1. How are you using this resource?
Over the last 5 years, we’ve been using PIRA, PUMA and GAPS 3 times a year for Years 1-6 and twice a year for Reception. For example, our graduating cohort of 2020/21 have been taking them since Year 2. Through reading the Hodder Scores we can see the ‘value add’ if they exceed that prediction, it’s a great way to assess the impact of the school’s teaching on each pupil. We can then feed this information back to the board of governors and parents as evidence of excellence at the school. It’s really nice to have the longitudinal data and also to be able to say at a glance that a child is performing at exactly the same rate that they have over the last few years. We can show stability in learning, but also ‘moments of excellence’ where a child has exceeded our expectations. Particularly at the end of every term we’re able to say if this area of reading or that area of maths hasn’t been covered in as much detail as needed, it gives the class teacher a bit more information.
2. Why did you choose this resource?
As a British Curriculum school in India we conferred with another school in Delhi to see what they were using. We were using self-assessment SATs, we didn’t have an external benchmark tool to see if the school was on track, or just to see how fantastic we are! When the previous Head of Primary left, I recommitted to PIRA, PUMA and GAPS because I find it extremely useful, and I think the thing I find best about it is that it’s so non-invasive for the kids. The tests are short. The testing process is not stressful, and in all the years that I’ve been running it we’ve never had anyone tell us that our assessment period is a stressful part of the year. Nobody wants to put young primary children in a pressurised assessment scenario, and the guidance around administering these tests really focusses on supporting the students rather than just generating data.
3. Is the resource flexible? How?
We also use the tests as part of our entry test so they’re very good for general assessment of where a pupil is. We test the suitability of pupils for their expected grade level, we have used them for prospective pupils as we get students joining us from a lot of different school systems so it’s harder to discern whether a child will be working at the same level as the class. It’s nice because it covers every areas of learning on the curriculum so you can get a good picture of what they would have already covered and what they won’t have studied yet under a different curriculum. We also use them to establish learning levels for lower achieving pupils.
4. How has it helped to direct your teaching plans?
The expectation is that each teacher will go through the summary results and can then go through in more detail with individual pupils. They then write an analysis of where those pupils are and then write a plan for the term and how they’ll meet the needs of those pupils. It gives the teachers the chance to reflect on their own practice. We try to do that collaboratively so that they have the opportunity to discuss individual pupils with their colleagues, and in particular colleagues who have taught that pupil in previous years. It gives really useful information on individual pupil needs throughout the year across the curriculum.
5. Is there anything you would change about the tests?
Not really! Last year we did the autumn tests and the we locked down right before the teachers were about to administer the spring tests, and we were a little discombobulated. This year we did the online tests for the first time and they were super easy to administer and obviously the results come instantaneously. We would have everyone log in from home with the teachers monitoring and it worked really really well. We used the paper tests for many years and they were easy to mark and easy to input the results, and they were really worth it for the flexibility you have in analysing the results.
6. Would you recommend this resource to other schools? Why?
I definitely would. I think the diagnostic side is much more useful than a teacher written test or just a teacher’s judgment based on looking at the work. It’s very targeted and you get a very accurate idea without the test being overly judgmental. The scores aren’t so aggressive that you feel you’re judging people, it’s just a picture of what that child can do and I think that really helps teachers inform their next steps of planning in a supportive way.
7. Any other comments:
We don’t usually share the results with parents, mainly because we use them diagnostically, but for parents that do inquire about them then we do send the individual report. Generally we also share the test guidance with parents, and when we administered the online tests they had to sit them with their parents. We explain that the tests are wide-ranging and will cover a child who is highly exceeding the grade expectations. If your child gets 60% that’s exactly where we want them to be. In our reporting we say that we use the tests to inform the teacher judgment. The best result is when the test results show you exactly what you were expecting. Occasionally you get a test result that doesn’t quite align with your expectations but you just explore that further. If we’re doing a good job, then the test results and the teacher judgment will align very closely.