Five ways (MARK and) MARK Plus can help your school when there aren’t any National Tests

This summer, for the second year in a row, our primary pupils didn’t sit national tests. And so far, from discussions with the schools I support, it seems that the annual league tables are not missed! However, the SATS aren’t just used by the DfE to rank schools, the outcomes are also used by schools themselves for self-evaluation and school improvement planning, and this aspect of the missing results is more of a problem. However, help is at hand. RS Assessments’ PUMA, PiRA, GAPS and NTS Maths and Reading tests, together with the comprehensive new dashboards in MARK Plus, can help fill in the gaps. Let’s have a look at five ways MARK Plus can help us.

1. View student attainment at a glance with the Pupil Performance Dashboard

Firstly, we can see the percentage of students working towards, at expected standard or at greater depth at the end of each key stage for each subject. The Pupil Performance Dashboard in MARK Plus saves time and effort by showing percentages and numbers of students attaining each band for all the tests on one easy to access page (either PUMA/PiRA/GAPs or NTS Reading/Maths), enabling immediate comparison. The figures are based on highly reliable tests, so can be compared to previous and subsequent years’ SATS results with confidence, to create year on year trends, and can be viewed for the year group or by class. Looking forwards, they can be used alongside teacher judgement to provide prior attainment information, enabling a smooth transition for our pupils to the next key stage and also from primary to secondary school. In the example below, I would be investigating what strategies should be put in place to ensure our future top attaining pupils are getting the higher standard in GAPS as well as Maths and Reading.

2. Compare your school's performance with the Similar Schools Dashboard

So the first step is the evaluation of robust assessments within our school, but next we need to consider how our pupils fared compared to pupils nationally in each subject. Have they done better? If so, why? Whatever we were doing, can we do it again? Or if they did not do as well as other pupils, what can we change to improve outcomes next year? We are currently lacking the national comparisons and breakdowns provided in the ASP and on the Compare Schools website. Well I have good news, MARK Plus also includes a Similar Schools Dashboard that will compare our school’s performance to other demographically similar schools using MARK, and also all MARK schools in England for each assessment.

3. Identify areas for development with the Contextual Group Dashboard

For effective self-evaluation though, overall figures don’t give the full story. To be able to plan future teaching and learning strategies at whole school and class level we need to be able to drill down and find out where the areas for development are, and establish actions to improve them. Firstly, the Contextual Group Dashboard enables us to see results in each subject for a range of contextual groups including Pupil Premium, EAL, SEND and Looked After Children. Below, we can see that our Pupil Premium group has attained considerably better in the NTS Maths than our non-Pupil Premium group. Of courses we need to check the number of students in this group before we get too excited, but it’s looking as if our use of Pupil Premium Funding is effective!

4. Identify strengths to build on with the Strand Analysis Dashboard 

In addition, we can use the Strand Analysis Dashboard to drill down into each subject to identify strengths to build on, as well as weak areas for development. If we are looking at the end of KS1, this will be invaluable for our KS2 teachers, showing clearly the gaps that need filling in before starting the KS2 curriculum. And for both KS1 and KS2 we can use this information to make changes to teaching and learning strategies going forwards. To put our school’s performance into context, the national average for each strand is shown. We might find that our strengths and weaknesses match up with those of the national sample this year! The example below shows the NTS Maths strands Algebra, Measurement, Ratio and proportion, Statistics, Geometry, Number, Calculations and Fractions. Without the national comparator, we might not have noticed that there is a need to work on Algebra and Geometry with this group.

5. Keep an eye on progress using the Progress Matrix Dashboard

And finally let’s think about that key performance indicator ‘Progress’. How do we evaluate and demonstrate our students’ progress across each Key Stage without it? The Progress Matrix Dashboard view in MARK Plus allows us to view progress between two tests for pupils grouped by their starting point, using sub-divisions of the main performance indicator groups. We can quickly see what proportion of our pupils have remained consistent from their starting point, have dropped to a lower band, or have risen to a higher band. If we are looking for positive progress overall, we are looking for our pupils to remain consistent from their starting points, and preferably showing added value by rising to the next band up.


So we have compared our test results with national comparators and similar schools, investigated the attainment of our various pupil groups, discovered subject strengths and weaknesses, and identified pupils not making expected progress. What next? RS Assessment’s new Shine Intervention Reports for groups and individuals will equip you with the tools to put relevant, targeted and effective intervention in place. For more information on Shine and how to sign up, click here 

Rebecca St John is a school assessment and performance data specialist and trainer passionate about helping schools and multi academy trusts use data effectively to improve outcomes.



Assessment, mark

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