About the school
Long Crendon school is a high performing, single-form entry school in rural Buckinghamshire and is supported by aspirational staff and parents. Their performance in national tests is generally well above the national average, and their 2018 results are no exception: 90% achieved the expected standard in GPS, 93% in reading and 87% in mathematics.
The school is part of the Thame Partnership, which is comprised of twelve primaries and one secondary school, which helps to mitigate cut backs in support from their local authority. Long Crendon made the decision to adopt PiRA and PUMA when the responsibility for finding their own approach to measuring progress and attainment was passed onto schools. They wanted a standardised score, which allowed them to compare their data with the national picture. They also wanted to calibrate and measure progress, simply, for a range of stakeholders including parents. After a year of using the tests, the school encouraged the other primaries in the partnership to adopt them too, enabling them to share and compare results.
At the start of the 2017/18 year, Long Crendon bought into GAPS for Year 2 and Year 6.
How do PUMA and PiRA facilitate cross-school collaboration?
Adopting PiRA and PUMA across the partnership underpins meaningful conversations about school data, training requirements, and sharing good practice. It’s an invaluable tool for strategic and senior leadership decisions. It has made life so much easier.
When we look at the data, we’re looking for outliers, such as schools or year groups that have performed above or below the others, to enable us to put in place support or share what’s working. If there are common areas of weakness, we may buy in professional development across the schools, enabling us to work in a more joined-up, coordinated way. We can then use the test results to monitor the impact of the training. We’ve just agreed at our recent annual partnership meeting that we will continue to fund it from the partnership budget, which indicates the value and importance of the tests to all the Heads in the partnership.
What role does it play as a strategic management tool?
As a strategic management tool it gives a good overview of how the school as a whole is performing: I can’t tell you how many hours of work it’s saved us over the past couple of years. At a school level, we look at performance by strand within each test, and we will be looking to analyse this across the partnership too, in order to maximise the benefit of using the tests. The budget invested in using the tests across the schools is significant, so we want to show that it’s money well spent.
Generally speaking, teachers’ judgements are aligned with the test results. We encourage staff to use their professional judgement on the few instances where there might be variances between a test score, and their own assessment of a child’s ability.
Our governors like it because the data it provides is easily accessible, and they can see at a glance how many children are meeting or exceeding expectations. In the past, when we tried to use our own tracking system, there wasn’t an easy way of sharing and showing this with governors, because every school had their own system. We spent a lot time ticking boxes, which took our teachers a lot of time and didn’t tell us very much. So our governors are very happy with the information they now see.
Why did you decide to adopt GAPS?
Formal grammar teaching is relatively new for teachers: prior to the change in the curriculum in 2014, this wasn’t a requirement, and many teachers themselves lack confidence in teaching and assessing grammar skills. We discuss the data in pupil progress meetings, using it to inform decisions about ability groupings and how to support learning needs.
As with the other tests, the GAPS data has given us a useful yardstick to measure attainment and progress in GPS.
What does MARK offer?
MARK is a really powerful reporting tool which has saved us a huge amount of time and given us access to a range of reports and analyses for individual pupils, and for groups which require monitoring. It works out the expected progress for individuals and groups based on their score, allowing us to monitor actual against predicted progress from test to test, which is extremely useful.
The reporting is already set up in the system, so all we have to do is enter the raw scores for each child and the reports are generated automatically. You can bring up individual reports to show a child’s attainment and progress, and where they sit on a national distribution curve, along with their reading and mathematics age. For SEN children, we can monitor the impact of interventions, to show that they are making a difference.
The whole-class reports are colour-coded to show which pupils are below, meeting and exceeding expectations, and I can then drill down into each of the groups. It allows me to set up additional groups, for example to track those who are both Pupil Premium and EAL. Each teacher has their own login details, and can access data for their own class or, if they’re a subject lead, look at subject data across the school. It’s brilliant and we love it.
Are the tests designed to be equally accessible for all groups of children?
There will always be difficulties for SEN pupils to access age appropriate tests, but it’s nonetheless a useful way of tracking their progress. I’ve used other tests which are very Eurocentric, making them inaccessible for pupils from other cultures or ethnic backgrounds, but that’s not a concern with the RS Assessment tests. The content is fair and appropriate.
Anything else you want to share with schools thinking about adopting PiRA, PUMA or GAPS?
I would definitely recommend the tests – and have already done so to the 11 other primary schools in our partnership who are now on board.
It’s been a very positive experience working with the RS Assessment team: they’re very responsive when we raise suggestions, and are quick and proactive in offering support. I’m currently talking to the IT team behind MARK about including historical data too, so we can track progress from year to year, looking at actual against predicted results to see deviations across time.
As one of the first schools to adopt the tests, I provided some advice in terms of steering other Heads towards the reports we’d found useful, but I’d say it’s intuitive to use once you’ve got your groups set up.
Overall, the tests have been the most useful investment we’ve made, certainly in terms of assessment, in the eight years I’ve led the school.
Based on an interview with Sue Stamp, Headteacher at Long Crendon School