How Rushey Mead use PiRA, PUMA and Optional Tests to identify gaps in children's learning

We are a large inner-city school in Leicester with 630 pupils on roll, approximately 95% of whom speak English as an Additional Language. Due to our school’s rapid transition from two-form to three-form entry in 2015, 43% of our current Year 5 and 6 children joined the school at varying points in Key Stage 2.

These wide ranging starting points have made gap analysis through the use of accurate and reliable assessments paramount. Our ongoing assessments, including the use of Rising Stars’ PIRA, PUMA and Optional Tests, are continually informing our teaching in order to address gaps in learning and maximise the progress of all our pupils.
We chose to adopt the PIRA and PUMA tests because, unlike past papers, they are fully aligned with the current National Curriculum and are appropriately challenging, ensuring that the children become accustomed to the demands of the new SATs papers. The tests have successfully supported us in identifying gaps in our pupils’ understanding and enabled us to address these as quickly as possible. Using MARK, we have been able to analyse our pupils’ performance in these tests and identify areas of weakness, which MARK helpfully breaks down into clear curriculum strands.
The outcomes of the PIRA assessments have been used to inform our teaching of Guided and Shared Reading, ensuring that these sessions are focused on the skills and strategies needed to address the areas of weakness identified. For example, last year, the spring term PIRA test identified my class’ ability to explain language and structure as a strength, however, their use of evidence from the texts to support their inferences was less strong. In subsequent Guided and Shared Reading sessions, I reduced my emphasis on language and structure in order to focus on how to form good responses using evidence. I was also able to use MARK to identify pupils who were experiencing particular difficulty in this area and ensured that they received additional support during these sessions. The summer term PIRA test showed much improved comprehension as a result of this focus and therefore clearly evidenced the progress made by my pupils over the last term.
Similarly, the outcomes of the PUMA tests have allowed us to ensure that we are systematically identifying and addressing the gaps in our children’s learning during maths lessons or through focused interventions. The PUMA tests cover a range of maths strands within each test, which has helped us to assess retention as well as gaps in learning. Last year, the spring PUMA test identified that my class had not retained all of their learning from an earlier statistics unit. I was then able to address this during the summer term.
As well as allowing us to promote good progress through gap analysis, each test provides us with clear snapshots of the children’s attainment at three points in the year, allowing us to monitor their progress and attainment closely and consistently. The STA’s teacher assessment guidance states that tests can be used to justify teacher assessments – the PIRA and PIRA tests alongside the children’s other independent work will therefore form part of the evidence we present should we need to justify our assessments.
Optional Tests
Whilst the PIRA and PUMA tests form a part of our formative assessments throughout the year, our adoption of Rising Stars’ Optional Tests form a part of our summative assessment processes. We use the outcomes of the Optional Tests to inform our end-of-year teacher judgments and to ascertain how well our children are doing against national standards. MARK provides useful analysis of each child’s performance, which is useful to the children’s next teachers when determining focuses for the start of the next academic year. The tests also continue to expose children to SATs-style questions to ensure that they are more than familiar with these by the time they take the tests.


Thanks to Rahul Khunti, Year 6 Teacher at Rushey Mead Primary School, for the article.

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