When back in 2014-15 we considered our response to life without levels as a Trust, we looked carefully at what we wanted our students to achieve by the end of Year 8 and how the assessment process would support our curriculum effectively. We worked with staff, students and parents across our Trust, taking our time to ensure our approach would support learning effectively without becoming overly taxing for staff. Having previously experienced Assessing Pupil Progress and the re-emergence of complicated tick box learning statement banks, we were keen to focus on effectiveness combined with efficiency.
Finding a solution
Our aim was to design a simple system that focused all stakeholders on the progress of our students; one that could be consistently reported across subjects and was teacher-led. The system we devised was very simplistic (deliberately so) and used existing tools from both GL Assessment (the Cognitive Abilities Test (CAT4),) and The Fischer Family Trust to support and triangulate teacher judgements about progress and potential attainment.
At this point, we looked for a solution to ensure that there could be some validation of progress across classes and between schools, utilising the collective expertise in our Trust Subject Committees.
One option was to devise our own set of assessments that could be cross-moderated between schools. Had we taken this approach, then the workload for staff could have been significant, not only in marking and moderating the tests but also, if we were to use these assessments to greatest effect, then completing and carrying out a question level analysis.
So, the option we finally went for was to use GL Assessment’s Progress Test Series, consisting of the Progress Test in English (PTE), Progress Test in Maths (PTM) and Progress Test in Science (PTS). We chose this option for three reasons:
- To provide question level analysis on attainment in Years 7 and 8, against a national benchmark, which aids the review of our Key Stage 3 core subjects’ curriculum.
- To annually standardise and quality assure internal Attainment and Progress data.
- To reduce workload for staff by providing externally marked summative assessment in Key Stage 3.
We have now been using these assessments across Cambridge Meridian Academies Trust for four years. We have evidence of where the information provided to our Subject Committees about the gaps in knowledge and understanding in core subjects has led to changes in the curriculum, to ensure we are supporting the progress of all students effectively.
Specifically, it has highlighted the need to focus more carefully on the knowledge base in Science, which led to changes in curriculum provision including the introduction of 5-a-day quizzes to support students’ progress. In maths we identified that our students were not performing as highly above the national benchmark in problem solving as they were in other areas, so these colleagues have been developing lesson plans and schemes of work to incorporate more opportunities to develop these skills.
We are still learning and always view this data and information as providing questions to ask ourselves, rather than answers to respond to. This helps to encourage curiosity about our curriculum, rather than certainty about any individual’s attainment. These assessments have helped to benchmark our own internal data and given us greater confidence that our students across the trust are making as much, if not more progress than their peers nationally over their Key Stage 3 journey through Years 7 and 8.
Swavesey Village College, Cambridge is one of our Centres of Assessment Excellence