Management Information System (MIS) for schools
Category : Blog
The way each primary school tracks the progress of their pupils through school varies considerably depending on the pupils in their care; their needs and learning styles. The areas schools choose to focus on will also be a reflection of their philosophy and ethos. How do primary schools assess their pupils? Primary schools must report
The way each primary school tracks the progress of their pupils through school varies considerably depending on the pupils in their care; their needs and learning styles. The areas schools choose to focus on will also be a reflection of their philosophy and ethos.
Primary schools must report on their pupils’ progress to the DfE via three statutory assessments and one Teacher assessment:
Apart from these tests, schools are free to track progress and attainment using their own methods, without direction from the DfE. In fact, Ofsted’s 2021 directive states that “Inspectors will not expect or accept internal data from schools either instead of or in addition to published data.”
Many use pre-made frameworks from third party suppliers such as RS assessments (PIRA/PUMA), NFER (National Foundation for Educational Research) tests and the DfE’s EYFS Development Matters framework.
Given that Ofsted does not inspect primary schools’ progress data, Headteachers may well be asking themselves, what is the purpose of assessment and why do we spend so much focused time on managing and presenting it?
It’s important to remember that when assessments are managed effectively, and in such a way that conclusions can be drawn clearly from the data, this can have a huge impact on improving pupil outcomes.
Although they don’t look at the data itself, Ofsted explains in it’s 2021 framework that “Inspectors will ask schools to explain why they have decided to collect whatever assessment data they collect, what they are drawing from their data and how that informs their curriculum and teaching.”
Since the introduction of the “Assessment Without Levels” approach in 2014, there has been little guidance for primary schools on how they should assess. As a result, many schools have a sense of working in isolation without measures of best practice. The ways that schools are held accountable has also changed, with less intervention from Local Authorities and many schools transitioning to academies within a MAT.
For many primary schools, “Life without Levels” has prompted them to rethink the methods and systems they use for tracking pupil progress, and whether they’re suited to their needs.
The stages of a school’s yearly assessment cycle – setting up, collecting, adding and analysing data, as well as actioning interventions – increase staff workload, whilst they’re juggling lots of competing responsibilities across school.
With admin tasks taking up a shockingly large amount of time for Teachers and Middle Leaders (4.2 and 5.7 hours a week respectively*), many find they don’t have time for formative assessments at all.
*GSR Teacher workload survey 2016.
Check out our tips for saving hours a week on admin here.
The majority of primary schools tend to rely on manual methods of tracking progress, such as spreadsheets or even paper! These methods may have been used for years, but are very time-consuming to enter, check and analyse data. They’re also much more prone to human error and bias.
Some schools subscribe to online progress trackers which give them a wide range of frameworks to choose from, and crunch the data for them. The downside of this method is that schools’ data is not linked to all the other data that they hold about each pupil in their MIS (Management Information System), which makes it difficult to understand the wider context of factors behind pupils’ attainment.
See our guide to finding the right system for tracking pupil progress below.
The pandemic and the restrictions that have come with it, have not only put an added strain on staff time, they’ve also raised new concerns for pupils’ wellbeing and set some pupils back in their academic progress. Staff and pupils have had to adapt to online or blended teaching and learning – which will be here to stay for many classrooms going forward.
Covid also made schools re-evaluate and reflect on how they measure and track pupil progress, with questions such as:
When the assessment cycle goes smoothly, staff at all levels have quick and easy access to the data they need to really understand which pupils are on track, and take the right action straight away to support those who are struggling.
When planning your next year’s assessment cycle, here are some of the most important things to remember, put together by former Arbor Assessment Trainers Jackie Gazeley and Patricia Beechey. Check out their bios below.
It might seem like you’ve always done assessments in the same way – either using trusty spreadsheets or a subscription to an online tracker. But have you ever thought about how much time it takes to input or upload assessment data manually every cycle?
The analysis reports might be just what you need, but do they give you the fullest picture of how pupils are doing across their whole life at school – including pastorally, in behaviour and attendance?
Using the Assessment feature within your MIS might well be the answer. Here’s our comparison of assessment solutions so you can see what we mean:
It’s also worth bearing in mind the benefits of a cloud-based system (rather than a system that stores your school data on a server). Check out our blog for more info.
When choosing the framework you’re going to use to track pupil attainment, you should gear it to the way you visualise progress at your school. There’s no right or wrong way to track, but watch out – some assessment tracker products give you tons of choice which can leave you not knowing where to start.
From our work with schools, we’ve actually found that the foundation of most approaches are either a Flat or Rising grade scale. Find out how to work out which is right for your school with our handy quiz. Here’s a quick comparison to get you thinking:
From September 2021, the EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) framework and Development Matters guidance are changing. Find out more from the DfE here.
Find out how Arbor can help with the new framework, whether you’re an early adopter of the new framework or will change over in September.
It’s important to make sure you establish a way of working in assessment that makes it as easy as possible for staff to input and access the data they need, and to cut down on the number of steps it takes to act on the results (e.g. to follow up with parents, or to set up an intervention).
Here’s a few more tips to cut down staff workload:
When it comes to analysing your assessment data, it’s good practice to make sure there’s a closed feedback loop which makes clear how you’ll adapt provision, teaching methods or whole school initiatives based on the findings of your results.
As Ofsted states, its “Inspectors will be interested in the conclusions drawn and actions taken from any internal assessment information, but they will not examine or verify that information first hand.”
Make sure it’s clear to key members of the school community the next steps you’re putting in place to support pupils and groups of pupils, staff and whole school development. Everyone has a role to play:
Jackie has been working with schools as an Arbor Trainer since Autumn 2017 specialising in assessment. Before Arbor, she was a Teacher for 32 years in a range of schools, a SENCO and Behaviour Lead in three different schools, and then a Headteacher for 12 years in two inner-city Primaries.
Patricia has more than 40 years of experience in education. As a teacher she has both taught in and worked with, a wide range of schools across the UK and internationally. Her roles within schools have been varied, but include 17 years as a Headteacher, leading an outstanding primary school. Since leaving Headship, Patricia has continued to work as a freelance Education Consultant for both the International Values Education Trust and Arbor Education.
Arbor Assessments for Primary Schools is more than a tracker – it’s an integral part of your MIS. Capture pupil progress alongside attendance and behaviour, and build a rounded view of your pupils from Early Years to Year 6 – at last.
Understand your data using familiar Arbor tools, and create interventions or follow up straight from your Assessment data. Plus, because Arbor has in-built communications, it’s easy to keep colleagues and parents in the loop.
“It is both clear and detailed. Arbor assessment has completely changed how we report to both children and parents as they are able to see what progress has been made both in a granular way and in broader terms.”
– Anthony David, Executive Headteacher, St Paul’s Church of England Primary School and Monken Hadley School
Already using Arbor? Find out how easy it is to set up and use our built-in Assessments feature – including ready-to-go assessment approaches. Get in touch with your Account Manager today at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
New to Arbor? We’d love to show you how Arbor could not only transform the way you manage assessments, but could make a measurable improvement to the way your primary or secondary school works more widely. Get in touch to book a personalised demo today.
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