In my role as an independent school data consultant I work with schools and multi-academy trusts to ensure that assessment data leads directly to impact in the classroom and contributes to improvement of outcomes. Part of what I do in my role involves helping MATs to develop a plan for their MAT-wide assessment.
There are many challenges for a MAT trying to create a robust assessment policy. Here are some hints and tips for approaching these challenges and creating a successful plan.
- Review existing practices within each school to identify strengths and ideas that you can continue, as well as finding out what established policies they could find hard to adapt or move away from.
- Take different schools’ contexts into account when creating your policy, especially if it involves setting targets. Figures will only give you part of the story.
- When collecting data from schools, allow for an accompanying narrative but keep it to specific questions/areas or it will not be useful.
Alignment versus autonomy
How much should a MAT mandate to its schools? It’s great to be able to recognise the diversity of the member schools and to want each to retain its own unique identity but there is also value in strong quality assurance systems, and overall monitoring of real time data. It’s much easier to compare apples with apples when teachers and senior leadership teams speak a common assessment language.
- Identify common or autonomous processes. Be very clear about which processes will be common across all schools, and which processes schools are free to undertake their own path.
- Do not expect everything to run perfectly in the first year. Identify potential pitfalls in terms of implementing a roll-out and expect that you may have to make a few adjustments.
- Remember improvement is on ongoing process and you will hit snags along the way – a trial period may be a good idea to review practices.
How reliable, valid and comparable are your schools’ assessments, and how do you know? Internally designed tests and teacher assessment are essential and extremely valuable, but we should be aware that different schools and different teachers may be basing their tests and assessments on different criteria.
- Make sure the assessments that you choose are reliable, valid and enable you to:
- Compare cohorts across schools
- Benchmark cohorts within the national picture
- Identify pockets of underachievement
- Track and monitor groups
The last thing you want to do as a MAT leader is to increase each school’s workload with regards to assessment, data collection and data provision to the MAT.
- Make sure the assessments that you enable you to:
- Quickly and easily benchmark new schools joining the trust
- Are quick and easy to administrate, perhaps with online marking
- Assign a member of senior staff to lead on assessment across the whole Trust.
- Make sure you have strong administrative support and a point of contact with test providers and academies – a strong Trust Data Manager who really understands the assessments.
From a workload point of view, GL Assessment’s standardised tests are a real time-saver. They can be taken online and the school-level results are provided quickly and automatically to schools in an easy-to-analyse format.
In addition, the results from each school feed are collated into MAT level ‘Impact Reports’, enabling MAT leaders to focus on analysis rather than the collection of data and endless spreadsheets.
By taking the time to plan the development of your Trust-wide assessment policy carefully, this will ensure that you have a robust system in place that helps improve outcomes and saves on workload – enabling you to focus your time on interpretation and planning.