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We are much better equipped to understand our children very well now that we have this strategy.
Richard Jenkins, Deputy Headteacher, Porth County Community School

Getting things right at transition is the key to progress

Porth County Community School is using GL Assessment’s Complete Digital Solution to support their students during transition and to ensure good progress throughout the school

Porth County Community School is an 11-18 Local Authority maintained co-educational school at the heart of the Rhondda Valley. There are 881 pupils on roll.

The Rhondda is a former mining area with high deprivation. Just under 27% of pupils are eligible for free school meals, which is well above the Welsh national average of 17.4%.

Around 45% of pupils live in the 20% most deprived areas in Wales. Nearly all pupils speak English as their first language and come from a white, British background.

Richard Jenkins, Deputy Headteacher, is clear that getting things right at transition is the key to progress. “We often have children entering the school with literacy and numeracy at below the expected level for their age. Typically, about 40% of our intake is up to two years’ behind where they might be expected to be.

“We do work with our feeder schools in our cluster, and that is getting better all the time, but our focus on Key Stage 2 to 3 transition is to work very hard to get our children and their families to feel very positive about joining the school. Also, we are trying very hard to understand the ability and attitude of each and every child so that we can be as ready as we can be to deploy the right interventions and strategies for progress in attainment to happen. 

“GL Assessment gives us the tools we need to make this strategy work, and the tools we need to track how well it is working.”

Making progress 

In April 2016, the inspectorate Estyn confirmed that there are many positive indicators of progress.

In the last three years, performance has improved in every key indicator at Key Stage 4. 

Indeed, Estyn’s report said: “The school’s effective and well-co-ordinated provision for care, support and guidance has a positive impact upon pupils’ health, wellbeing, attendance and outcomes. Systems to track and monitor pupils’ progress, particularly at Key Stage 4, are robust.”

Attendance is improving year-on-year, and pupils eligible for free school meals are performing better than in similar schools.

Targeting interventions to raise literacy and numeracy

Porth uses GL Assessment’s Complete Digital Solution (CDS) package alongside the National Reading and Numeracy Tests and teacher-led assessment to get a ‘whole pupil’ view.

CDS incorporates nine digital assessments, including the Cognitive Abilities Test: Fourth Edition (CAT4), the Progress Test Series and the Pupil Attitudes to Self and School (PASS) survey, which together provide critical insight across ability, attainment and attitude. The package also includes the New Group Reading Test (NGRT), a screening and monitoring test that provides teachers with comprehensive diagnostic information and precise detail on progress made from one test to another.

Richard explains, “We have a banding system in Year 7. We target a great deal of our intervention work on our lower ability class. We look to improve their confidence and their competency.

“We use CAT4 in co-operation with our feeders in Year 6 to help us get that accuracy in our understanding of the ability and needs of each child as early as possible. This means we have the best chance of deploying the right strategies at the earliest opportunity and these strategies have the longest time to have impact.”

Looking particularly at English, Louise Streeter, the school’s Basic Skills Tutor, explains how CDS complements the school’s national test data to help inform teaching and learning.

“We use the New Group Reading Test to specifically track and monitor the reading ability of our pupils. It gives us a richer picture of the progress of each pupil than relying on the National Tests alone. This, in turn, means that we can be sure that pupils are actually making the progress we have targeted for them and that they are receiving the right support and intervention.”

Louise also uses the scores from NGRT to engage learners and their parents. “When we get that instant score back from NGRT, we share it with the pupils and their parents. It is a powerful way to engage parents in the learning and our pupils respond to seeing where they have made progress.”

Real-time adjustments to failing interventions

Measuring progress accurately over fairly short periods of learning is essential for the school, and Richard speaks highly about the quick turnaround in scores. “We can monitor that pupils are making the progress we targeted, and change things where this isn’t happening, without wasting weeks and weeks just hoping that this progress is happening.”

This rich ‘whole pupil’ view is the basis for programming interventions, setting targets and tracking progress. This strategy has been in place for some time.

“We are much better equipped to understand our children very well now that we have this strategy,” Richard explains. “We are much more confident that we are targeting interventions properly and we are tighter in monitoring that we are on course to hit targets. This gives us much more confidence that these interventions in Key Stage 3 will have an impact on the performance of these children in Key Stage 4.

“As far as our programme of intervention is concerned, everything is a bit calmer than it used to be. We are not chasing our tail in heaping our interventions into Year 11.”

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