In this ‘Ask the expert’, Liz Twist, Head of Assessment Research and Product Development at NFER and former teacher, answers some FAQs on sharing assessment information with parents.
Where can I find the statutory reporting requirements?
At certain points in a child’s school life, there are statutory requirements about the type of information that must be reported to parents or carers. For England, these requirements are made clear in the Standards and Testing Agency’s (STA) Assessment and Reporting Arrangements guides, published each October and available from the STA’s website. For instance, at the end of primary education, the key stage 2 guide specifies that the following should be reported:
- the results of any national curriculum tests taken, including the pupil’s scaled score, and whether or not they met the expected standard
- the outcomes of statutory national curriculum teacher assessment in English writing and science
- where appropriate, a statement explaining why any national curriculum test has not been taken
- comparative information about the attainment of pupils of the same age in the school
- comparative information about the attainment in the core subjects of pupils of the same age nationally
This is alongside the child’s attendance record and information about progress – the content and format of which can be decided by the school.
Each school will have its own policy about reporting assessment outcomes to parents and carers, over and above what is statutory, and there are likely to be established practices about how the information is communicated. Maintained schools must provide an annual written report; the requirements for academies are specified in their funding agreement.
What about communications at parents’ meetings?
The formal end of year report is not the only time when assessment data will be shared with parents or carers. There may be parents’ meetings scheduled early in the autumn term and/or part way through the year and it is entirely natural that those attending may wish to know whether their child is making adequate progress.
Many schools will have their own policy about how progress is communicated on these occasions and there will certainly be conventions within the school. It may involve providing examples of work from a previous point in the school year and more recent work to demonstrate what the child can do now, and what they need to work on. It may be through marks attained or test scores. Whatever the nature of the information, clarity is important, with a focus on what the child can do and what they need to learn next.
Be alert to the fact that children may go home saying they’ve taken a test and this may come as a surprise to parents. Where possible, letting parents and carers know in advance, perhaps in general terms about the assessment and its purpose (“year 4 will take a reading and a maths test in the spring term; we’ll be able to see how they’re getting on and areas we need to work on”), will enable you to put the assessment in an appropriate context and avoid undue concern or possibly anxiety on the part of the child.
What assessment information should I share with parents?
First of all explain what the purpose of the assessment was – if it was to indicate whether a pupil had reached a specific standard then the focus should be on that standard, whether the child had achieved it and what skills that shows. You might also want to share information about the knowledge or skills the child needs to develop in order to improve their performance if the standard was not achieved. If the purpose is to see where the child is working compared to others of the same age, then standardised or age standardised scores will be useful.
By using standardised scores you can compare a pupil’s performance on different tests and at different time points. Emphasise to parents that small changes in standardised scores over time may not be important – it is quite possible that they occurred by chance. Some changes, however, may be statistically significant and the reasons for these changes will be worth exploring. You should be able to find more information about monitoring progress in the teacher guide for any tests you use in the classroom.
Written by Liz Twist, Head of Assessment Research and Product Development at NFER
With over 20 years’ experience in assessment development and research, Liz leads the teams developing NFER’s popular assessment products and research. She has also previously worked as deputy head of a combined school and taught both primary and secondary school pupils.
Do you have a question on assessment that you’d like to put to one of our assessment team? Send it through to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.