About East Midlands Academy Trust
East Midlands Academy Trust believes that every child deserves to be the best they can, and this philosophy is at the heart of their approach to teaching and assessment.
Orchard Academy, the most recent school in the MAT to be inspected in February 2018, was praised for raising pupils’ outcomes in mathematics and reading. The inspector commented that the school has “wisely focused on bedding in the new approach to tracking pupils’ progress. The system now provides you with a comprehensive picture of pupils’ progress, including the progress of different groups of pupils.” The school shares a rating of ‘good’ with Hardingstone Academy and Castle Academy, both inspected at the end of 2016. Shepherdswell Academy is an ‘Outstanding’ school.
There are seven schools in the Trust: five primary schools, one all through Academy, and one secondary school. The primary year groups across the Trust started using PiRA and PUMA in September 2015, prompted by the removal of National Curriculum Levels. After careful research into the range of standardised tests available to schools, they selected these tests to underpin their assessment strategy on the basis that they met their range of assessment needs most comprehensively.
Reasons for choosing PiRA and PUMA
With the removal of the ‘crutch’ of National Curriculum Levels, Head of School Development across the Trust, Katy Russell realised the importance of putting in place a robust, consistent way of monitoring and tracking progress and attainment. Staff in the schools needed a common language to discuss progress, and the Trust was looking for a reliable tool which enabled comparisons to be made across the schools. With PiRA and PUMA, they would have access to standardised scores, giving a national benchmark for pupils’ results.
The tests have provided the framework around which the MAT has based their assessment strategy and, while Katy concedes that ‘there is no such thing as a perfect test’, they believe that coupled with teacher observations and low stakes daily Assessment for Learning, they are able to create a holistic picture of pupils’ progress. Crucially, Ofsted supports this view.
Using the tests
Having access to reliable assessment tools is only part of the picture. It’s the implementation and ability to use the data that really makes a difference for this MAT.
The Trust allocates a week every term for schools to set the tests, and year groups are encouraged to sit them under similar conditions to ensure that that there are as few variables as possible in the test experience for children, as this can impact on the results. The ‘formality’ of the test experience is, of course, dependent on the age of the children.
The scores are entered into SIMS mark sheets, and the data is collated across the Trust. Every term, Assessment Leads at each school meet to compare and discuss the results of the cohorts.
Individual results are discussed in pupil progress meetings held within each school, to flag those who’ve made less than expected progress. Test scores are part of the evidence, but decisions about progress also take into account children’s books and teachers’ own assessment judgements.
The type of intervention support varies from possibly just providing extra support during the lesson, to putting in place a more structured intervention programme.
In summary, “It’s giving us the information we need to be successful,” says Katy Russell.
How easy is it to use the tests?
The tests are easy to administer while the marking is straight forward and ‘well worth the effort’.
It’s important to get the balance right between providing consistency and structure across the schools, while allowing individual senior leadership teams to make the choices that are right for their school. For example, some of the schools are using MARK, Hodder’s free online reporting and analysis platform, and value the additional insights it provides. Others have opted against doing so as they may have different priorities. While it offers significant benefits to schools, imposing MARK across all would be heavy handed, and probably counter-productive.
The plan is to continue embedding the system they’ve put in place.
Would she recommend the tests to other schools?
“Definitely. It’s worked for us.”
With East Midlands Academy Trust making up just some of the many schools involved in ongoing research with Hodder Education, we look forward to seeing the Trust going from strength to strength.
Based on an interview with Katy Russell, the Head of school development for East Midlands Academy Trust