Tollbar MAT Creates Grammar School Bands

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Tollbar Multi Academy Trust Chief Executive David Hampson with Year 8 students (l-r) Chloe Spencer, Ethan Hotson, Diva Wraith, Milena Ludtke, Cameron McLeod-Urquart and Matthew Bell.

Tollbar Multi Academy Trust intends to re-organise the banding and setting of students in its secondary academies to create grammar school bands. At Tollbar Academy, the largest Academy in the Trust, this will mean that in every year group in excess of 200 students will be in a grammar band.

Analysis of Key Stage 2 results and our assessment data show that these students match the ability of students in grammar schools. A similar group of students will be established at the other secondary academies in the Trust, Cleethorpes and Somercotes Academies.

David Hampson, Tollbar Multi Academy Trust Chief Executive explained: "Tollbar Academy has always catered for the brightest students as we stream children on entry and the top band contains very bright students, who achieve well.

"What we have noticed recently is that we now have significantly higher numbers of bright students and, therefore, we have decided to create two equal bands to cater for the 200+ grammar ability students.  In essence, these two bands create a grammar school within our Academy without the associated division and separation caused by grammar schools that have a negative impact on the whole education system.

"I applaud the politicians who have advocated the approach of a grammar school band within a mainstream school. There is no reason why every comprehensive school could not have a grammar stream.  The massive advantage of this approach over building new grammar schools is that students have the opportunity to move into our grammar band based on their progress through our secondary schools. This approach saves diverting precious educational resources building unnecessary new grammar schools at a time when the whole education sector is under significant financial pressure.

"I have always maintained that children develop academically at different stages of their school life, and to pigeonhole them for the rest of their lives as an academic success or failure based on the 11 plus exam I find abhorrent.

"All of our students are part of an inclusive community so that outside of the classroom students, regardless of ability or background, can play sport and socialise with each other.

"I totally agree that bright students need to be taught together and should not be held back, but there is simply no need to build grammar schools to achieve this when all it takes is to internally organise students in this common sense way.

"I passionately believe in comprehensive education, and this includes provision for the most able students as well as supporting and ensuring the progress of students of lower ability.

"Our new "grammar" bands mean that the large number of high-attaining students who attend our academies are stretched and challenged to fulfil their potential. These students will be taught a suitable curriculum in preparation for them joining the Tollbar MAT academic Sixth Form. At the same time, lower ability students are taught in smaller class sizes to ensure they get the appropriate and specific support they need," said Mr Hampson.

"To support students even further, parallel bands will be differentiated based on the students' individual strengths in Maths and English.

"In order to facilitate the correct banding and setting structure, Tollbar MAT will re-introduce CAT testing for new intake students joining the academies from September 2017, and for the current Year 7 students.

"CAT tests measure the distinct abilities of verbal, non-verbal, quantitative reasoning and spatial ability. CATs are not about knowledge recall, they require no preparation and cannot be revised for, offering all students the same opportunity to show their underlying ability, regardless of background.

"This provides the perfect tool for identifying students' preferred way of learning and potential to achieve in a range of key examinations such as GCSE. It highlights strengths, weaknesses and thinking preferences; providing the opportunity for differentiated teaching and learning.

"The new banding structure means that parents of students who choose Tollbar Multi Academy Trust will have a comprehensive system that also fulfils grammar school aspirations, with excellent behaviour and a commitment to achieve the best possible results."

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Tollbar Academy Principal

Stephen Moon

Tollbar MAT Chief Executive

David J Hampson