A personalised approach to discover and develop the potential of each individual pupil.
At Millfield Senior School the aim is clear – to discover and develop the potential of each pupil. Using Exact helps ensure every child’s literacy learning differences are taken into account.
Based in rural Somerset, Millfield Senior School is an inspirational independent boarding school where pupils are encouraged to reach their personal best. It is known for its rich curriculum, excellent academic and sporting results, and a superb learning support department.
Jacqui Clarke, Head of the Learning Support Centre (LSC) and Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator, explains: “We’re a non-selective school, with 1240 pupils between the ages of 13 and 18. Approximately 41% of our pupils have a learning difference. Some of these will have been diagnosed before they join us, but we find many start with issues that have previously gone undiagnosed.”
“To give our pupils every opportunity for success, it’s imperative that we discover any barriers to literacy learning as quickly and efficiently as possible. Exact helps us do this.”
Areas of Attainment
Exact is a suite of computerised tests designed to assess literacy skills. It comprises standardised tests in speeded word recognition, reading comprehension and speed, typing speed, handwriting speed and spelling.
Jacqui continues: “We used to use an assessment that couldn’t be delivered to pupils en masse, alongside a paper spelling test and an online reading test. This led to a couple of instances where pupils with issues were missed, so the school was very receptive to my suggestion of using a blanket screener to streamline the process.
“I had used Exact before, so knew it would suit Millfield’s needs perfectly. I have also looked at Exact’s results in detail alongside diagnostic one-to-one testing, which confirmed to me that the standardisation is really accurate.
“We’ve now been using it for five years as a baseline and are delighted with the results.”
All 220 Year 9 and 330 Lower Sixth pupils are assessed with Exact, regardless of whether or not they came from Millfield prep school, as are the 50 or so new pupils who join in Year 10.
“Exact is easy to deliver to big groups, which is vital in a school the size of ours. In Year 10 and the Lower Sixth, we screen on their induction days. Year 9s are usually assessed in their first English lesson, although we give teachers two weeks leeway to allow the children time to settle in.
“This means, within just a couple of weeks of the autumn term, all new pupils have been screened. Exact allows us to be extremely quick off the block in terms of investigating further and putting interventions into place.”
Once all pupils have been screened, Jacqui looks at the results and highlights any low scores. Then she cross-references with pupils’ registration paperwork to see if learning difficulties have already been declared.
“Exact offers a parallel form – Test B – for repeated assessment and, over the past two years, I have used this to retest those pupils who haven’t been previously identified yet have scored poorly. Comparing results acts as a double check to make sure that nerves or anxieties, such as being away from home for the first time, hasn’t negatively affected scores. This strategy helps correctly prioritise our resources and time moving forward.
“This year, there are about a dozen pupils who have low scores in one or more area which had not been previously diagnosed.
“Armed with the information I can talk to the pupils and their parents about what we have found out, then move onto more in-depth investigations including diagnostic testing and referrals to external educational psychologists.”
The result is that every child is given the best chance of success at Millfield, from their very first days at school.
As Jacqui explains: “We have one pupil who joined us in the Lower Sixth having been at an international school in Asia for five years. He had achieved excellent results at GCSEs, all A* to Bs, and had never had a learning difficulty declared.
“However, by screening with Exact, I saw his reading speed score was just 78, well below the average standardised score of 100 and markedly lower than his other scores. A retake of Test B yielded the same score, and further testing confirmed he was dyslexic.
“Talking to this boy, I discovered that he had been predicted at least an A in all GCSE subjects but had struggled for time in the exams where he had received B grades, such as Business Studies. He said he found himself having to reread the exam questions several times.
“I then spoke to his parents and discovered that there was a history of dyslexia in the family. They had wondered if their son might be affected, but put it out of their mind as the previous school had not flagged it up and his grades had been good. They were thrilled that we had spotted an issue that could have affected A-level results within just three weeks of the boy starting our school.
“As a high-achiever studying a heavy A-level load, we are now able to support this pupil appropriately, with further diagnostic testing, an educational psychologist referral, learning support lessons and looking at various strategies for reading. We will also experiment with a reader and look into extra time for exams to allow for his reading speed.”
“It’s no understatement to say that without Exact, we wouldn’t be able to offer such a high level of screening full stop, let alone so quickly.
“It gives us useful, accurate information on every new pupil within a couple of weeks of term and can be used as part of the evidence required by JCQ when applying for exam access arrangements.
“In short, it ensures we are achieving our aim of supporting all our pupils’ learning needs from the outset.”
Benefits of Exact at Millfield Senior School
- Used as part of the evidence required by JCQ when applying for exam access arrangements
- Screens for literacy learning differences quickly and efficiently
- Easy and simple to deliver to large year groups
- Gives useful, accurate standardised information on every new pupil within the first few weeks of term
- Test B can be used to repeat the assessment
- Helps prioritise where further diagnostic testing and support is needed
- Ensures all pupils’ learning needs are accommodated from the outset