As part of the changes we have made, we have also put good assessment at the heart of everything we do
By Andy Dalton-Bunker, Assistant Headteacher at Westhoughton High School
Along with the vast majority of my profession, I’ve welcomed Progress 8 as a fair measure of accountability that will level the playing field for schools, regardless of intake.
We’re an average school in many ways, with an intake broadly in line with the national average. However, like any community comprehensive school, we have a cohort of children who face extreme social issues such as personal trauma or family issues that involve external agencies. For this reason, we need to be certain that our most vulnerable students also stay on track to achieve their Attainment 8 expectations, despite their personal challenges.
We have taken the approach that the average score expectation for each student is a 'fixed' end point, albeit an estimate at this time. We can then plot a journey that will get students of all abilities through more rigorous and difficult GCSEs.
As part of the changes we have made, we have also put good assessment at the heart of everything we do. We’re making full use of the wraparound nature of the Complete Digital Solution to help get an indication of which students are likely to have difficulty in reaching expectations. Comparing ability with attainment and looking for any barriers to learning means we have every base covered.
For example, a student who has a high KS2 SAT level will also have a high Attainment 8 expectation but a poor attitude, low reading age or slow progress will make it much less likely that they will reach those expectations without intervention. With CDS, we have a roadmap to find out exactly what is going on.
We use the Cognitive Abilities Test (CAT4) in Year 7 and Year 9 to look at potential ability, and survey with Pupil Attitudes to Self and School (PASS) every 12 months which looks at softer issues related to educational goals, such as attitude to school and confidence. Our aim is to actively seek out those pupils who have a discrepancy between ability and attitude so we can provide bespoke interventions, such as mentoring for them.
We have one boy whose life out of school is hard – his older siblings were excluded from school and have been in trouble with the police. He is bright and philosophical, but we could see with PASS that his self-esteem is extremely low and he doesn’t hold school in high regard. We’ve been able to start a conversation with him about where his life is headed, and how far he hopes to get. Data identified his ability – and the potential barriers to achieving – before we’d had a chance to get to know him. I couldn’t say for sure his potential would have been recognised without these assessments.
Going forward, we’re confident we have a very strong assessment model, which is under regular review, and will stop children falling through the cracks. We are accredited by the Chartered Institute of Educational Assessors (CIEA) as an ‘Excellence in Assessment’ school. When our assessor first visited, he said, “I don’t need to write you an action plan, there is nothing else you need to do to achieve our award!”
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