Published on: 06 Apr 2017

There are good and bad ways of using data but ultimately, it should be used to support pupils’ learning, otherwise what’s the point?

Measuring progress in a middle school

By Lee Pace, Deputy Head Teacher, James Bateman Junior High School

In most schools, Key Stage 2 SATs signal the end of a child’s primary education. But at James Bateman Junior High School, the Year 6 exams are a vital part of ongoing pupil assessment.

The school, based in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, is a middle school which pupils attend from Years 5 – 8. This means that the sometimes difficult transition to secondary occurs when the pupils are slightly older. And, for teachers, this structure means that they can nurture and guide pupils when they start going through adolescence.

“Unlike primary schools, we are able to use SATs data to support learning in Y7,” said Lee Pace, the deputy headteacher, who has responsibility for the curriculum, teaching and learning and assessment. “Secondary schools often don’t trust the data anyway, even though primary schools set great store by them. At James Bateman, SATs are just one of the tools we have to inform us of our pupils’ progress.”

Pupils at James Bateman take a number of tests to establish where they are with their progress. Aside from SATs, the school uses GL Assessment’s Complete Digital Solution, which includes the Cognitive Abilities Test (CAT) to identify potential, the Progress Test Series to measure attainment and progress in the core subjects, and the Pupil Attitudes to Self and School (PASS) survey, which allows pupils to express how they feel about themselves and their learning experience.

“Having lots of data on pupils in school is all very well, but how you use it is what counts,” Lee said. “The whole staff needs to be trained in data analysis and teachers and teaching assistants should own their own data, so they can alter their classroom practice if needed. No-one should be hogging it.” 

Inset time is set aside at the school for training in data analysis and there are regular workshops for staff to develop their skills. Lee is also looking at offering additional training to teachers who can take on a role of ‘data gurus’ in school.

Currently, James Bateman is focussing on pupils who are at risk of slipping through the net; those who are thought to be able to achieve more. The data is presented on pupil ‘postcards’ which effectively map out a child’s profile using 5As – ability, attitude, adversities (such as learning difficulty), achievement and action, which offers advice to teachers on classroom practice. The postcard provides an “at-a-glance” reference to the pupils’ strengths and challenges, and what interventions might be needed.

In the future, Lee says that the system may be used with very able pupils who are eligible for Pupil Premium funding. At the moment it isn’t possible to produce one for every child in the school, but teachers are finding the postcards useful in supporting individual pupils or groups of learners.

Lee added: “There are good and bad ways of using data but ultimately, it should be used to support pupils’ learning, otherwise what’s the point?”

Follow Lee on Twitter @thought_weavers

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