We expect our pupils to achieve levels similar to those of native speakers of English, so the main value of PiM and PiE is to provide independent outside assessment of the children to see if they are achieving in a similar way to the rest of the international population.
Teresa Zancajo, Coordinator of the Special Needs Department at ISH.
The International School of the Hague (ISH) has served its cosmopolitan community since 2003 and attracts pupils from all over the world. In 2009, it became the first school in the world to be awarded accreditation at the highest level by the International Primary Curriculum (IPC).
There are 545 pupils attending the primary school at ISH – both boys and girls – from all over the world. Many of the children speak several languages and for around 80% of pupils, English may not be their first; or even their second or third language.The Hague is home to many European organisations and families are often expats who may only remain in the Netherlands for a few years before moving to their next posting.
The children follow the International Primary Curriculum, used in around 1,000 schools worldwide. It incorporates different academic subjects, such as Geography, History and Science into learning themes.
When learning about chocolate, for example, the children will discover the geography of the cocoa bean, the history of how chocolate has been used and its scientific properties.
Within each age band there are three strands of Learning Goals: Subject Goals, Personal Goals and International Goals. Subjects include history, geography, science, art, design, IT, PE, music and society.
In this way the children learn instinctively, finding out new vocabulary, or solving maths puzzles as they go along. Through the units of work, links are made to both the host and pupils’ home countries so it is also a good way to incorporate some learning about the many different cultures that make up the student body.
Independent assessment ISH starts to use GL Assessment’s Progress in Maths (PiM) and Progress in English (PiE) inYearTwo, when the children are around six years old, unless they have been exposed to English for less than an academic year, in which case they are assessed the following year. The tests are taken annually and allow the staff at ISH to track the progress of the child in a number of key areas.They can also drill down into profiles in order to identify a child’s individual strengths and weaknesses.
The results and extended analysis of the data are available to the school without time-consuming marking for the teaching staff.The tests also indicate how the student compares with the national average for native speakers and provides a reliable benchmark for teachers following a more topic based curriculum.
“We expect our pupils to achieve levels similar to those of native speakers of English, so the main value of PiM and PiE is to provide independent outside assessment of the children to see if they are achieving in a similar way to the rest of the international population,” says Teresa Zancajo, Coordinator of the Special Needs Department at ISH.
The benefits of PiE and PiM “We chose PiE and PiM as they are widely used by many schools in the area and we were already familiar with them,” adds Teresa. “We find they complement the IPC because language and mathematics are the tools the children need to understand every aspect of the curriculum and so it is important for them to know the basics in order to develop skills in other areas.”
Teresa and her colleagues are keen to stress that the tests do not drive the way they teach. “We use PiE and PiM to track the children’s progress and identify those who need intervention and extra support or extension.”
If a child has a weak score overall, the team will look at the results to see which area is causing problems. In PiE, for example, the profile might highlight that spelling, grammar or reading comprehension is an issue.The test can identify where the child needs some extra attention or even further diagnostic testing.
The same applies in maths – the PiM test can reveal where children are having trouble handling data, numbers or shapes. “We often use the PiE and PiM test results in conferences with parents to help them understand how their child is doing,” says Teresa. “We can show where the other children of the same age are in a subject and where their child is within that age group. It is also useful sometimes to be able to explain that a child who is not doing so well in a high performing class is still doing better than the norm.”
Staff at ISH will help children with special educational needs or difficulties with the language to understand the questions in the tests. “Sometimes we will read the questions out to a child to help them and can consult a French or Dutch maths dictionary, for example, to ensure the children understand what they are being asked,” says Teresa.
“It is important for us to be able to assess the pupils so that we can get an accurate picture of where the child is both in the class and more generally with their English and maths.”
“We often only have the children with us for a few years, so we need to be thorough in our analysis of their achievement in order to offer them the best help.”
Getting results against a timeframe
On average, non-English speakers take three years at the ISH to reach the level of native speakers in their PiE and PiM test results. “This can vary a lot as some children can take the test after only a year of learning English and score as well as native speakers, but this is rare,” says Teresa. “We find that children at this age are very quick to master the mechanics of reading, for example, but vocabulary and comprehension skills take more time to
Like most international schools, ISH has the added challenge of a constant turnover of pupils who often don’t stay for longer than three years. “When we have children who stay with us for more than three years, we find that they often perform above the average standard in most subjects by the time they leave.The Dutch Ministry of Education is very pleased with the results we have achieved,” says Teresa.
“We would definitely recommend GL Assessment’s PiE and PiM to other schools as they do exactly what they promise.They show us how the child is
progressing in our school and how this compares with the norm. It is like having an outsider looking at what we are doing and helping us to show the rest of the world what great progress our children are making.”