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Setting expectations for students

The Newark Academy implements eLearning tool that prepares year 11s for exams

Posted by Stephanie Broad | May 30, 2016 | Technology

Staff at The Newark Academy in Nottinghamshire were keen to increase revision among their year 11 students, as Katie Vause, assistant principal at the school, had noticed some students weren’t pushing themselves as much independently. After implementing an eLearning resource only three months ago, the academy has already seen a huge improvement. Katie explains how the platform has helped students really understand what is expected from them in an exam answer, and engagement has been so positive that it has been rolled out beyond year 11 to include the whole school. 

Katie had used SAM Learning, an online homework and exam-preparation service for independent learning in secondary schools, and knew it would help to push the ‘importance of revision’ message a little bit further with students.

Real exam prep

Katie believes that self-marking really benefits year 11 students. “We’re actually seeing our students beginning to understand what will be expected from them in an exam answer, and they’re starting to prepare for that,” she said. “The fact that feedback is instant too really helps with the whole learning process.

“Often students tend to revise what they know, as that’s easy to do, it’s familiar, and they have success with it. However, teachers know their students better than anyone; they know the areas they’re strong in, and those where they need additional support. With this information, they can set tasks that focus on improving the areas students are weaker in, and closely monitor their improvement.” 

Students care

As the main administrator on the resource, Katie is able to delve deep into the whole school’s reports, which she says is fascinating. “The reports show us that some of our less engaged students at school are doing a lot of work at home! That’s been really surprising, and quite encouraging for teachers to see, because you think, ‘actually, yeah, they do really care!’ You can see they want to do well and they like the praise just as much as any other student!” 

Teachers can also see how many times students have attempted a task, which Katie explains, shows they are determined to succeed and they do care. “That’s really important for teachers to see too. It shows students’ first score and last score, which means progress is easily mapped for both teachers and the students themselves. 

“We’ve also set up an ‘Intervention Group’ on it for year 11 students. This allows us to closely monitor those students who are at risk of not performing to their fullest potential. Teachers can set specific tasks for them too, so now, rather than just for revision, we’re seeing students logging on to complete specific and tailored tasks.”

There is also a competitive element, which Katie explains the students seem to naturally gravitate towards. “Our leader board is updated every week and is displayed in the canteen,” she says. “Each week we celebrate the top 10 students from years seven to 11. We also have the ‘10 Hour Challenge’, where any student who completes 10 hours of work on the resource is celebrated; we have about 100 students who have done this so far. We also have the ’30 Hour Challenge’, and would you believe it, we already have 40 students who have completed that! Most of them are in year 11 which is fantastic, as they’re our targeted group!” 

Going forward

The resource was introduced to engage year 11 and encourage them to become independent learners. After just three weeks, the response and results were so positive, that it was rolled out across all year groups.  

Katie concludes: “The exciting time for us will be seeing how the exams go at the end of term. We’re anticipating an improvement on last year, but it will be really interesting to see the impact that SAM Learning has had; I imagine it will be significant!”


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