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Guest Blog: How Primary School data can track progress to keep kids on track

Guest Blog: How Primary School data can track progress to keep kids on track

/ Pete Atherton

Picture the scene.

It’s the school run again. You race to school to pick up your treasured little one. You screech into a slightly illegal parking space with seconds to spare. On the quick march to pick up area, you bump into another parent. This parent could be part of a supportive network and a true friend. They could also be the Whatsapp group agitator and all-round energy vampire.

Or something in between.

With devastating inevitability, the parent brings up the thorny subject of How Your Child is Getting On. The answer could be palatable – sprinkled with pride and celebration. It could, however, be laced with a heap of blame and seasoned with a deep frown.

But how do you truly know the facts? How is your child monitored, supported, developed and challenged in school? What is the data that helps teachers make and deliver these judgements and empower parents?

In this blog post, I will look at how the Primary sector can tighten up how they support their pupils.

Let’s talk about the DfE

In normal times, the Department for Education would publish data on every school and education provider. In terms of Primary school children, parents will have access to how their child’s school is performing in reading, writing and maths. They can view colour-coded displays progress scores, with descriptions indicating whether the school sits in relation to the national average.

However, these are far from normal times.

Crucially, then, how can data still support children and parents when test results were not published in 2020 and may not even be made public in 2021?

Let us return to the conversation at the school gates. How is your child getting on? There are, of course, many ways that you may wish to answer that question as a parent. Are they happy, settled and comfortable? Are they making friends -who do they sit closest to? Do they like their teachers? Do they like what they do?

These are and will always be parents’ go-to questions on an emotional level. When you go to a parents’ evening, though – virtually or otherwise – your understanding should be deepened when the teacher hits you with some data.

Behind the scenes – after the children have gone home

To arrive at these facts, the teachers will work very hard at getting their heads around management information systems or MIS. If they use Bromcom, for example, they would work with the Primary Tracker. They will hope that the user-friendly setup wizard will work its magic and help them create easy to follow categories, for example, Early Years, Formative and Summative Assessment.

Once they have the foundations in place, they can set up the following categories:

  • assessment codes
  • subjects
  • teaching groups
  • age-related expectations.

The Primary Tracker is housed within the Bromcom MIS, so teachers can access, modify and evaluate all pupil data in once place. This includes target setting, assessments and reports.

Some teachers like to share this data on parents’ evenings, others do not. For those that do, they can show parents their child’s progress and targets. They can view a child’s progress in each subject against a range of descriptors.

Age-related expectations

Since the abolition of Levels in 2014, age-related expectations (AREs) are a way of measuring children’s progress in Primary schools. The following statements are examples of how your child’s progress will be described:

  • Working within the expected level of attainment for his/her age
  • Working towards the expected level of attainment
  • Working below the expected level of attainment
  • Working beyond the expected level of attainment

Too much data?

tired teacher

Schools often complain about a deluge of data, often duplicating the same information but in a slightly different format. Bromcom tackled this head on with its Attainment Overview feature. In Attainment Overview, teachers can add subgroups, additional columns and interim assessments.

Don’t you just love Venn diagrams?

I certainly do. In addition to the Attainment Overview feature in Bromcom, there is a visually pleasing feature called Subject Triangulation. This Venn diagram allows you to triangulate information across a number of subjects into one single report. This combined attainment illustrator enables you to drill down into the numbers, as well as seeing a summary table at the foot of the diagram.

The idea, then is that the data is easily accessible and meaningful. Specific reports allow teachers to map pupil progress. One such report is the Prior Attainment Map. This maps progress against chosen baselines and helps teachers demonstrate, explain and analyse pupils’ progress. Any reports can be easily exported to Excel. PDF fans will soon be able to export to PDF too.

One thing that has changed considerably since I was teaching is the way that student data is organic, malleable and responsive. MIS is allowed to adapt to teachers’ needs and requests. The Bromcom Primary Tracker, for example, cannot stand still, especially in light of rapid and ongoing challenges due to Covid-19. Thankfully, the schools and MATs themselves are helping contribute to the evolution of Bromcom’s Primary Tracker. One of these is Hamwic Education Trust. They have 29 Primary schools helping adopt the Primary Tracker as a replacement to Target Tracker. But what might they expect to happen? It would be rude not to tell you, so here goes.

The Primary Tracker

The Primary Tracker has developed to cater for four different types of assessment: summative assessment, formative assessment, standardised tests and the Early Years Foundation Stage.

Here is a summary of what has changed with each feature. Remember, each feature will continue to adapt to changing needs and expectations in the Primary sector.

talking parents

Formative and summative assessment

The marksheets now have more targeted functionality; teachers can add rows and columns to indicate grade totals and percentages for both formative and summative assessment. There is no need to run a separate analysis report, as it is now easy to see whether a child is above or below their AREs. There is a Primary Overview feature, which reveals multiple pieces of information on one screen. Alongside that, there are many features that are specific to summative assessments, for example KS1 test results but I am choosing to downplay these as a result of recent and ongoing reassessment of external examinations due to Covid.

Whatever happens to pupil progress and MIS in the new normal, teachers will soon be able to create and analyse individual pupil targets that sit alongside their AREs.

Not only will this more granular approach to pupil data empower parents, it might also give them something more impressive to say when they are stopped at the school gates.

What’s not to like?

Pete Atherton

Pete Atherton

Pete Atherton is a Lecturer in Education at the Faculty of Education, Edge Hill University.