Our teachers have appreciated having an additional set of robust information, alongside our own internal assessments. It supports accountability, provides evidence for Ofsted and eliminates any unconscious teacher bias, such as assuming that quiet and well-behaved girls are hardworking

How standardised assessments support our approach to life after levels

Sharon Baker, Deputy Headteacher of Westfield Community School, explains how this Ofsted rated ‘Outstanding’ school is using summative and formative assessments to support both teachers and pupils.

At our primary school, we all take our responsibility to get children off to the best start in life very seriously. Our pupils live in the most deprived area in Wigan, with 54% currently Ever 6 FSM, which means they have been eligible for free school meals in any of the previous six years. Children often start school with very low levels of skills, so our aim to be a beacon of hope needs to be more than just lip service in order to accelerate their learning.

Accurate assessment information is critical to ensuring our children make progress and have the best chance of success. While we pride ourselves on meticulous teacher assessment, neither teachers nor curriculum based tests could tell us where we were nationally.

So after national levels ceased, we explored how to ascertain how our pupils were attaining compared to their peers. What was the best way to check our judgements were correct?

No additional work

GL Assessment’s Complete Digital Solution (CDS) offered an ideal solution. It includes seven different assessments looking at ability, attainment and any barriers to learning and, importantly for us, provides standardised scores. 

Using the New Group Reading Test (NGRT) and Progress Tests in English and Maths, we have been able to get hard evidence to support our teachers’ professional judgements about our children’s achievements, without placing an additional workload burden on them.

The results have helped us clarify what our standards should look like. With NGRT, for example, we have chosen to ensure children’s reading skills are in line with expectations for their age. This addresses the criticism of primary school leavers just scraping through in reading and it’s another way to up our educational goals for our pupils.

We love the fact there are digital versions, which means a low stress factor for our pupils. As it’s on the computer, it’s just seen as part and parcel of a child’s world so they look relaxed and natural despite the fact we are putting them under a spotlight.

Celebrating success

Our teachers have appreciated having an additional set of robust information, alongside our own internal assessments. It supports accountability, provides evidence for Ofsted and eliminates any unconscious teacher bias, such as assuming that quiet and well-behaved girls are hardworking. 

As we’ve learnt more about GL Assessment’s Complete Digital Solution, one surprise we’ve had is discovering that the Cognitive Abilities Test (CAT4) can be used in primary schools. 

Testing our Year 4s confirmed what our inclusion team knew in many cases, but it did reveal some thought-provoking information. For example, one child with specific speech and language needs scored poorly in the verbal battery, as we might have foreseen, but within the average range for the other areas. Now we know for certain that it’s their verbal issues masking other areas of potential, we can make provision for this.

An additional benefit has been that we’ve also been able to identify children who have a low CAT4 score but are doing better than expected – a good reason to celebrate the value our teaching is adding.