The bedrock of learning
"We had been using a number of different assessments across the trust for some time so we were not comparing like with like when it came to understanding pupil progress," explains Rachael Russell, Executive Principal at Tudor Grange. "Assessments were often administered at different times of the term and year so we never really had a clear view of reading competency across the year groups in the trust."
Another key challenge was the time it took to get meaningful assessment data back into the classroom so action could be taken on the results. Emma Milton, Primary SEND and Key Stage 2 English Lead at Tudor Grange Samworth Academy explains, "It could take weeks to get any information because we were marking the assessments ourselves and we could still be analysing the previous data as the next assessment window opened."
To make strategic decisions, trust leaders needed a more uniform approach to assessment.
The trust was already using assessments from GL Assessment in its secondary schools, so senior leaders decided to extend the tests across its primary schools too.
Multitude of benefits
Rollout took place over the summer and in the autumn term, and pupils from Year 2 to Year 10 across the trust sat the GL Assessment New Group Reading Test (NGRT), while students in Year 2 to Year 6 also sat the New Group Spelling Test (NGST).
These are digital assessments so the results are available almost immediately which speeds up the process and saves time spent on data entry. “A lot can change in a few weeks so it helps that we can factor the results into planning and interventions straight away,” says Emma. “It’s far more current and relevant than what we were working with before.
“The greatest strength of the reports is that they suggest intervention strategies based on the results. It says ‘This data is suggesting x to us. You could try y as a strategy to close the gap’. That gives us something to build our own intervention ideas around.”
GL Assessment’s support team are also on hand to give advice and support. “The best thing is that they have all been teachers themselves so see things from a teacher’s perspective,” says Emma.
Gaps in understanding
Straight away the first round of assessments revealed some unexpected but very important insights for the trust.
The data showed that some pupils were struggling with their comprehension even though their reading skills were good - something that hadn't been picked up before.
"Just because a child can read out loud with no problems doesn't mean they understand what they are reading," says Emma. "This prompted us to look at ways we could help children with their comprehension."
Interventions have included providing any text the day before the lesson takes place. For those pupils that struggle with comprehension, words are unpicked so they can identify characters' motives and the meaning of particular terms. "It completely unlocks the lessons for them," says Emma. "If NGRT hadn't identified the disparity between reading skills and reading comprehension, those pupils would not have been able to access their lessons."
The start of a journey
The pupils have only completed the first round of assessments but the trust is already feeling the benefits, as Rachael explains. “The assessments provide a common language when it comes to staff talking about assessments across the trust. By using this language, they are building their confidence as well as their expertise to help their pupils. Now our teachers spend more time supporting children with their reading and less time marking assessments and working out where the issues are.
“We are keen to see the impact of the current interventions when we undertake the next round of assessments.”
The reading and spelling assessments are just the beginning and the trust plans to use GL Assessment’s Progress Test Series in maths and science too. It will soon be possible to consistently and accurately track a Tudor Grange pupil’s progress all the way from Year 2 to Year 10.
And as Rachael explains, “The data gives us greater clarity about the children we are teaching, which leads to better outcomes.”