Higher Attaining Learners - St Mary's and St John's CE School

Higher Attaining Learners

At St Mary’s and St John’s CE school, the achievement of all is valued and celebrated. Within this, we recognise our responsibility to ensure that our pupils who have been identified as working at a higher academic level receive the necessary support and challenge which will enable them to achieve the best possible grades and equip them to apply to the most prestigious university courses and employment opportunities. In the last few years a number of SMSJ Sixth Formers have been selected to study at Oxbridge colleges or for competitive courses such as medicine and law. Further detail on how we aim to continue to create these opportunities can be found in our Higher Attainers Policy.

We are currently investigating the NACE challenge award, which recognises schools with effective provision for Higher Attaining Learners.


  • To recognise the children that are ‘Higher Attainers’ and to then develop teaching strategies and classroom activities which will enrich and extend their learning or talents.
  • To provide support and challenge throughout all phases that enables Higher Attaining students to achieve the highest GCSE and A Level results.
  • To offer an extracurricular and cross-curricular programme that will broaden the education of our Higher Attaining Learners and support them in creating suitable applications for the most prestigious Higher Education establishments.
  • To encourage and support our Higher Attaining students in creating ambitious plans for their future employment through our Sixth Form opportunities, outreach programmes involving visiting speakers from a vast range of employment fields, and our in-house careers education and guidance programme.

In the classroom

The SMSJ curriculum is designed to provide challenge for all, but particularly for students who are learning beyond age related expectations. We have recently introduced the ‘Mastery’ flightpath to our Key Stage 3 curriculum across all subjects, to ensure that our highest attainers will be given opportunities to develop the skills and understanding required for the top GCSE grades throughout their time at school.

Our commitment to continuing professional development for our teaching and support staff ensures that lessons are thought-provoking, and students are encouraged to think of unexpected answers and solutions to problems through our use of targeted, open-ended questioning strategies. All teaching staff are expected to identify the highest attaining students in their classes and provide evidence that they are challenging these pupils to extend their learning.

Outside of the classroom

We know that new interests can be sparked, and skills developed by experiencing learning outside of the classroom; due to this we provide a programme of enriching extracurricular opportunities for students who have been identified as Higher Attaining Learners.

Many of these opportunities are open to a broad range of students but through our Pastoral and Academic mentoring programme our Higher Attaining pupils will be encouraged and supported to attend. Examples include the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths) club where pupils can work towards nationally recognised CREST awards, UKMT Maths Challenge, Maths Mastery club, Bebras Computing Challenge, Coding club, and Arkwright Scholars. Our extracurricular programme changes each term, and there is a wealth of opportunity for all to be involved.

Scholars programme

Students joining SMSJ in Year 7 who are talented in the Performing Arts have the opportunity to apply for scholarships in Dance, Drama or Music, more details can be found here.

Talented in a particular subject

Students who are talented in a particular subject but are not identified as higher attainers overall are encouraged to take advantage of the opportunities available to support in their specialist subjects.

This could involve providing support with open evenings, mentoring or teaching younger students, running or supporting with extracurricular clubs, interviewing prospective staff, and working with teachers to develop new teaching strategies. There are frequent opportunities for the most interested pupils to be selected to represent their subject outside of school as well.

Useful links



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