Using NFER Tests with children with additional needs

NFER Tests are designed to ensure accessibility for any pupil accessing the National Curriculum. We want to be able to support teachers with all the children in their class throughout the year.

Enabling pupils with additional needs to demonstrate their learning sometimes requires extra consideration, whether it be personalised access arrangements or an assessment set at an appropriately lower level. As mentioned in the SEN Code of Practice, (2015) ‘assessment should be reviewed regularly. This will help ensure that support and intervention are matched to need, barriers to learning are identified and overcome, and that a clear picture of the interventions put in place and their effect is developed.’

Key questions to ask yourself about these pupils include:

  1. Is the pupil accessing the National Curriculum?
  2. What year group curriculum are they being taught? Is this different to their peers?
  3. What access arrangements will I need to make for this pupil?
  4. Where can I track their attainment and their learning gaps?

What test access arrangements can I make for my pupil who has additional needs?

The principle behind access arrangements is to ‘level the playing field’: to ensure that pupils perform to the best of their ability but that access arrangements do not give them an unfair advantage. There are many different examples of this, and teachers will usually go to the ‘Access and Reporting Arrangements’ booklets for the statutory national curriculum tests for guidance. These are published each year by the Department for Education. NFER Tests also include guidance in every teacher guide published alongside our tests, explaining the additional help that pupils across all year groups may be given if ease of access is required. In all cases, the access arrangements being considered, whether that be reading support in maths or the provision of a scribe, should be in line with the support the pupil customarily receives in class.

Can I use NFER Tests with pupils working below their age group?

It is important to recognise that giving the same test to pupils working considerably below the standard of their peers could potentially lead to a demoralising experience for the pupil, and such an approach would provide you with insufficient information to help move the pupil’s learning forward. A convenient solution, which is used by many schools, is to give that pupil an NFER Test for a younger year group. The tests for younger pupils will assess skills and knowledge at a more appropriate level. For instance, the reading tests feature simpler texts, more familiar vocabulary, and less demanding questions in terms of extended written responses and the reading skills required. As a general guide, we recommend that the appropriate term test from an appropriate lower year should be used but you should apply your professional knowledge about the specific pupil in question.

How can the NFER online tool help me track the progress of children with additional needs?

Our free online tool, which comes with every school purchase, allows you to manage groups within your class. The Group Management section allows you to create and edit custom groups of pupils which can be used to filter the data. Using this essential feature, you can create groups of pupils receiving additional support, working in an intervention, or taking a different year group test. You can then view and analyse those subgroups results separately from the rest of their year group or class.

What can standardised scores tell me about the attainment and progress of my pupils with additional needs?

Monitoring both individual pupils and groups over time to assess their progress is beneficial, especially considering that children with additional needs may progress at different rates to their peers. Conducting assessments throughout the year, at an appropriate level, enables tracking of pupils’ learning within or across school years. A pupil attaining consistent standardised scores on consecutive assessments, for example around 85 for each termly test, is making expected progress. On the other hand, a drop in a pupil’s standardised score, for example from 85 in the autumn term to 79 in the spring and then 75 in the summer, suggests slower progress, prompting the teachers to review key aspects of their learning. The decrease (or increase) in standardised scores which indicates that progress is less (or more) than typically seen and is not due to chance, varies from test to test and is informed by the specific confidence intervals around any standardised score. 

Standardised scores enable a comparison to be made between the performance of a pupil and that of other pupils who have taken the same test. Such comparisons can be useful for grouping your class by ability and for identifying those pupils in need of targeted interventions. The average standardised score is set at 100 at the time of standardisation, based on the performance of a nationally representative sample. At this time, about two-third of pupils had standardised scores between 85 and 115 and scores within this range can be broadly described as average.

For example, a teacher administered the test to their class. One pupil, Lucy, achieved a raw score of 32 on the test, giving her a standardised score of 103. The teacher could then say that Lucy achieved an average score on the test. On the other hand, another pupil, Amos, achieved a raw score of 9 on the same test, giving him a standardised score of 83. The teacher could say this child is attaining below average.

In what other ways can the analysis tool reports help me?

As well as enabling comparison of the standardised scores over time, the analysis tool reports provide a question level analysis. For pupils with additional needs, these can give you real insights into the knowledge and skills the child has retained and been able to apply. Analysing the questions that the pupil answered correctly or incorrectly can also offer valuable information beyond his or her immediate test outcomes. As the tests are closely linked to the National Curriculum Programmes of Study, you can use the test questions themselves as a good teaching resource. Success can be celebrated and opportunities to personalise next steps for the pupil can be planned and implemented.