Session 82 – Narrowing the Gap; how do we ensure all groups of pupils make good progress?


Thursday 26th February:

Session Title: Narrowing the Gap; how do we ensure all groups of pupils make good progress?

Session Summary:

I’m currently in the process of completing my Middle Leadership Development Programme (hereafter the more manageable MLDP!) and our focus is narrowing or closing the gaps for different groups of pupils that result from in-school variation. Perhaps selfishly then, I included this as one of my suggested topics for discussion by the #ukedchat crowd. Lo and behold, on the day the government released the latest league tables, it won and at 8pm on Thursday 26th January, the discussion began. 

Naturally, this was a wide-ranging, and occasionally fiercely contested, discussion with no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution. There was some debate about the semantics of the topic. Should we be ‘closing’ not ‘narrowing’ gaps? Should we indeed even be categorising pupils as ‘groups’ of learners to the detriment of individual progress? (I unashamedly blame my MLDP experience for the title and meant nothing sinister by it!)

Leaner progress clearly something we, as teachers, strive for. We teach in a time when there has never been so much data available about pupil (and teacher/school) performance and the progress they make. It was interesting to hear people’s perceptions on the validity and usefulness of that data. There were clashes of opinion about whether data is a necessary evil or useful tool to help a teacher. People shared various insights into the struggle between a school (or SLT) wanting to show evidence of progression against various performance indicators, and what was actually occurring in the classroom.

I’m not sure I thought we would ever reach consensus on this topic. It strikes me that in its simplest form, we endeavour to narrow or close knowledge gaps every day in every lesson we deliver. It was fascinating to get an insight into how quickly a conversation about ‘progress’ became one about ‘data’. 

I’ve pulled out a broad range of tweets from the archive that, for me, encapsulate the variety of opinions that were shared on the night. I hope you enjoy reading, or re-reading, them.

EyeCatching Tweets from the Session:

@JOHNSAYERS: #ukedchat we have at our disposal more ways to record evidence than ever and so highlight progress from our students

@mrpeel: #ukedchat and narrow the gap seems unfair on the really good who need to be able to widen the gap in many cases

@Romaaddict: Wondering should we be classifying by groups? #ukedchat: what happened to individual needs and individual progress?

@MrWickensPE: To ensure all pupils make ‘good progress’ – build good relationships will all our pupils so that we can personalise our teaching #ukedchat

@ICTMagic: Progress in what? Academic skills, life skills, social skills, vocational skills? All of the above? #JustThrowingThatOutThere #ukedchat

@chrisquigley: #ukedchat I think it’s about planning for visible progress day by day rather than planning for coverage. Gaps only appear when not looking.

@damoward: for me, all about access; good teachers, quality tech, good course specs, full Internet #ukedchat

@staggerlee30:  #ukedchat Data drawn from testing that in turn produces predictive models based on Nat samples can be essential to schools

@MrsThorne: I like levels of progress, but needs to recognise progress can be at diff rates: less quick at KS3 than KS4, eg

@Michael_Merrick: Why the obsession with ‘progress’? #ukedchat

@mrpeel: #ukedchat to enthuse and inspire – sounds idealistic, but inspired students produce better results at all levels

@rashush2: narrowing the gap is fiction. Only way is to lock bright kids in a box for six years. #ukedchat

@CliveBuckley: I was aware that secondary schools distrusted data they got from feeder schools – how do we overcome that? Core to target setting #ukedchat

@mattbuxton10: Every kid should leave every lesson different; either knowing or able to do something new, or knowing/able to do something better? #ukedchat

@dailydenouement: #ukedchat Just been at Y9 parents’ evening – spent most of night trying to humanise targets and levels!

@PhilWheeler1: #ukedchat better than expected progress occurs when you have engaged learners in a relaxed environment.

@Romaaddict: #ukedchat Much of my understanding of depth of students’ understanding comes from direct and individual discussion – how to measure that?

@talktofile: #ukedchat is all progress linear and consistent? I’m thinking 2 sub levels average. Do we progress like that as teachers/professionals?

@mrpeel: #ukedchat is an issue – I want to educate, my SLT want to be high in league tables, not always the same aim, sadly

@TeacherToolkit: The obsession with data is purely political. Each government changes the goalpost to outshine the other, at the detriment of T&L #ukedchat

@jackieschneider: #ukedchat – if we were serious about wanting to “narrow the gap” we should address appalling problems faced by kids in poverty

@Educationchat: Narrow the gap? Make the job possible within directed hours. Release pressure of teachers. Allow risk-taking. #ukedchat

Tweet/s of the Week:

As I hinted at in my summary, the debate was one about progress but somehow it inevitably became one about data. The following tweets sum up for me the challenges we face today: how do we ensure our learners make progress in our lessons and yet how do we use data effectively and not allow it to overwhelm us. 

@Mike_Bostock: #ukedchat Data is the teacher’s friend. Like a gun, it is dangerous in the hand of an enemy. Much scope for better use of performance data.

@Staggerlee30: #ukedchat Essential at all times to contextualise data. If this is done, it can enrich and inform planning&development in schools

@mattbuxton10: Data should be used to ask questions, not give answers #ukedchat

About your Host:

I’m a teacher of English in Merseyside. Currently completing my MDLP and, as second in department, always looking for a challenge. I enjoy moderating the #ukedchat discussions as they never fail to inspire me. There really are some incredibly dedicated and enthusiastic teachers and educators out there. I just wish Mr Gove would take note. Hmmm… maybe an invite (challenge?!) to participate in a #ukedchat discussion should be my next #AskGove question! 


Ukedchat Archive 26 January 2012

Image Source

Session Stats:

151 Contributors genetated 720 tweets during this session, reaching an audience of 275,238 with 1,018,406 impressions.


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