About the school
Melbury Primary School is a medium sized school in an inner-city council estate in Nottingham, where 47% of pupils are eligible for free school meals. Because of high levels of parental unemployment, pupils have limited life experiences, and the school invests a significant amount of funding into providing a wide range of enrichening activities for the pupils. The school shares the challenge faced by many other primaries, where fluctuating ability and SEN makeup of each cohort can see significant changes in attainment scores from year to year.
The school has been using PiRA and PUMA for several years, and more recently adopted GAPS.
Why did you adopt GAPS, PiRA and PUMA
Like many schools, when the new National Curriculum was introduced, we were looking for a clear and straight forward way of showing pupil progress. Because the tests generate a standardised score, we would be able track this from test to test and immediately see whether the score was going up, down or staying the same. Because the tests have a consistent format, ensuring pupils have the same test ‘experience’ time on time, and the tests are internally consistent, each pupil should get approximately the same result in each test.
Adopting the tests has meant we’ve avoided going down the checklist approach of ‘three ticks for every objective’, where you spend all your time weighing the pig, not feeding it. A quick test once a term is more efficient and frees us up to get on with teaching.
This year, our Year 6 SATs results have been much lower than in previous years, because of the makeup of the cohort. So although we’re a ‘good school’, I’m expecting this to trigger an Ofsted inspection. The Hodder data will be part of the evidence that we’re able to put in front of the inspector to show the progress and attainment of this year group and explain the results. For governors, too, it’s a clear way of presenting our progress and attainment data, giving them the reassurance that the school is maintaining its standards. We’re also hoping the data will reflect school improvement priorities and justify investment in key areas.
One of the challenges for the SLT is that teachers’ appraisals and performance management are linked to progress. Although we trust our staff, we need to ensure that progress isn’t inadvertently inflated. The test scores are a useful way of supporting teachers’ own judgements of the progress pupils are making. We’re a small school, and we monitor teachers’ medium to long term plans, so we have a good grip on what’s going on. I’m confident that none of our staff ‘teach to the test’.
Using the tests to inform teaching and planning
The tests are closely aligned to the National Curriculum, so are good for checking coverage, particularly for GPS and Maths. It’s different for reading, because the curriculum isn’t so clearly defined. Each teacher marks their own pupils’ tests, ‘chunking’ the answer sheet into blocks. They keep notes as they mark to log any patterns in children’s responses. If they pick up that groups of children are getting certain questions wrong, it’s a cue to pick this up in their planning. For example, if in Year 6 they get every shape question wrong, you’d see that in your marking and instinctively know there’s an issue.
Based on an interview with Stephanie, Deputy Head and SENCo at Melbury Primary School