Academic Organisation in the Shells
The aim of the Shell year is to provide a broad and sound foundation for a boy’s education at Radley. No subject is excluded, so that a boy has the chance to experience a range of different disciplines and skills. At the end of the Shell year he continues with a core of English, Maths, French, Science and RS, and makes a choice from a set of Option blocks which permit him to pursue four more subjects to GCSE.
When a boy arrives at Radley he is setted separately for English, Maths, French and Science, according to his performance in the Scholarship or in Common Entrance. It is perfectly possible to be in Set 1 for one subject and Set 4 for another, as boys have different aptitudes. He will be allotted a form master from within his social, a sub-tutor who specialises in inducting new boys into Radley. This form master helps the boys to settle into the social, to make friends but also to learn the standards that Radley will expect of them, especially in the academic sense.
Radley works on an 8-day timetable, with 48 periods in that cycle. The distribution of periods is as follows:
Modern Languages 9
Design & Technology 4
Critical Thinking 2
It should be explained that whereas most boys will study two languages (one of which must be French), boys of exceptional linguistic ability will be able to study three languages (French, German and Spanish) each on three periods per cycle.
When a boy arrives at Radley he is given a Diagnostic Test, an 80-word spelling test and a piece of free personal writing. For boys who are found in this Test to need support, or for those with a history of learning difficulties, extra tuition is available from a qualified learning difficulties specialist. A specific programme is arranged for each individual, whose progress is monitored closely and regularly assessed. The Mathematics Department also conducts tests, in October, and boys with weaknesses are helped by Mr Bishop. This programme is co-ordinated by the Head of Academic Support.
Any past arrangement for support (at Prep School) must be communicated to the Head of Academic Support before the start of the Shell year. No external arrangement with an educational psychologist should be organised once a boy is at Radley. We use our own educational psychologist.
Regular reporting on boys serves several purposes: it lets boys know how they are doing, it enables dons, Tutors and parents to monitor progress, and it provides the opportunity to spur on those whose effort is deemed to be less than it might be. We report fully to parents at the end of each term through an emailed report followed by a full letter from the tutor. We also have a system of internal electronically recorded reports, three in the Michaelmas, two in the other terms. These assess effort, each boy’s organisational skills and ability to communicate in class. These reports are e-mailed to parents by tutors in the week after Common Room has completed them. Regular monitoring aims to get the best out of boys. We have in the last year or so put greater emphasis throughout Radley on developing in the boys an ability to learn, and research independently. Shell boys are taught Critical Thinking (CT) skills by five different teachers across the year. The CT course is designed to help them navigate their way through the complex and often misleading world of modern media and develop analytical and other forensic skills which will help them in their academic and wider lives.
Each year at Radley there is a meeting for parents to discuss their sons’ progress with dons. The Shell meeting is on a Sunday morning in mid-May. Parents, of course, are encouraged to keep in touch with Tutors at all times over a boy’s progress. John Beasley, the Head of the Shell Year, is also an important point of contact. There is a great deal more to life at Radley than academic work, even though the latter is inevitably at the centre of a boy’s time here.