Year 11 interventions, holiday ‘revision’ sessions & the alternatives 


I’ve blogged about the need to ditch the idea of revision and how I think that learning should be specially planned and should start from day 1, but haven’t written my commonly tweeted thoughts on interventions.

Many secondary schools put interventions in year 11. A teacher, or leaders, suddenly decide to do something about the students that haven’t been attaining or progressing as they should. It usually involves making things easier for the student and making life more difficult for the teacher.

My criticisms

We already know 

I invigilated a year 8,exam hall, controlled assessment style exam the other day. If you give me a list of those names, I could probably tell you who’ll be targeted for ‘intervention’ in year 11. The results of that assessment will probably also tell you who would be on the list. We already know, very early on in secondary, who has the potential not to make ‘expected’ progress. Why do we leave doing anything about it until year 11?

Staff pressures

These sorts of interventions put unnecessary pressure on staff to give up their own time. Whether it be a PPA, break time, after school or their holiday, it is unacceptable for teachers to feel they must do these sessions. Where SLTs direct them to do it is morally and professionally irresponsible.

Lack of responsibility 

These sessions make students ‘feel’ as though they are doing something and many will then justify the session, so they don’t do anything else. They expect staff to do this for them. It’s their excuse for not doing anything else.

It undermines learning and attitudes in lessons

If we allow students to think there will be after school revision for what they didn’t understand or didn’t do, it reduces the motivation for them to try hard in lessons. Lessons, homework and independent study must be the focus for learning.

It promotes cramming 

Sadly, cramming works. We’ve all done it. But as long as we keep doing it:

  • students won’t learn about learning over the long term
  • SLTs will attribute it to any success (false cause)
  • if we teach KS5, they won’t remember content from KS4.

Why do we get to this stage?


One key reason is that so many teachers and leaders see learning as a lesson, a unit, that has to be planned with activities, not a process of logical steps.

Take the new GCSE. Teachers were eager to plan schemes, lesson resources,find text books and look for grade boundaries. Key factors were time and money. Few planned for learning. And some that discussed possible models for learning retorted with ‘I don’t have time for that’ or ‘My students will get confused by that’.


If teachers are spending hours on planning and marking throughout the year, it seems they are too busy fulfilling their SLT requirements instead of intervening from day 1. This spring term offers February half term, Easter holiday and a bank holiday’s worth of time. It’s the traditional time to put the favourite form of intervention; revision sessions.

Of course, unless it’s part of a planned stage of retrieval, it’s not really revision. It’s learning. The logic is: the student hasn’t learnt in the past two years of one hour, bitesize chunks, so we’ll compact it all into one day and they will learn it.


Teachers- The exams are near. SLTs are asking for accurate predictions. Every little helps.

SLTS – Overall data doesn’t look good, ‘we’ need to do something…….

The solutions

  • We need to train students. From year 7, we need to train them and provide the structure they need to work with guided independence. For some reason at secondary, we have an unrealistic expectation that a young adult can manage 8-10 different subjects at one time without anything but a homework diary.
  • Early expectations, early consequences. In my department, if a student hands in their books without a title or date or incomplete notes or poor quality work or no homework, they will come at a break time to complete it. This starts day 1 in year 7. All staff have to do this. If not, students will ‘get away with it’ and will not form good habits.
  • Plan curriculum content and schemes to check learning across the weeks/months/years including key diagnostic assessment points. Deal with under achievement at that point.
  • Acknowledge that a teacher’s role isn’t just to teach, it’s to promote & do everything we know is possible to ensure learning. Last minute intervention isn’t promoting learning, it’s promoting cramming.
  • After a term of year 7, subjects to go through a simple but strategic process of analysis and diagnosis – who seems to be struggling? Why? HODS then meet with teachers to identify specific student needs. These can be a range of things e.g SPAG, presentation, comprehension, listening skills, behaviour, attitude to learning, completion of homework etc Those with an identified need are then allocated one action.
  • With students that are identified across subjects a team of people including SENCO, pastoral team/head of year/head of progress are to decide a core strategy of support. I’m not talking about pages and pages of PSPs, just one simple thing.
  • Check student work regularly (not necessarily marking). Check it for: quality, presentation, meeting expectations, completion. And then, crucially, do something about it. 

Checklist of year 7 ‘interventions’ I’ve used this year:

  • Schemes that support learning using long term memory  – no stakes spaced testing, retrieval, interleaved content
  • Moved seat in seating plan
  • Re-write piece of work
  • Add to work
  • Complete incomplete work
  • Do HW at break time
  • Email/call home
  • Speak to/email student’s tutor/SENCO
  • Answer student queries in class
  • Check student work as they’re working
  • Check books regularly
  • Discussion with student about expectations

None of these have required me to give up hours and hours of my time but make clear my expectations from day 1.


3 thoughts on “Year 11 interventions, holiday ‘revision’ sessions & the alternatives 

  1. A very good read and fits in with my philosophy. I have started similar strategies with both my year 7 classes as I am sick of the stressful panic in year 11. We talk about revision strategies and record in our books and practice activities in class and for homelearning to model revision and of course share their success. Giving a planner in September is not enough to support students in any year group.

    Before my y7 students sit a test they complete a boxon the test review sheet, how much time and what have I done to prepare for this test, then we do it, add the score etc and make 2 smart targets for improvement for the next test. Usefull discussions come from the self review sheets. We have rolled this across ks3 and 4.
    Thanks for your article as it inspires me to tackle our school machine.

  2. Have you thought aboutthe constant shortage of teachers and how some students haven’t had a steady teacher for long periods.
    I do agree with what you are saying but there are several other variables to consider.

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