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Orchard School Bristol

Most Able Young People 


Pupils, particularly the most able, respond with energy and eagerness. They are keen to respond to teachers' questions, to make contributions to lessons and to put their all into the tasks that face them.
                                                                                                             - Ofsted, June 2019


Orchard students may be recognised as Most Able through their Key Stage 2 SATs tests, or through their work while they are with us. For example, a member of staff might identify a particular aptitude in a given subject. We call these students our High Prior Attainers (HPAs)

Our provision is based on the NACE Challenge Framework, which helps to promote a whole-school culture of ‘challenge for all’.

Our curriculum considers the needs of HPA students through:

  • provision of Latin in Years 7 and 8, a subject which is normally the preserve of independent schools
  • GROW projects in Year 9 - an extended project where students who are Most Able have no limits on the quality of work they produce; previous students have delivered 5000-word projects at A Level standard, if they wish
  • access to high quality separate sciences - Biology, Chemistry and Physics GCSE
  • an option of Classical Civilisation at Key Stage 4
  • provision of Further Maths GCSE as an additional (10th) qualification

In the classroom, we seek to challenge our HP students with a diverse and fulfilling curriculum in a low-threat environment, in order to encourage high-order thinking and so that our students develop ‘powerful knowledge’. We do this through use of our ‘Accelerate’ differentiation, whereby students are set tasks which take them far beyond the expected level of learning in a typical lesson. Teaching staff also pose probing ‘stretch-it’ questions which encourage students to think in depth to better understand subject matter. We also have top sets in English, maths and science, which enable our more able students to be fully immersed in high level learning.

We supplement our curriculum for HP students with trips, guest speakers and in-school events, for example, the UK Maths Challenge, ‘Debate Mate’ and visits from local employers such as BAE Systems and Rolls Royce. Furthermore, our Enrichment programme (which runs every Wednesday afternoon), offers plenty of opportunities which are likely to be of interest to our HP students – we expand and refresh our enrichment offer several times per year.

We run ‘BrightSparks’ assemblies to inspire our HPA students and ensure they have sufficiently high aspirations for their future. We also consistently run Mensa-style ‘Minerva Challenges’ to build resilience and develop critical and lateral thinking skills.

With the help of our tutor team and dedicated careers advisor, we ensure regular discussions and plans for post-16, university and future employment are conducted. Each year we have many students who successfully attain places at leading sixth form centres (including in the Independent Sector, supported by scholarships) and Russell Group universities who subsequently go on to highly successful roles in future employment. Underpinning this are our tutors, pastoral team and Heads of Year, who together are on hand to provide HP students with the necessary support throughout their school life, to ensure that they have the best opportunities for success.

We also make every effort to support the development of ‘Most Skilled’ (sometimes referred to elsewhere as ‘Gifted and Talented’) students – those who excel in a particular skill, sport, or in the Arts.

Our 2019 Ofsted visitpointed out that:

All teaching that we observed was pacey, demanding and high powered.
Teachers expect much of their pupils, both in terms of work rate and in intellectual demands
Questioning is used highly effectively by teachers, not only to provide feedback on how well pupils have understood a topic, but to deepen pupils' knowledge and enable them to make links with what they have learned earlier. This is significantly boosting the learning of the most able pupils.
...in top set Year 10 mathematics lesson ... sharp incisive questions by the teacher helped pupils to master the problems of quadratic equations and move on to deeper AS-level work in the topic.
Teachers model the demanding work presented to the most able pupils with considerable skill. They build up pupils' knowledge of a topic in small steps and make sure that pupils are able to make links and see the connections in their learning.
The most able pupils grow in confidence and quickly develop a deep understanding of their work. We saw this in a range of English lessons where effective teaching was spurring on the most able pupils to make great gains in their vocabulary and oracy skills. It was also apparent in physics, where, for example, Year 11 pupils were gripped by a revision lesson on forces and electricity.