Part 1: New PiRA and New PUMA - A behind the scenes look at our Autumn trialling

Based on feedback from teachers like you we’re happy to be publishing brand new editions of PiRA and PUMA in Autumn 2020, otherwise known as New PiRA and New PUMA! When creating these assessments we trialled them on over 10,000 pupils per test suite, and we thought you might like to take a behind the scenes look at the process that the papers go through before they reach you.

Our trial schools

Between November and December 2019, over 1,400 children per year group (Years 1 to 6) took part in the Autumn assessment trial (these same children will be part of the Spring and Summer paper trials and will be joined by Reception pupils from their schools). The schools chosen are nationally representative, taking into consideration school size, location, and percentage of EAL and SEN pupils. In order to generate robust, extended age-standardised norms for children who are working outside of their year age range, pupils in Years 2 to 6 also took the paper from the year below.

New PiRA and New PUMA

As the curriculum has embedded over the past few years, our data has shown us that attainment has improved and the mean scores on tests has increased. New PiRA and New PUMA address these changes in 2 distinct ways:
1. The re-standardisation provides us with new mean scores that represent current attainment.
2. We’ve added some harder questions that challenge pupils working at greater depth, providing teachers with further diagnostic information and differentiation among these children.

You asked and we updated

Based on feedback, Autumn Years 5 and 6 papers have gained an additional 5 marks worth of more challenging questions. What’s more, all years have had some questions replaced by harder ones, in many places emphasising inference and vocabulary. This more closely matches the balance of domains tested in current National Curriculum tests.

The questions in all 3 terms, for each year group, have been re-arranged so that content works alongside popular block teaching methods such as White Rose Maths and Maths Mastery. In Autumn, these emphasise number and operations. We’ve also drawn on some strands from prior year content in order to maintain a balanced test and address all strands. The new editions were also deliberately made harder by the inclusion of 5 extra challenging marks in each KS2 test.

Crunching the numbers

Standardised scores and full diagnostics will be available later in the year ready for first usage of the tests, but for the moment 1 thing jumped out at us from our Autumn dataset: The results of the Autumn standardisation provided a comparable picture to those found in our 2018 white paper on the effects of age, gender and school type on primary maths and reading attainment. Girls do better than boys in reading tests, and boys do better than girls in mathematics tests.

In our white paper, the percentage point difference in reading performance between girls and boys showed girls close to 4% ahead for every year group. As you can see, the picture seen in our Autumn standardisation shows very similar performance trends.

In our white paper, the percentage point difference in maths performance between boys and girls showed girls slightly ahead of boys in Year 1, then boys overtaking girls and showing an increasing difference, peaking at 4% higher in mid-KS2. As you can see, our Autumn standardisation shows very similar performance trends.

It is incredibly reassuring to see our latest standardisation cohort performing extremely similarly to the much larger sample of over 1.5 million test results taken from the MARK database used in our white paper!

The journey continues

Join us next time, for the second part of this series, when we’ll discuss how the order of New PUMA means that the papers can be used alongside White Rose Maths and Maths Mastery. We’ll explore why this means that pupils will answer questions relating only to what they’ve covered, and how this relates to the increase in marks and extra questions.

Charlotte Hiorns, Assessment Commissioning Editor



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