Case Study – Mrs Alison Hawkins, Headteacher at Allendale Primary School – April 2018
Allendale Primary School in Northumberland has been using NFER Tests since 2017, after the removal of levels left them without a reliable system for assessing pupil performance. Mrs Hawkins, Headteacher at Allendale, explains:
“In the first year assessing without levels, we found we didn’t have an accurate measure of progress throughout the year or a reliable indicator of where children were at by the end of the year. We decided it would be a good investment for the school to purchase tests that provide a definitive evidence base for attainment and progress that would enable us to identify strengths and weaknesses of our pupils’ knowledge within the curriculum. We also wanted assessment to be useful in terms of planning, pre-teaching and delivering intervention groups if needed.”
Having explored the market, Allendale Primary turned to NFER to purchase termly KS2 tests in maths, reading and grammar and punctuation. Among the reasons for choosing NFER Tests, Mrs Hawkins was impressed with the content of the assessments as well as trusting the quality.
“We looked at various providers, however, liked the style of NFER Tests. Being similar to the national tests, we thought they would be good preparation for the children. We have also worked with NFER before on a research project and know that the organisation does an awful lot on evidence-based education. We were therefore confident in the reliability of the tests.”
Allendale Primary began administering NFER assessments in the autumn term to provide a reference point for measuring ongoing attainment and to identify areas to concentrate on going forward. These were followed by tests in the spring to assess pupil progress and evaluate whether the strategies implemented as a result of the autumn tests had been successful. In addition to a rise in attainment levels, the results revealed some other telling insights.
“As well as giving us an individual attainment and progress measure for each child, the tests highlighted strengths and weaknesses which we used for lesson planning. They also provided a really good indication as to which children were struggling with things like timing and accessing assessment content. For example, we noticed that certain children that are very good with maths weren’t demonstrating their ability because they are not the strongest readers. The tests therefore provided a good evidence base to show which children might need further support or extra time which is important to identify ahead of the national tests. It’s also been really beneficial from an organisational point of view, enabling us to alter our groupings in class to provide differentiated work, push the children who are performing better and provide further support for those that aren’t.”
According to Mrs Hawkins, the data has been valuable outside the context of the classroom too. She describes how the assessments have helped her in her role as leader of the school, particularly when engaging with stakeholders.
“As a Headteacher, NFER Tests have given me more confidence when speaking to advisors or Ofsted. I feel that I have a clear understanding of performance and can demonstrate we are making progress through data points. The data we produce is also really useful for governors. It has previously been very difficult without levels to show how we are performing, however, our governors now have a handle of where standards are and where we are heading.”