Published on: 05 Feb 2020

The importance of reliable data at the point of entry

By Paul Bowlas, Executive Headteacher at The Federation of Holy Trinity CE Schools, Ripon

CAT4 as an online package is quick, non-threatening for children, easy to administer for staff and the data it provides is both highly useful and useable.

When the turbulence in your school population ranges from 30% to 70% each year it is essential to have reliable data at the point of entry. Without this, ensuring that the curriculum is fit for purpose, that targeted support is in place at the earliest possible point, and making sensible predictions about progress and attainment can be challenging. At The Federation of Holy Trinity CE Schools, Ripon we find the Cognitive Abilities Test 4 (CAT4) helps us address these issues by providing a curriculum-independent baseline for all our pupils.

Staff at our school have come to trust CAT4 as, over time, we have found that outcomes at the end of Key Stage 2 are very closely matched with CAT4 indicators. Therefore, staff are confident to use the reports CAT4 generates in order to have support conversations with parents, and work with them to design appropriate curriculum pathways for children of all abilities. This includes providing targeted interventions, pre-teaching and same day support where there are gaps in prior learning. In addition, and where appropriate, staff aim to revisit essential skills and knowledge when planning their curriculum, which in turn supports a ‘keep-up’ not ‘catch-up’ approach.

Many pupils entering schools in our federation have had multiple school moves and these are often linked to military postings. As a result, children have exposure to different curriculum progressions, themes and topics over time. This, coupled with each school having its own in-year assessment systems, makes it even more important for our teachers to have a deep understanding of our children’s capabilities. CAT4 covers verbal, non-verbal, quantitative and spatial reasoning. Our experience of the results these tests provide is that we receive helpful indicators of children’s learning bias and a statistically reliable understanding of academic capability at any point in time.

We do not believe in testing for testing’s sake and we try to limit the amount of formal testing children are exposed to in school. We are also very mindful of teacher workload and the impact of meeting the needs of mobile pupils. CAT4 as an online package is quick, non-threatening for children, easy to administer for staff and the data it provides is both highly useful and useable. The reports we can access are not only helpful on an individual pupil level but also provide useful data for leaders and governors.

Holy Trinity CE Junior School is one of our Advocate Partners