Using PASS to support the Engage programme in Northern Ireland – a primary case study

Holy Trinity Primary School is a Catholic maintained primary school based in an area of high social deprivation in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Fiona Boyd, Principal, and Lorraine Murphy, Assessment Co-ordinator, explain below how they used GL Assessment’s Pupil Attitudes to Self and School (PASS) survey as part of the Engage programme to support the learning and engagement of pupils following lockdown.

To address the impact of Covid-19 on pupils’ learning, the Department of Education in Northern Ireland launched the Engage programme in September 2020. This provided primary and post-primary schools with additional resource to ensure that their pupils received the support they needed upon their return to the classroom. As 70% of our pupils are on Free School Meals, we qualified for funding from the Engage programme to employ a substitute teacher. The funding was originally until March 2021; but was extended until June following the second school closure. This enabled us to release a member of staff to work with pupils who we identified as requiring additional support.

Key outcomes:

  1. 1

    PASS can be used in all years to identify pupils’ attitudes to themselves as learners and their school

  2. 2

    Results are colour-coded using a simple traffic light system – helping you identify areas of concern as well as successes

  3. 3

    The data can provide tangible evidence to back-up your teacher judgement

Out of the 23 pupils in the programme, we were delighted that 19 pupils’ PASS scores had improved.

Lorraine Murphy, Assessment Co-ordinator, Holy Trinity Primary School, Belfast

All P3 to P7 pupils took the PASS survey in October, having allowed some time for them to settle back into the classroom environment at the start of the school year. We then ranked pupils based on their PASS results and selected those with low scores on factors such as ‘Preparedness for learning’ and ‘Feelings about school’ to target for the Engage programme. We selected a total of 23 pupils who ranged across P3 to P6 (although we had to consider class bubbles when determining the number of pupils to include from each year group).

The programme started in November, with three days a week spent supporting pupils with English and maths, and the other two days focussing on their mental health and wellbeing. The wellbeing programme focused on providing the children with the knowledge and strategies to deal with anxiety and to build resilience. It included using emotion flash cards, breathing techniques, use of a ‘positive thoughts’ diary, a jar of affirmations and mindfulness activities. When the school had to close again in January, we used our online learning platform to upload activities for pupils to complete remotely and videos for them to engage with.

After the pupils returned to school, we tested them again with PASS and found that most of these pupils were happier and more content to be back at school. Out of the 23 pupils in the programme, we were delighted that 19 pupils’ PASS scores had improved. You can see an example of one pupil’s pre-test and post-test PASS scores in Figure 1.

The pupils we selected for the Engage programme were in a state of crisis, with difficulties at home and social and emotional issues. The quantitative data that PASS provided gave us tangible evidence to back-up our teacher judgement, so we were confident that we had targeted the right pupils for the programme and could make a difference for them. This was a new initiative for our school, and it has given us the reassurance that it is worth investing in the wellbeing of our pupils.


Holy Trinity Primary School is one of our Advocate Partners

Figure 1

The quantitative data that PASS provided gave us tangible evidence to back-up our teacher judgement, so we were confident that we had targeted the right pupils for the programme and could make a difference for them

Fiona Boyd, Principal, Holy Trinity Primary School, Belfast