The King John School: A study of excellence

ResultsPlus helps students to reach advanced level mathematics


The King John School Nestled on a quiet residential street, near the mouth of the River Thames east of London, the King John School in Benfleet, England, looks like an ordinary state secondary school from the outside: a series of connected brown brick buildings with a playing field out back.

Yet inside, there’s been an impressive transformation in its mathematics classrooms: test scores have been steadily rising, and 82 students in Year 11 – or one in four of its 16 year olds – have chosen to begin a two-year course in A Level or advanced maths this academic year, compared to 20 the previous year and just five the year before that.

“We’re doing better than the grammar schools” in terms of A Level maths takeup, says Margaret Wilson, headteacher at 1,800-student King John. (In Britain, comprehensive schools like King John admit all students within a given geographic area, so ability levels vary widely, while grammar schools can select the best and the brightest.)

Ms. Wilson credits the school’s improvement on her students’ hard work, and the dedication of the teaching staff. Yet the headteacher and the mathematics teachers say King John’s results also stem from ResultsPlus, a diagnostic reporting tool developed by Pearson’s Edexcel in the U.K. and provided free of charge to schools.

ResultsPlus offers teachers detailed analysis of students’ exam performance, so they can spot areas of weakness in individuals or across classes.

Results PlusKing John first used the service in 2006. Recognising the power of ResultsPlus reporting, the school decided to enter students for General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) exams six months early, in November, using the data from these exams to target improvement for the final exams in the summer.

This has allowed teachers to use ResultsPlus to identify areas of learning that need special attention, thereby enabling students to make improvement before the summer exam.

“A couple of years ago we identified proportionality as an area the students weren’t doing as well in as we wanted,” says Paul Healy, a mathematics teacher who is heading the Maths Department this year. “So we targeted proportionality as an area to focus on, and that’s made a big difference in students’ performance.”

Proportionality – for example, A is to B as X is to Y – is an important concept in trigonometry and many other areas of maths, and Mr. Healy estimates that proportionality can be used to solve 20% of the problems in GCSE maths.

ResultsPlus points out to teachers and administrators the areas students fully understand and those they don’t, and allows schools to compare a given class’s performance with those of other schools, or the national average, or with previous years – and to break results down even further based on gender or other factors.

For students, ResultsPlus allows them to go online to see their GCE (General Certificate of Education) and GCSE test scores, to see how close they came to the grade above or the grade below through a “Gradeometer.”

Students at King John who take the GCSE in November can choose to take the test again in summer if they want – in hopes of improving their grade – or they can choose instead not to take the test again and stick with their initial grade. This choice helps struggling students who seek to improve a middling or poor grade, and also allows high-scoring students to avoid a summer test in maths in order to focus on another GCSE in a different subject.

“For students, instead of thinking ‘I’m not good at maths’ they think ‘I’m good at this part and not good at another part,’” says Ms. Wilson. “It makes them much more confident that they can go on in maths.”

Adds Steve Watts, King John’s assistant head teacher and a fifth-grade maths teacher: “We’re really making significant progress improving grades from borderline D or C up to B, and also significantly increasing the number of grades up to A or A-star.”

One student in the former category found out on GCSE results day, August 27, that she had improved her maths score from D in November to C in May – which delighted her because she needed a C grade in order to pursue further studies at a local college. She had been given special attention since the November test in a smaller class of just 12 students, compared to the normal class size of 28 to 32 students.

“The smaller class helped me concentrate a lot more,” says the female student. “You can put your hand up a lot more, and it gave me more confidence.”

For more information on Edexcel’s ResultsPlus service, visit