Basic Number Screening Test | The standardised numeracy test of choice for Catch Up

The Catch Up Numeracy intervention was developed in 2007 and 2008 and, during this research, Basic Number Screening Test (BNST) was the standardised test of choice in assessing and evaluating the learning impact of Catch Up Numeracy. Since then, Catch Up has continued to use BNST in its own research projects. In addition, we encourage schools to use standardised test scores to help them in identifying which pupils need the additional one-to-one support which Catch Up Numeracy provides and we recommend BNST.

Catch Up also provides tracking tools so that, by using pre- and post-intervention test scores from BNST, schools can measure the difference that the additional Catch Up Numeracy support that they provide is making. So, BNST can be used as a screening test but it also has the advantage of having been standardised so that it can be used to measure progression.

Over the 14 years that Catch Up has been recommending that schools use BNST, the test has been updated several times so that it takes account of the current curriculum, teaching and learning requirements. But the various versions of the test have continued to be straightforward to administer with the resulting pupil data being reliable, valid and easy to access. This new version of BNST benefits from a really comprehensive review, including updating the test standardisation. There are also other developments including this revised version now being applicable for pupils aged from 5 years old to 14 years old. Here at Catch Up, we will be using the test as part of our research with Reception-age pupils.

Catch Up Numeracy is a structured one-to-one intervention for learners who find numeracy difficult and we have found BNST to be particularly suitable because it has a focus on number development rather than the broader maths concepts that would be expected between age 5 and age 14. This is particularly important because research shows that learning more advanced and higher order maths concepts is very problematic if a learner has gaps in their numeracy and number knowledge.

The test can be used by any professional who is working with pupils in schools and elsewhere, including teachers and Teaching Assistants. The script for administering the test is clear and can be used for group testing or one-to-one testing. One-to-one testing is an excellent feature that is particularly relevant for pupils who may be struggling with their understanding of number and number operations. A pupil’s attitude and confidence can have a very real impact on their learning and, for a pupil who already feels they are dropping behind and ‘failing’, sitting a group test can be a very negative experience. But a high quality, one-to-one test can provide a much more positive experience. Also, the test is designed so that, when used on a one-to-one basis, the test is stopped after a pupil makes three errors and is around their ‘natural ceiling’. This avoids a pupil having to work to the end of the test and having to tackle questions that may be far too difficult which can then lead to the pupil experiencing failure unnecessarily.  

The raw scores from the questions can be used in a variety of ways, for example, to produce a number age which is particularly useful when tracking individual pupils. The test manual also enables age-standardised or standardised scores to be produced. These allow a pupil’s score to take account of their age when compared to the national average or to look at how a pupil is doing compared to pupils of the same age. The questions that the pupil answers in the test have been cross referenced to the National Curriculum and a pupil’s answer can be compared to how well similar aged children in the standardisation group answered the questions. The benefits and processes for all of these analyses and comparisons, and more, are clearly explained in the manual which gives guidance on how to administer the test. This means staff can be trained quickly but with the confidence of knowing that the test will be administered to a consistently high standard. 

Overall, BNST can provide an even wider range of high quality information about a pupil’s numeracy learning and for an extended age range, but in a pupil friendly way.


#numeracy, Assessment, baseline, baseline assessment, key stage 1, key stage 2, KS1, ks2, ks3, Maths, SEN, SENCO

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