The insights gained from the CAT individual and group reports, and particularly from the Combination Reports, have revolutionised what we do.Micheal Fahy, Vice-Principal with overall responsibility for External Examinations and Data Management at St. Patrick’s Academy, Dungannon
A key priority in our most recent School Development Plan was to ‘Introduce and Develop Baseline Testing’. Previously, the school had trialled some baseline testing products with GL Assessment, but investing in the Complete Digital Solution (CDS) gave us the flexibility to devise a schedule that best suited our needs.
Initially we focused on Progress Test in English (PTE) and the Progress Test in Maths (PTM) as the teachers of English and mathematics were familiar with these tests and how to interpret the results. The results, which we were able to generate immediately after the sittings, provided the class teachers, and the numeracy, literacy and SEN co-ordinators, with up-to-date information that allowed for early identification and intervention. The support available from GL Assessment’s technical team was first-rate, as was the advice, guidance and insight available from GL Assessment’s NI associate.
Targeted literacy and numeracy support
The next step on our journey through the CDS package was administering the Cognitive Abilities Test (CAT). Timetabling three separate sittings for each pupil required a great deal of organisation; however, the outcome was well worth the effort.
The CAT results and the insights gained from the CAT individual and group reports, and particularly from the Combination Reports, have revolutionised what we do. The results encouraged teachers to re-consider their expectations of certain individual pupils and their specific abilities and strengths. The coordinators of literacy and numeracy used the Combination Reports to identify the pupils whose progress was ‘lower than expected’ or ‘much lower than expected’ so that intervention could take place. The numeracy and literacy support programmes, which had been previously used, became more focused and targeted and therefore much more successful.
To take one example, literacy support was organised in such a way that it targeted the pupils who needed specific support with areas such as spelling, punctuation and grammar and reading comprehension (narrative and non-narrative). Another advantage of the CDS package was the opportunity to re-test the pupils to measure the progress made, assess the efficacy of the support programme, and further develop rigorous and targeted mechanisms of intervention for the future.
Since the introduction of the CDS package, the effective use of baseline data has become one of the driving forces of school improvement and raising standards in the school.
Whole school use of data
The data generated from the Cognitive Abilities Test has been disseminated to all staff so that it can be used to enhance learning and teaching. The CDS package allows for the data to be sorted according to the different teaching groups. In particular, the CAT reports and suggested learning and teaching strategies can be utilised and incorporated into lesson planning, taking into consideration the different learning preferences of the pupils.
Since the introduction of the CDS package, the effective use of baseline data has become one of the driving forces of school improvement and raising standards in the school. Staff being cognisant with CAT data enables them to compare it with internal assessment data so that in the classroom highly-achieving pupils continue to be encouraged, low-achieving pupils are supported and under-achieving pupils are challenged. In this way, every pupil is expected and encouraged to achieve their full potential.
Predicted grades at GCSE Level have assisted with individual, departmental and whole-school target setting. Useful insights have also been gleaned from the Pupil Attitudes to Self and School survey data which has been used, especially by pastoral teams, to identify barriers to learning.
Overall, the introduction and development of baseline testing in the school has allowed pastoral and departmental teams to work in conjunction to acquire a more informed and in-depth understanding of each pupil’s ability, attainment and attitude.
Priorities going forward
In the past two years, staff have steadily become more confident in their understanding of baseline testing data; becoming more data literate has made our conversations about pupils’ progress much more focused. We now have the basis for developing more effective teaching strategies, particularly differentiation strategies to raise standards for every pupil.
We view the CDS package as a tool that provides teachers with much more comprehensive and more useful data that enables them to make better use of their pedagogical skills to intervene earlier, and with much greater precision, to effectively address under-achievement at every level.
Going forward, continuing to develop staff confidence and understanding in utilising and interpreting data will be given a high priority in our staff development training, as will promoting and sharing good practice in regards to data. More specifically, our plans for the future relate specifically to working closely with pupils in the middle stanine range - those with a high verbal, spatial or numerical bias, and those with low verbal, spatial or numerical biases. We also hope to launch the second stage of our training programme to further improve our teachers’ pedagogical skills.
CDS gives us the opportunity to work in an intelligent, targeted, professional and thoughtful way around each child.