The data challenge for junior schools

Published 22/11/2018

As a number of pupils tend to join junior schools without any Key Stage 1 data, we typically face a data challenge from word go. At our school, we are also faced with high rates of pupil mobility as we have a number of service children on our roll. This makes the challenge even greater. 

Typically, a class in its journey through our school will experience around 50% turbulence – in other words, the number of leavers plus joiners divided by the number on our roll. Given this context, standardised assessments are vital to help us understand our pupils as soon as they arrive.

Reviewing our approach to assessment

For many years, we have used the Cognitive Abilities Test (CAT4) for all children on entry to provide us with an understanding of each child’s abilities and what their potential may be. We do this both in Year 3 and whenever new children join the school. It lets us quickly see where we need to provide extra support or set more challenging targets, and governors welcome the information, too. 

Curriculum and assessment go hand in hand, so when we started to implement curriculum change a few years ago, we wanted to review our approach to assessment at the same time. Our governors were also keen to see benchmarked data for each year group, not just for Years 3 and 6. We wanted assessments that had a high level of consistency and we were also keen on the national benchmarks so that we could capture our pupils’ progress and attainment relative to other children, not just the curriculum. This is when we began to roll out the Complete Digital Solution (CDS).  

CDS is a package of 11 assessments from GL Assessment, which offers us unlimited use of the assessments we need – including attainment tests (such as the Progress Tests in English, Maths and Science, the New Group Reading Test and, of course, CAT4).

 We rolled it out slowly, however teachers embraced it very quickly due to the range and breadth of information that it gave them. It has also helped them to secure their own teacher assessment judgements for all subjects. Through using CDS, we have found that our pupils attain and progress better than the national average, which is something we are very proud of. Importantly, it has also made a big difference to our pupils’ confidence in themselves.  

Last year, a small group of service pupils joined us in Year 6. Their previous data suggested that they had low ability but CAT4 soon challenged this. Using this data, we have been able to set much higher expectations and aspirations for these children – for both the teachers and the pupils themselves. It gave us the evidence we needed to give them the message that they were able children and could achieve well. Indeed, they went on to make significant progress during the course of the year, which we could evidence by the other assessments within CDS.  

In terms of its time saving and particularly the information it gives us, we would say that CDS demonstrates excellent value for money. It’s not an add on; it’s part of what we do. Sharing the results has become part of our annual assessment cycle and parents are always interested to see them – they act as a basis for excellent home-school discussions. 

Having effective assessment on entry allows us to get to know each and every child and to start to plan their curriculum appropriately. That way, no matter how long the children are with us, we can make an impact.