Why is the summer term a valuable time for undertaking assessments?

In this ‘Ask the expert’, Liz Twist, Head of Assessment Research and Development at NFER and former teacher, answers some FAQs on summer term assessment.

Why is the summer term a valuable time for undertaking assessments?

The summer term offers an ideal opportunity to evaluate pupil learning, as by this point the majority of the curriculum content for the year will have been taught. A measure of attainment taken at the end of each academic year can be an effective way to track pupil progress year-on-year, as well as progress throughout the year if similar measures are taken at other points, such as the autumn and spring term.

After nearly a year of disrupted learning and with many pupils having experienced little over a month of classroom learning in the spring term, this summer term is an ideal time to use assessment to reflect on learning and assess what areas of the curriculum have been well embedded.

Another benefit of summer term assessment is the ability to see whether pupils have met age-related expectations i.e. have they reached an appropriate standard on the curriculum content for that year. Age-related expectations can only meaningfully be measured during the summer term, once the majority of content for the year has been taught.

What are age-related expectations and how are they valuable?

Age-related expectations identify what is expected of a pupil by a specified age or year group. In the national curriculum, there is a set standard of expectation which is defined by threshold descriptors indicating what a pupil should be able to do by the end of key stage 2.

As the government does not publish expected standards for other year groups across KS1 and KS2, NFER has developed its own age-related expectations for its summer reading and mathematics tests. These are designed to help teachers identify whether pupils in years 1-5 have achieved the standard on the national curriculum appropriate for their year group, by the time they have taken the test.

Can summer term assessments be used formatively?

Although end-of-year assessment is considered a summative assessment if it evaluates learning that has taken place over the course of the whole year, the information gained through end-of-year assessment can be used formatively to some degree. For example, information about particular strengths and weaknesses gained from assessments can be shared with the next year group teacher to help inform ongoing teaching. Teachers may find this particularly useful in light of the relative lack of assessment data available due to restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Similarly assessment data analysed at a broader level can help inform whole school teaching strategies and curriculum planning for the year ahead.

To gain additional formative benefits, teachers may opt to use NFER’s spring tests. Using tests standardised in the spring term is appropriate in this year of disruption and gives schools flexibility to focus on the additional diagnostic information provided in the teacher guides. Because they were standardised at a slightly earlier point in the school year, the tests are also slightly easier than the summer series, which may be appropriate this year and provide information to help teachers identify how best to continue to support pupils and minimise the long term impact of partial school closures in 2020 and 2021.