Top performing school move up a gear
“We subscribed to GCSEPod as we felt the college needed to move up a gear as we sought to stand out in the highly competitive educational marketplace. GCSEPod has had a phenomenal impact at our school even though we are already amongst the highest achieving in the country. Using GCSEPod improves results.”
St Columba’s College
The pressure to perform well is just as intense for independent schools as it is in the state education sector –even more so when you have some of the UK’s top achieving private faculties on your doorstep. But St Columba’s College in Hertfordshire has invested carefully in a resource that is setting it apart from its competitors–GCSEPod.
There are many good schools to be found in this area –for example, Merchant Taylor’s and Eton –to name but a few. A tough field to compete in for any independent school.
The independent Roman Catholic day school caters for boys aged four to 18 and opened in1939. St Columba’s has around 900 students and proudly delivers a “quality education from start to finish.”
Ian Devereux, a maths teacher and also the Director of Studies explains how two years ago he decided the college needed to move up a gear as it sought to stand out in the highly competitive educational marketplace.
His answer was to introduce the award-winning GCSEPod to years 10 and 11. Using short videos (known as Pods) that can be accessed in the classroom or on the go on a smartphone or tablet, the online GCSE teaching and learning platform covers every exam board and more than 20subject areas, from maths and English to the sciences, humanities, business studies, computer science, languages, and even RE and PE. Launched at St Columba’s in January 2018, GCSEPod has had a phenomenal impact at a school that was already amongst the highest achieving in the country.
“A huge part of our GCSE success can be attributed to GCSEPod.”
In the 2016-2017 academic year, 44.1% of GCSE students achieved A*-A grades. In the 2017-2018 academic year, however, this leapt to 53.5% of all grades being at 9-7 (A*-A), in what were billed as the new ‘tougher’ GCSE’s. Then in the 2018-2019 academic year, the college again surpassed its best ever GCSE results with 56.6% of students gaining the top 9-7 grades.
It goes without saying that the high quality of the teaching has played a big part in St Columba’s exam success. But Ian says: “We have had record results two years in a row, and there is no doubt in my mind that a huge part of this success can also be attributed to GCSEPod. About 60% of our students use GCSEPod well, and you can see that reflected in the results. We had boys up there with all 9s and 8s.”
As befits a maths teacher and St Columba’s GCSEPod lead, Ian has been tracking its success –and the results make for impressive reading. The residual, or value-added score, for many students has been especially revealing.
Thousands of Pods were watched in the lead-up to the summer 2018 exams, with some notable outcomes. Of the top 30 Pod viewers, the average YELLIS residual was 0.72-meaning the students achieved nearly three-quarters of a grade above their predictions across all subjects.
Taking into account differing academic ability, one boy who watched 304 Pods scored a YELLIS residual of 1.1, while another who viewed 326 came away with a YELLIS residual of 0.6. Among the top users, YELLIS residual scores ranged from 0.2 to 1.9.
For those sitting the exams in 2019, the top GCSEPod users saw YELLIS residuals in the 0.5 to 2.2 range. St Columba’s has an entrance exam and Ian says: “We are selective, so getting value-added isn’t as easy. But from the moment we subscribed to GCSEPod I have monitored the Pods the students were watching and the residual they got in their mock and GCSE exams. Some of the results have been fantastic, and there is no doubt that GCSEPod has worked really well for a large number of our boys.”
“Two years ago we subscribed to GCSEPod as we felt the college needed to move up a gear as we sought to stand out in the highly competitive educational marketplace. GCSEPod has had a phenomenal impact at our school even though we are already amongst the highest achieving in the country. We have many stories of students for whom GCSEPod has made all the difference. ”
Ian has many stories of students for whom GCSEPod has made all the difference. One especially sticks in his mind. “He was struggling and I had meetings with his mum and dad. But he watched loads of GCSEPod’s, especially in the core subjects like maths and English, and ended up achieving 1-3 grades above what had been predicted, putting him through to the 6th form where he is now studying sociology, English and business and is looking to go on to university.
“I am in no doubt that GCSEPod helped him.”
Ian had no prior experience of GCSEPod before bringing it to the college in January 2018. It was the platform’s “all round aspect” that attracted him. “I had been looking for something that was user friendly. GCSEPod covers all the major subjects, is regularly updated, is easy to use, and is very boy friendly in that the Pods are well produced and to the point, allowing students to revise and recap in short bursts.
He explains: “One of the big complaints these days is that students don’t know how to revise. We want them to get familiar with GCSEPod and to start using it as a means of support in their day-to-day learning.
“We have a strong maths department here at St Columba’s, but I have been pleasantly surprised to see that students are using GCSEPod to make sure they have understood what they have been taught in lessons.”
“It’s easy to access and use on a mobile phone or tablet, and it works on demand.” The online teaching and learning platform has been especially useful in helping students get to grips with the new GCSE science syllabus. “The content is great,” Ian says, “and the boys can use GCSEPod for independent study, something they are expected to do regularly in any independent school.” GCSEPod is introduced in Year 10 -but is available to lower year groups should it be felt appropriate –and Ian is keen going forward to make more use of it as a revision aid from the get-go.
“Accessing GCSEPod on their phones in class has meant that students can watch the pods relevant to their needs. It is helping students to become more resourceful and means they aren’t always looking to me for an answer.”
The school’s Pod views have rocketed. Eggar’s is currently the third top GCSEPod user nationally out of 1,244 schools this academic year, with nearly 55,000 Pods watched by the end of the spring term. Year 10 students have so far watched more than 29,000, with Year 11’s usage standing at 18,612.
Usage has tripled by focusing on key departments and using the ‘Show My Homework’ tool to track and monitor homework, with the ‘little and often’ approach of working in a measured way to reap maximum benefit, sitting comfortably with GCSEPod’s own visual and auditory attitude to teaching and learning, which makes it easier to comprehend and retain knowledge.
Martyn says: “There are many theories out there as to why girls continue to perform better than boys at P8, but as a school what we want to do is to make sure that every student hits their top 20 target for progress in every lesson, and that they don’t just make the GCSE grade 4 required for maths and English, but can achieve an average grade 6. GCSEPod is an integral part of achieving that.”
“The 2018-2019 academic year was the first where we had access to GCSEPod right the way through. This year I have been able to show the results and the value we have achieved, and it has spoken volumes. “I wanted a system that supported the pupils in the lead-up to their GCSE’s,and at the same time encouraged their development and put them in a position where they could confidently answer the questions when it came to the actual exams. “GCSEPod was introduced primarily as a revision tool, but for us it has become so much more.”
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