The CAT test scores and SATs results give us a good package of information. And, by using Doddle, we have a system that enables all the data and information we have to be recorded, stored and shared effectively
Matthew Pinder, Assistant Principal, Hinchingbrooke School

Preparing for the new GCSEs

With the removal of national curriculum levels and the introduction of new GCSEs, secondary schools need to reconsider their approach to assessment from Year 7 onwards. Matthew Pinder, Assistant Principal of Hinchingbrooke School in Cambridge, explains how they use CAT4 and Doddle to prepare for the new GCSEs.

Admitting a cohort of 300 new Year 7s every September is no mean feat for any school. The sheer scale of the intake means that teachers – and pupils – must be as prepared as they can be to hit the ground running as soon as the new school year arrives.

At Hinchingbrooke School which has ten forms of entry, staff will already know at the start of the school year what every Year 7 should be capable of academically. The process of finding out will have begun months earlier, during a three-day ‘transition’ event, when prospective pupils visit their new secondary school.

Matthew Pinder, Assistant Principal of Hinchingbrooke, explains: “The event includes a lot of fun activities, including a treasure hunt to help children get their bearings ahead of coming here in September, as we have over 15 buildings in all.

“Part of the experience is sitting the Cognitive Abilities Test. The tests take place in the computer room, and are usually done in the morning when the children are at their brightest and most eager to be in school. Parents are told in advance what is going to happen, and why we do the tests, so that it doesn’t come as a surprise that this forms part of the transition event.”

The resulting CAT scores are given to the teachers as part of the raft of data they will receive, including SATs results, to prepare for the arrival of pupils in September. “The teachers will find out, for example, who among the new Year 7s is strong in verbal reasoning and who excels at qualitative learning,” Matthew says. “This will help teaching staff with differentiation and planning.

“The scores allow staff to arrive at a forecast for each child, and to set targets. Because they are a measure of potential, they also tell us what each child could achieve if we challenge them.

“The tests are useful because they don’t require any prior knowledge of a particular subject. So even if a child has, for some reason, missed part of their primary education it won’t matter in this case as we will still get meaningful data for them.”

Assessing pupils prior to arrival is all part of a process, which started in 2014, to implement an effective and fit-for-purpose system of assessment. It came at a time when national curriculum levels were due to be scrapped. Staff at Hinchingbrooke, which is based in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, wanted to create a common approach to assessment across all age groups and subjects which was easily understood by everyone, including pupils and parents.

The use of CAT scores has been a mainstay in their assessment system because of their clarity and relevance. “The CAT scores give a target grade for each subject, which might for example, be an 8 in English and a 4 in maths,” Matthew adds.

“Alongside the CAT data, teachers use information from SATs tests taken by pupils in Year 6 of primary schools. SATs data is input into Doddle, an online progress reporting system, which gives teachers a suggested target. By taking into account other information, such as statements of special educational needs, staff are able to determine targets for students – one for the end of Year 8 and the other for Year 11 and GCSEs.

“Sometimes we might get pupils to do the CAT tests again later during their time at the school if we think they might have improved through growth mindset philosophy.” Children who display growth mindset believe they can perform better and understand that putting in the effort makes them stronger. This, in turn, leads to higher achievement.

Inputting targets determined through CAT scores and SATs results into Doddle means that targets can be reviewed annually, giving teachers a framework for assessment and target-setting. The assessment side of Doddle allows staff to check with precision on how new Year 7s are faring as they go along.

The 9-1 grading system

Last year, Hinchingbrooke began using the new 9-1 grading system for GCSE across the full age range for uniformity.

“We didn’t want to swap between letter gradings and number gradings in different age groups and key stages as that would have been confusing for everyone,” Matthew says. “We had to look at it as a five-year journey and to smooth the transition between Key Stages 3 and 4.

“So, we now use GCSE grades from Year 7. The CAT test scores and SATs results give us a good package of information, and by using Doddle, we have a system that enables all the data and information we have to be recorded, stored and shared effectively.”

The school uses Doddle flightpaths to create targets for each subject, which automatically assumes that more able students will make more rapid progress. The flightpath gives staff an approximate position the pupil should reach in each half-term. But teachers can change targets and update information at any time, because of the flexibility of the system.

Doddle also enables teachers to identify discrepancies in performance in different subjects for each child and groups of children. For example, it will provide information on how many students are performing below target, on target and above target, which is vital for interventions to be put in place.

Information on each child can also be shared with parents and Doddle can act as an electronic homework diary.

“Students have ready access to information on what they are good at and information can be shared with parents.” Matthew says. “We no longer send home written reports to parents in the summer, and we’ve had no complaints about using this system. There is also a potential in savings on paper.

“With all the information in front of them, parents get a good idea of their child’s progress. The questions we get asked most now is ‘what can my child do to improve?’ I can say, ‘Log on to Doddle, and you can have a look on a weekly basis at what they need to be working on’. It’s a brilliant, brilliant tool.”

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