West Somerset Academies Trust is comprised of six schools and four nurseries situated across Minehead, Williton and Watchet. Paul Rushforth, Executive Headteacher and CEO, explains how the Trust used the data from the New Group Reading Test (NGRT) to support children who regressed in reading scores over the first lockdown.
Tracking progress in reading
Our Trust of six schools uses NGRT every term for children in Key Stages 2 and 3 to track progress in reading. Broadly, children start with a Standard Age Score (SAS) of about 94 in Year 3 and leave with a score around 106 in Year 8 at the end their middle school career. The termly SAS provides a credible check on progress and provides access to special catch-up sessions which are not determined solely by SAS, but mostly by the difference between current and previous scores. Therefore, children with SEND do not continuously remain in catch-up groups.
What we did in September 2020 and how this has informed the next lockdown
In the third week of September, we tested all the children in the Trust with NGRT. Some schools also used the Progress Test in English (PTE) and Progress Test in Maths (PTM), because we had not been able to do this in June the previous academic year due to lockdown. This provided the following information – none of which was surprising:
- Most groups of children regressed
- The difference between the degree of regression in different age groups and income groups was huge
- Older children from non-pupil premium backgrounds regressed least – in many cases, hardly at all
- Pupil premium children who were not yet confident readers (Year 3 in particular) regressed very significantly – this was a double-digit regression for most
As soon as we had this information, we wrote to every parent whose child had regressed significantly from where we would have expected them to be to flag this issue. The data was incredibly powerful to demonstrate that a lack of reading at home had led to weaker outcomes and even diminished life chances. This was the context for our catch-up programme, however, no sooner had we started catch-up programmes for different groups of children than we entered the second lockdown.
How did we use the data to support children during the second lockdown?
At the time of writing (February 2021) we are:
- Assigning Teaching Assistants to listen to children read in the regression group every day. This has encouraged children to read and parents to listen to their children read. The letter sent out previously helped parents understand the imperative for this action and supported the view that we were not just checking up on the child’s welfare
- Providing additional reading material (books, online books, access to school reading material) for the regression group and younger children
- Providing Chrome books for children who need them to support reading
- Providing places in school for children in the regression group
All these decisions have been made easier by credible, nationally calibrated data, built up over several years. Would we have done something similar without testing? I do not think it would have been possible because we would not have had a full understanding of what had happened to those children who did not engage with online learning in the first lockdown. Incidentally, this engagement has hugely improved second time around. The data provided the context for the letter we sent to parents and the mandate for the reading calls. We will be testing again in March and look forward to seeing the impact of these data led decisions.
Minehead Middle School is one of our Centres of Assessment Excellence