By Lucy Davies, Headteacher at The Firs School, Chester
The Firs School uses GL Assessment’s Complete Digital Solution package alongside our own rigorous formative assessment inputted into our management information system. This all sounds well and good but how does that actually help at parents’ evenings? How can we, as teachers, understand all the figures, let alone explain them to parents and then turn them into useful and pertinent actions?
A series of clearly defined actions helps our teachers make the most of their wealth of data before the November parent meetings:
1. Make an annual plan for school assessments, and make it clear to staff which digital tests are being carried out when and why. In September we use the New Group Reading Test (NGRT) with year groups 2-6, the Cognitive Abilities Test (CAT4) with our junior classes and Baseline with our Reception class. All year groups from 1-6 also undertake a writing assessment.
2. Staff meetings are carefully planned in before October half term to ensure that at least one is given over to moderating the whole school writing assessment and one more is set up to look at the NGRT and CAT4 results with maths and English leaders also inputting their evaluations of whole school results (release them from class to prepare for this).
Link your discussions into school development points from your latest SEF. Our development plan is known as The Firs Priorities and we constantly refer to this in staff meeting discussions. For example, last year, a gender gap was picked up in two year groups and this has become an area for focus. Discussion after the September assessments noted specifically about how boys and girls were doing - was their ability matching their attainment?
3. Don’t do one big parents’ evening with ten minute appointments stretching on ad infinitum and teachers feeling stressed and giving answers they know parents want to hear. It is vital that teachers have meaningful discussions which both sides are prepared for. At The Firs, teachers chose three different days within a three week period in which to hold their meetings. These last for twenty minutes and if they occur during school time we provide cover; everything is there to help the parents access the meeting. The appointments are made via an online Google appointments system and can be changed if needed; it’s easy for parents to see where the gaps are. All of the pupil’s work is sent home the night before the meeting so that the parent is well prepared with questions and information.
4. Teachers prepare their own information sheet for each parent detailing the results of all summative and formative assessments taken so far this term. This includes any printed GL Assessment parent reports, which explain what the assessment is and what it’s designed to measure, as well as providing an overview of their child’s results and ideas for how parents can support their child’s learning at home. Our information sheet also contains two SMART targets for the pupil to try and achieve before the end of term report in December. Everything is clear and attainable for both the parents and the pupil.
5. For specialist subjects and the learning support department the appointments system is also available. In fact our learning support leader will make separate appointments for any child with a pupil provision map (also known as an IEP). This gives the parents a separate time to ask specific questions about the support being delivered for their child.
Meeting parents is vital, necessary and part of our job as a teacher. If we get this right then we have a real chance of delivering the three-legged stool image of learning. This correctly states that a three legged stool is the sturdiest type; in education we need school, parents and the pupil to be fully in communication for the strongest learning to take place. Parents’ meetings are a good place to start!