Learning is our core purpose and all adults and students are encouraged to see themselves as lifelong learners. High-quality teaching coupled with teachers’ high expectations ensures that the overwhelming majority of our students make rapid and sustained progress.

Teachers at The Barlow have excellent subject knowledge and work tirelessly to plan and deliver lessons which not only challenge and engage our students but also inspire and motivate them to succeed in all walks of life. Leadership skills are used extensively across the curriculum and as a result, our students learn to take responsibility for their own learning as well as that of their peers. They are encouraged to work collaboratively, give feedback on lessons, think creatively, challenge and participate effectively and reflect on their own learning, all of which add up to outstanding teaching and learning.

The school has developed refined assessment practices which support student’s learning. Teachers are acutely aware of students’ prior attainment and are aspirational targets for curriculum areas.  Pupils’ are actively encouraged to discuss their learning, at appropriate stages in lessons, with their peers and teacher and reflect on how to take the next steps with their work. Students are provided with opportunities to mark their own and the work of their peers following structured mark schemes and to reflect and respond to this either with written or verbal communication in lessons. Teachers have been sharing good practice in development sessions on marking and feedback to support the learning of all their students.

Our extensive use of data and personal knowledge of students helps us with early identification of those who need additional stretch and challenge or those who need support with their learning. Very able students are provided with opportunities to develop their skills through special projects as well as in the classroom by their teacher who has responsibility for ensuring that all students are provided with tasks that extend their existing knowledge and skills.

Target Grades

In Year 7, our pupils arrived with a score or a level that gave us an indication of the progress they made in primary school. This score/level allows us to predict the minimum grade that each pupil should achieve in their GCSEs.

The target steps are designed to challenge each pupil to reach their full potential and to acquire the skills, knowledge and understanding to achieve the very best grade they can at GCSE. It is possible that some pupils will achieve beyond their expected level at every stage of their learning journey. These high aspirations and drive for success are something that we encourage at The Barlow RC High.

KS3 Assessment

The government has now removed National Curriculum levels and all secondary schools are free to develop their own systems to use with students and report to parents. All curriculum areas have devised a criterion approach for pupils within their subjects, against which pupils are assessed.  The criteria focus on the skills, knowledge and understanding needed for pupils to master which correlates to their target grade for GCSE.  For example, pupils targeted to achieve a grade 5 at GCSE, should achieve Working At criteria at KS3. 

The skills and knowledge needed to achieve for subjects is shared with pupils through lessons and parents via the school website.  This will allow all stakeholders to see what they need to be able to master and, most importantly, the requirements to move on to the next step.

Each subject area has developed a learning journey which allows pupils to develop the skills and knowledge needed to be a successful learner. The learning journey is shared with pupils at the start of the topic so that they are aware of how their learning will develop over each half term. This is also shared with parents (on our website) along with the assessment criteria for each subject/topic. This means that parents can see what their child will be taught, how they will be assessed and also how to support them to reach the next step in their learning.  For pupils to do well in a subject, it is essential that they have a good understanding of the basics.

KS4 Assessment

As you may be aware, new GCSEs introduced by the government were sat in all schools across the country for the first time in the summer of 2017. The new GCSEs are graded on a scale from 9-1: grade 9 being the highest, grade 1 being the lowest. This new system was first phased in with English and Maths and now includes all subjects. For now, the BTEC and OCR National courses will continue to be graded using Pass, Merit and Distinction.

New GCSE Grades Legacy GCSE Grades
9 A**
8 A*
7 A
6 B
5 B/C
4 C/D
3 D
2 E
1 F/G

*Grades 4 and 5 are a grade C. A grade 4 is a standard pass and a grade 5 is a good pass.


Parents will receive regular reports regarding their children’s progress.  In all years, parents receive reports three times per year. The KS3 reports show the current achievement level (as either Working At, Working Towards or Working at Greater Depth), behaviour for learning and homework. At KS4, reports indicate the grade pupils are predicted to achieve by the end of the current school year. 

As a school, we place greater emphasis on pupils’ final grade, while ensuring they are on track throughout the year. These reports are our most important form of communication with parents and will sometimes raise questions regarding a pupil’s progress. We strongly encourage parents to read the reports carefully and if the report raises questions, to contact either the subject teacher, form teacher or, if it is across a number of subjects, the appropriate Head of Year.