderline. During this time, Tom also set the groundwork in preparation for the current GCSE specification for English language and literature, and took an active role in strategies for raising attainment within the school as a whole.

Tom is also a Specialist Leader in Education, specialising in raising attainment in English with marginal learners, and has worked with other schools in this role. In his previous position as head of post-16, he was responsible for leading on teaching and learning, and raising attainment. Tom has much experience of curriculum provision and progression pathways for students in GCSE and post-16 studies.