High Street Primary School's adoption of GAPS, PiRA and PUMA

About the school

High Street Primary Academy is a small school in a challenging area of Plymouth with high levels of economic deprivation. Nearly 70% of pupils are eligible for pupil premium, and many start school significantly below their expected level of development. Oracy is a big issue for the school, along with boosting attainment in reading (which is an ongoing improvement priority).

PiRA, PUMA and GAPS were recently introduced across the schools in the MAT in response to concerns over the accuracy of teacher judgements. High Street Primary School has just come to the end of their first year of using the tests.

The case study below is based on an interview with the Literacy Coordinator, so the focus is on PiRA and GAPS.

How the tests support our literacy assessment

PiRA gives us consistency of judgement. It also starts developing test technique amongst our children; they don’t have to wait until Year 2 or Year 6 to see their first test paper. It takes the pressure off those year groups and pupils grow used to taking tests, so it’s a less stressful experience when they sit their SATs.

With the grammar curriculum, it can be hard to find the evidence of whether a pupil is meeting a specific statement in their writing and the extent to which this has been achieved independently. In the GAPS test, it’s clear cut, and it’s easy to see what they can and can’t do. This in turn helps us to develop writing skills, so that they become better writers.

Having a set of standardised assessments means that there’s no wriggle room; everyone’s held to the same level of accountability, and our judgements are consistent and accurate across the school and MAT. There are a lot of ‘woolly’ assessment statements in the National Curriculum, whereas in Year 2 and Year 6 SATs it doesn’t matter if they enjoy poetry, or can read for a range of purposes. The tests keep us focused on assessing progress and attainment against the statements that count in the SATs.

The test content is a good match to the curriculum; as a Year 6 teacher they reflect what I would expect to see in a SATs paper.

How easy are the tests to use?

We’ve not found it onerous to administer or mark the tests. Marking takes about the same time as marking a set of books and you get a good feel for what each pupil is capable of.

How do you use the data?

The class teachers enter their results into a table template and then compare each set of results with those from previous tests, to identify the under achievers. As Literacy Lead, I also look at the data and we discuss this at progress meetings focusing on the children whose progress is above or below expectations. We see how many are on track to reach the expected standard by the end of the year. We also look at performance across the year groups to identify potential gaps in understanding at a cohort level, which would need to be addressed through planning and teaching.

The standardised scores are very similar to the scaled score, and they correlate well with SATs outcomes. Generally, if they score 100 or higher in the spring they tend to achieve a scaled score of 100 or above in their SATs.

Who is the data shared with?

Our SLT sees the data, and they will pay closer attention to particular pupils to see if they’re making expected progress. The Headteacher also reports back to governors. Data is submitted to the Trust for tracking, to identify trends and patterns across the schools.

Communicating with parents and pupils

Sharing each pupil’s standardised score with their parents has been a very useful way of showing them where their child sits in terms of national expectations. It keeps them on board. Reporting a numerical score takes away the subjectivity and makes it feel less personal if a pupil isn’t doing as well as they should.

In upper KS2, children want to know their standardised scores, and they’re keen to see how much progress they’ve made. In Year 6 they know what they should be getting and like to track their upward progress. It’s a motivational tool and, depending on the pupil, it can also give them a wakeup call if they’re not doing as well as they should.

Looking ahead

We have quite a number of pupils working below the expected standard in English, and teachers have been giving them papers from lower year groups. I’d like them to use the correct test for the year group so that we can put in place interventions and track their progress. From my point of view, the data will be even more valuable if we’re comparing like with like.

I would recommend it to schools looking for a more reliable and robust approach to assessment. At the end of the day, schools are judged on their end of stage data, so it shouldn’t just be the Year 2 and Year 6 teachers’ responsibilities to prepare pupils for the tests. The tests are in line with the SATS papers, and that’s what schools are after. 

Based on a discussion with the Y6 teacher and literacy coordinator at High Street Primary School, part of the Reach South Academy Trust.

High Street Primary Academy
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