Assessment at the heart of performance
A coherent approach to assessment is at the heart of how Gwyrosydd achieves strong outcomes and how it challenges itself to improve. It has worked with GL Assessment for several years.
In 2014, Estyn concluded that teachers track pupils’ progress well using a suitable range of assessment data and were using this information to inform future learning. This use of assessment data engages parents, too. Estyn confirms that annual reports to parents ‘provide clear information on pupils’ progress and set suitable targets for improvement.’
Gwyrsoydd has recently adopted GL Assessment’s Complete Digital Solution (CDS) package of assessments. CDS incorporates seven digital assessments, including Cognitive Abilities Test: Fourth Edition (CAT4), the New Group Reading Test (NGRT) and the Pupil Attitudes to Self and School (PASS) survey, which together provide critical insight across ability, attainment and attitude.
Headteacher Jonathan Atter explains, “We have a history of using externally sourced and standardised assessments to support our teacher-based assessments. It is important to us that we have a robust marker for the attainment of our pupils at a given time. Without it, we can’t honestly track the progress of the pupil and then evaluate our teaching strategies, either as a whole school or for the needs of the individual child.”
Since the National Tests for Reading and Numeracy were introduced, Jonathan has been looking for ways to maintain the impact of assessment on teaching and learning but without overloading pupils and staff. With this in mind, he chose the Complete Digital Solution.
“Having the tests available on demand and moving away from paper-based testing means that we can manage the impact of assessment on pupils and staff but still get the robust standardised data we need to establish and track progress,” he says. “And it is a competitive price when you compare it with other less flexible assessment packages.”
Being innovative with assessment
Jonathan is excited by the challenge of identifying an approach to assessment that supports the vision of the new curriculum.
“Pioneer schools have been encouraged to innovate. The opportunity to take a step back and consider afresh how we might use assessment with the new curriculum is very welcome. But it is worth considering that about 80% of the workforce in our schools hasn’t experienced anything else apart from the existing national curriculum and the way it has influenced assessment.
“As the new curriculum takes more shape, and the needs it will place upon teachers and learners become clearer, I’m keen to hold onto robust measurements of how my pupils are doing, what needs to improve and, at a future point, how well have they progressed. I will be looking to work with partners like GL Assessment who have expertise to offer and the experience of change such as the move to do away with level descriptors in England.”
Assessment to support personalised learning
The Complete Digital Solution package supports effective, personalised learning, and Jonathan thinks this might be the way forward for assessment in the new curriculum.
“I’m pretty certain that we need to establish an approach to assessment that is about ‘assessing for progress’. Out goes a discussion that might say 80% of pupils at age X are at level Y, and in comes a discussion that looks at individual children and says ‘this is where this child was at when they joined us. This is what we have done as a school, these are the experiences the child has had, and this is where this child is now’.
“We might look at a portfolio of that child’s work and provide a profile of the child based on teacher assessment and the kind of formative assessments we can get from GL Assessment. From looking at the progression of a number of children, we can piece together a story for how the school is performing in progressing all children.”
Jonathan is confident about the future. Their approach to assessment are a proven ‘what works’ asset to the school as it considers the changes ahead.
“I’ve been here 10 years and we’ve come a long way,” he says. “We’ve consistently picked up on various strategies to achieve this and continue to retain what works, drop what doesn’t and move forward to constantly improve. Here, we have an approach to assessment, and a language of benchmarking and progression on a range of skills and attributes that will help us approach the reforms in a structured and managed way.”