NGRT allows us to work in an extremely targeted way, not only with the interventions we provide but also the teaching strategies and support that subject staff are providing across the curriculum to develop reading skills.
Rhys Evans, Headteacher, St Julian’s School in Newport

Using NGRT to measure the impact of school improvement

St Julian’s School in Newport is using the New Group Reading Test to identify the underpinning skills that are limiting pupils’ attainment at GCSE as early as possible. This case study explains how the school is using the assessment to proactively plan skill development across all subjects.

St Julian’s School is a mixed English medium 11-18 comprehensive school in the north east of Newport. Just over 20% of the pupils are entitled to receive free school meals, which is only just 3% higher than the national average. There are currently 1,539 pupils on the school roll. The school is in a Red support category and was placed in Estyn monitoring after its inspection visit in December 2014. Estyn’s recommendations included a focus on raising standards.

St Julian’s has recognised that the key to long term sustainable progress and an improvement in standards for all pupils, not just those currently in Year 11, is to focus on identifying the underpinning skills that are limiting pupils’ attainment at GCSE as early as possible. The school has recently purchased GL Assessment’s Complete Digital Solution®, a collection of online assessments that includes the New Group Reading Test® (NGRT), in order to provide a reliable baseline of pupils’ current skill level for reading and other literacy and numeracy skills. Through the school’s initial analysis of NGRT results for Year 7, they have found that 53% of pupils in the current Year 7 have a reading age below their chronological age.

Head teacher, Rhys Evans explains, “With so many pupils reading at a level below their chronological age, the results from the National Reading Test will be of limited value. Using assessment information from NGRT now linked with skill pathways from the Literacy Framework, has really helped us proactively plan for skill development in interventions and across all subjects.”

What assessment tools do teachers need in Wales?

The National Reading and Numeracy Tests in Wales are a good first indicator of whether pupils’ reading skills are where they should be. Often though, there are multiple factors that affect how well a pupil does on a test. The National Reading Tests in Wales also are great in that they test only the skills in the two year groups that match the chronological age of the pupil. So, if a particularly bright Year 7 pupil received their diagnostic results for the Year 6/7 Reading Test they might all be ranked green, but this doesn’t help teachers identify how far above the Year 7 skills that pupil is currently operating at.

NGRT has now been mapped directly to both skills from the Literacy Framework and the exact year groups that are covered in the test. The adaptive test allows schools to identify which skills pupils have mastered and which year group statements need more support in order for pupils to develop further.

Literacy Coordinator Rhiannon Baskerville explains how the school has used GL Assessment’s standardised tests: “NGRT complements the National Reading Test extremely well. We know pupils have to sit the national tests, but we don’t want teaching to focus solely on passing the test. We want to make a lasting difference to pupils’ reading. NGRT allows us to work in an extremely targeted way, not only with the interventions we provide but also the teaching strategies and support that subject staff are providing across the curriculum to develop reading skills. This has already been quite a journey for us, but one we have confidence will raise standards in all areas of the curriculum. The early signs of improvement are extremely encouraging.”

How did the school use NGRT to make a difference to pupil outcomes?

Staff at St Julian’s analysed the NGRT data for pupils to clearly define which reading skills were the priority for development, highlighting decoding, but also inference and deduction as targets. Staff also used the detailed analysis provided in group reports to identify specific cohorts and analyse how they were performing. For example, all of the pupils in the very top performance group for reading were boys, which was a surprise to staff but also had implications for how boys in the lower quartiles might be supported.

The school is now setting out plans for how analysis will influence the reading comprehension teaching strategies due to be launched across the curriculum. How the girls will be pushed to develop and match the boys’ performance at the very highest levels, as well as how they will address those pupils currently sitting just above the criteria for inclusion in withdrawal interventions.

How did NGRT improve planning & quality of teaching?

Plans at St Julian’s to create a Donaldson-ready school that addresses the four purposes of the new curriculum, as outlined in Successful Futures, now focus clearly on creating ambitious, capable learners who have the reading skills they need to engage deeply with subjects and think critically about that subject content. Subject staff who previously had limited understanding of how children learn to read and how best to support that development, now have defined, practical strategies suitable for their subject. By understanding exactly what their pupils can currently do, teachers and leaders have been empowered with resources and information to see what their next steps should be and what those steps look like in the context of their subject.

How will St Julian’s evaluate the impact of this strategy?

St Julian’s is using a collaborative planning model to trial new strategies and will be retesting pupils using the online adaptive NGRT, and once again analysing the test results against the Literacy Framework Skill Mapping. This will enable staff to see exactly how much improvement pupils have made against Literacy Framework skill pathways for each of the new strategies they are trialling.

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