Middle School Curriculum Reform 2027

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Latymer has a long tradition of working at the forefront of improvements to education.  We are constantly exploring ways to ensure the education we offer is of the highest quality and the most appropriate for the needs of our pupils. 

‘We are committed to the development of a robust, exciting and relevant educational offering that will best serve the needs of our students by developing them as learners, equipping them with core skills such as critical thinking, resilience, collaboration, creativity and problem solving; skills which will be the foundation for further study and which are so sought after by employers in the modern workplace.’

Susan Wijeratna, Head of Latymer Upper School

For more information watch our short film


Which is the first cohort to follow the new curriculum?

Current Year 6 pupils will be the first cohort to benefit from this new & exciting curriculum. Teaching of the new curriculum will begin when the year group reaches Year 10 in 2027 and the long, two-year courses (replacing GCSEs) will begin.  Some work, such as short courses, will commence when these students are in Year 9 in 2026.  2027 will however be the key year for us and the year we are working towards to have everything in place.

What will the new curriculum look like?

We will offer long courses which resemble the current GCSE courses; they will be 2 years long and offer deep, scholarly learning in subject areas.  Students will still be required to take (at least) two sciences, a foreign language, a humanities subject, as well as English and Maths.  We intend to take the best of the GCSE subject material and of course, as we gain back teaching time we will be adding more to the offering (GCSE+ if you like!).  Students will take a range of ten-week short courses which will be designed across the curriculum subjects – they will be more interdisciplinary in nature, modern, dynamic, discursive.  Some possible areas will be climate change, or AI.  These are being designed by our specialist teachers and some will be co-taught across subject areas.  There will be private study time for students in the middle school.  There will be more interesting forms of assessment in addition to formal written exams (which we will retain): some examples of this are open-book assessments, presentations and fielding questions from the audience, interview-style tests one-to-one with a teacher, on-line assessments and project work.  Students will build a portfolio of work for their middle school transcript.  Finally we will offer bridging courses into the Sixth Form which will further prepare students for A Level study.  We will benchmark our courses at Pass (equivalent to a grade 7 at GCSE), Merit (A* or 8/9 grades) and Distinction (working beyond the confines of GCSE level work).

When a student is trying for job interviews and/or apprenticeships, competing against someone who has GCSEs, is this something that will prevent employers from selecting our students?

We want our students, and their parents, to be confident that in the future they can compete with their peers and achieve their goals. We wouldn’t dream of effecting change that risked damaging the life chances of our children. If we thought for a moment that there was even a risk of putting them at a disadvantage, we would absolutely not be pursuing this idea. The ideas we are presenting to you are informed by four years of research and focus groups. As well as our own extensive conversations with employers, we’ve also looked at the research and reports coming out from the likes of the World Economic Forum, The Times Education Forum, HMC, Rethinking Assessment and many others. The evidence is overwhelming – employers are crying out for change. Employers are saying they are increasingly frustrated with the skills gap which is impacting on their businesses and economic productivity.

Employers are saying that they are putting less and less emphasis on GCSE results. In a survey for the Times newspaper, PWC found that 89% of employers thought it was important to be assessed on more than academic skills and like 74% of employers, PWC acknowledged that GCSEs are not part of the way they recruit.  This is also what employers have told us.

Also we have to remember that the UK is the only country in the world to have GCSEs, so employers who look at international candidates as well as candidates from the UK will have had experience of assessing candidates without GCSEs. From everything we are seeing right now, it looks like the forms of assessment at 16 are going to evolve over the next few years and by 2030 who knows whether GCSEs will exist?

The recruitment system in the world of work is basically a box ticking exercise through an online application form. How will a transcript based application work? If applying for a job in the UK, the online form asks for GCSEs.

Our students will not be disadvantaged when filling in an online application. Just as now they upload their GCSE results, in the future they would upload or share their Middle School transcript and if relevant their A Level information. That said, the employers we have spoken to, as well as the many surveys and research done in the last few years by numerous organisations like CBI and WEF have all indicated that there are many different ways employers recruit and select.  They have to take young people on their merits and according to what their school offered.

What do universities think about this proposal?

Universities (in the UK and the US) have told us that they are comfortable with what we are proposing. Universities are also well represented and part of the conversations taking place about assessment reform. They are involved in the Rethinking Assessment consortium, the Times Education Summit and have been surveyed by HMC for its report on reform. Our experience of those who do and don’t get offers is about A Level grades and predictions. Universities say it’s become almost impossible to differentiate based on GCSEs because children are getting higher marks at GCSEs. They look at references and personal statements and predictions.  Do see the quotes and clips from Yale and Cambridge on our curriculum video for more on this.

When allocating places, don’t universities consider GCSEs?

From our own conversations with admission teams at universities, which have been further backed up by the conversations HMC’s universities sub-committee have had, universities are saying that neither GCSEs, nor the number of GCSEs, are seen as important in themselves to the university admissions process. Indeed, universities all admit students from overseas who do not have GCSEs.

Universities look at A Level grade predictors. Some universities like Oxford and Cambridge have their own assessments and interview processes.

In our experience, on results days students fail to achieve their places because they do not meet the A Level offer requirements. In such circumstances, GCSE grades count for nothing in terms of mitigation or evidence of a student’s ability. The university wants to see and evidence A Level performance.  And our A Level offering remains untouched.  

What about US universities - won’t our children be at a disadvantage versus a child with GCSEs?

We know this is really important to Latymer parents because so many of our students are looking at and getting offers and scholarships from US universities. Our US admissions team in the Upper School is excellent and growing. They’re in touch with colleagues at colleges about this and are feeding back that there is great enthusiasm for what we are proposing. They say we know you (Latymer) and trust you. Our rates of success are very good indeed. This is backed up by the work HMC’s universities sub-committee is doing and their conversations with US universities who just don’t have a strong awareness of GCSEs and who have said they’ll be equally happy with a set of grades provided by the school itself. The transcript we are proposing is really detailed and really good so we know we can provide that data that they are looking for. They are on record as saying they trust the school and have faith in its ability to assess their students and are more interested in contextual data such as where a student performs vis-a-vis their peer group. We have longstanding and well-trusted relationships with US colleges, are known to them, visit them and they visit us – this explains our phenomenal success rates with US admissions (e.g. this year 70+ applications – 1 in 3 in the Upper Sixth to the US); many of our students sit on a very fine array of offers from many colleges in the US and many are admitted on early entry. Latymer is one of the schools in the UK that US colleges know best and with whom they have strong links and much trust. Also since we reformed our Sixth Form Curriculum students have been able to demonstrate a broader perspective, that they are more interesting and have a better fit.  Do see our clip from Keith Light at Yale on the school video – he talks about finding curious and independent thinkers to bring to the US and is more than enthusiastic about our new curriculum.  

What do specialist teachers think of this proposal?

We’ve been talking around this topic for the past 3-4 years and feedback from our Heads of Departments has informed the current proposals we are sharing. Many of them, like our Head of Music for example, want to start straight away! Many are very keen to do this as they’re frustrated with the narrowing of learning in their subjects as we funnel children into preparing for GCSEs; the anxiety and stress the children go through taking these exams and how ultimately that these don’t best prepare our students for their A Level courses. They tell us they feel they can put something better together and want to start designing and writing courses. For all staff there will be time and resources invested to ensure that the Middle School curriculum designed by the school is robust and fit for purpose. And the academic management team will sit across the design, trailing and implementation of any new curriculum.

We have a lot of experience in teaching and delivering a curriculum of our own design. We designed our own Lower School (Years 7 & 8) and Sixth Form curriculum and we’ve developed our own courses, Global Goals in Year 9 and World Perspectives in Year 10 and 11, which are amongst our most popular courses with students; World Perspectives is recognised & accredited by UCAS as a qualification in the same way as a GCSE.

Will teachers have/need sufficient training?

Yes, we think that training will be important and are factoring that into our plans. As we did when we stopped doing AS levels and moved to a linear A Level curriculum, we led the field and five years later when others followed they came to us asking for advice on how to do it.

The good news is that we have time over the next 4 years to work on this. Our teachers are subject experts and also have protected time in their schedule for professional development which is when they would do the necessary training. Part of our proposals to Governors included and was approved to provide time and resources to invest in staff training and time to develop the new curriculum.

Will the reform have examination-based assessments or will it be project-based? Will not taking formal GCSE exams give students enough practice to prepare for A levels two years later?

Yes, we are envisaging there being written assessments, as well as many other forms of assessment, whether that is vivas, presentations, reports, group work or project-based assessment. Exactly what the assessment will be for each subject or long course, or short course, will be decided by what is most appropriate to that subject or course but the academic management team will have an overview and ensure that all students in the middle school are experiencing written, formal, exam-style assessment across the curriculum in addition to other forms of assessment. We feel this is important to prepare students well for A Level examinations.

Students will still sit end of year exams in Years 8 and 9, they will be taking Maths and English GCSEs in Year 11, formal end-of-year exams in Lower Sixth, exams in September of Upper Sixth to form university predicted grades and a full suite of A Level mock exams in the Spring of Upper Sixth, so will have plenty of experience of sitting timed, written assessments before they reach Sixth Form. We also propose to give more time to A Level study and can create triple periods in most subjects allowing for more timed, exam-style practice in lesson time as students prepare for A Levels.

What if a student leaves Latymer at 16?

Students move schools at 16 for a variety of reasons although at Latymer this is rather rare and each year only a handful leave us for Sixth Form study elsewhere.  We anticipate this to continue to be the case in the future as most students joining us at 11 are committing to seven years at the school.

One of the key motivations behind our Curriculum Reform is to prepare students better for A Level study; we will buy back about 25% of teaching time in Years 10 and 11, we will be pushing students beyond the confines of the current GCSE syllabus (many of the Heads of Department want to incorporate more solid foundations for A Level) and we will be providing bespoke Bridging Courses to A Level study which will prepare our students better for the step up to a much more demanding way of studying; something we feel learners are poorly prepared for year after year.  We are also convinced that our A Level results will be better as a result of our Curriculum Reform as we make more time at A Level for core teaching and for students to work independently on their core subjects.  As such we hope students leaving us will be very rare indeed.

Each year Latymer admits a further 30-40 students into the Sixth Form on top of returning students from Year 11.  Our 16+ entry continues to be popular and competitive.  We admit students from other independent schools and maintained schools, as well as students from overseas.  When we make decisions on admissions we base these on GCSE predictions from other schools, as well as on a variety of other factors – these include school reports on attendance, punctuality, participation in lessons, teacher recommendations about the kind of learners we are looking for and thoughts from head teachers of the school.  We also interview students for entry and are looking for interest in the subjects they wish to pursue at A Level, evidence of wider reading and a questioning approach to the subject, and learning in general.  GCSE results play one small part in the process.

Each year we also accept students from international schools where they are not tested at 16.  In the last few years we have, for example, accepted students from India, Germany and the Middle East.  In these cases we looked at the student in the round, their school reports, their transcripts of study from their middle school years, and of course we met with and talked with the young person.  We will continue to do this.  And each year we offer occasional places in our Years 7-11 which are not dependent on any exam grades.

Latytmer students will leave at 16 (if they choose to) with a detailed transcript of their work and progress through our middle school.  We will be benchmarking their assessment with a pass (equivalent to a GCSE grade 7), merit (grades 8 & 9 / A* work) and distinction (beyond GCSE) award system.  We would provide this to any school to which a student wants to move and in many ways it will be much more detailed and informative than a list of numbers which is the current provision.  All schools continue to accept young people, like Latymer, regardless of what grades they hold.

If a pass is equivalent to a grade 7, will there be a chance for students who want to show they are more advanced to go further? Will there be a merit or higher?

Students will still take an assessment when they are ready rather than waiting for a fixed point in Year 11, but what we are now proposing is that they will be able to do extra pieces of work, at a more advanced level, that earn extra credits towards a merit (grade 8/9) or a distinction (currently no-existent but equivalent to a grade 10/11/12 and therefore well beyond the limits of the current GCSE offering). We hope that we would be able to evidence pass/level 7 GCSE work earlier in the course (e.g. Year 10) and push students on much more in Year 11, a year currently lost to mechanistic exam preparation.  This is, in turn, much better preparation for A Level study.

How will the standard be independently accredited?

In the past we’ve worked with universities on curriculum design; for example our World Perspectives course is UCAS-accredited and recognised by universities.

We are planning to work with universities on the development of these courses and assessments so we don’t feel that there will be a need for further independent accreditation as that is effectively built in. We’ve also spoken with UCAS who have looked at our proposals and they’ve assessed it and said they are happy with what we are proposing. We would like to develop our thinking still further in regard to independent standardisation and parental input in this matter has been appreciated.  There are opportunities to work with other schools who are increasingly interested in what we are proposing.  The standard of learning will be high and our ability to go beyond the confines of the current GCSE system is a key attraction for us.

How will you be able to independently assess the children?

Our staff have experience of teaching GCSE and A Levels. We know and understand the standards expected. In 2020 all of these exams were “centre assessed” (CAGs) and in 2021 “teacher-assessed” (TAGs). We were able to assess our young people on their work in the middle school in a very short period of time and were confident of the manner in which and the integrity with which grades were awarded at Latymer. Our approach to awarding grades and indeed the final grades awarded were independently approved by the Awarding Bodies through our Centre Policy on Centre-Assessed Grades and the random independent inspection of several GCSE and A Level subjects. Having reviewed our evidence, Ofqual supported all of the grades that had been awarded – not one was changed. We also have much time to work on assessments, which gives us enough time to ensure the process for assessing the students is an equally rigorous and fair process. There is a minimum standard to achieve to go forward and take an A Level. There is no danger of us dumbing down, we would be “dumbing up”. The children will be better prepared. Our staff know the aspects of A Level with which students struggle and we would mitigate for this as we prepare students better for A Level study in Year 11.

Universities and employers have said that they will be happy with a set of grades provided by the school itself. The important data is provided by the school about its own context and the context of the pupil in the school. A high degree of trust is placed by universities on schools and we are a well known school and well respected for our integrity.

Maths and English are passport subjects so students will still do GCSEs in these. But what about subjects like science which would be needed for professional bodies, like teaching, midwifery?

We are talking to universities and those running vocational training courses e.g. teaching. If it were still the case in 5 years time that science was required, we would make sure to have a work-around to ensure our students are in no way disadvantaged. It’s important to remember that these institutions do admit people without GCSEs as they will take students from other countries so it is possible for them to do so. Also you may recall that medical schools were tricky about iGCSE English. HMC spoke to these bodies and they adapted their approach. HMC is committed to this issue and like us is having conversations with these institutions about what they’ll be needing in the future. This is why it’s so important for us to be having these conversations now so that by 2027 everything is in place. Much may look very different by then anyhow as there is only one direction of travel.

Also for those who want to pursue sciences, they can absolutely take long courses in all 3 sciences – go wider and deeper into these subjects which will prepare them better for A Level courses.

For more science-oriented students, do broader courses inform what they choose for A Levels?

The programme means they can try things out they wouldn’t normally be able to, so they could be better informed. Bridging courses are designed for this. Sometimes students have taken a bridging course then changed their minds.

We want to offer our new A Level subjects (Economics, Politics, Photography, History of Art) lower down the school so that students can try the subject and experience it before opting for it as an A Level.  We will be incorporating these subjects into the middle school which for us is a very exciting development.  

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