KS3 Standardised Tests Case Studies

We asked secondary schools across the country why they use our standardised tests and how it helps them to identify gaps and measure progress. Click on the links below to read the full case studies. 

  1. Ninestiles Academy Trust
  2. Idsall School
  3. Alderman Peel High School
  4. Magnus Church of England Academy
  1. The Lancaster Academy (coming soon)

About Ninestiles Academy Trust LimitedNinestiles Academy Logo - PUMA KS3

Ninestiles Academy Trust Limited is made up of eight academies across the West Midlands.  Jayne Smith, Trust Director of Mathematics is based in the Trust office at Ninestiles School, an Academy.  The Trust describes itself as fiercely ambitious for their students and checks their achievement and progress against the highest national standards. The three secondary schools are diverse in terms of student demographics, catchment areas, and school performance, although they share the common goals and vision of the Trust. Jayne’s role as Director of Mathematics across the Trust is to ensure that all students achieve their full potential in mathematics, and she is responsible for setting and implementing the maths strategy across all schools, as well as overseeing maths interventions.

Why did you adopt PUMA KS3?

Secondary school practitioners have found themselves in a strange situation: children arrive with their KS2 SATs, and then don’t take a national test for another five years. While the KS3 national curriculum sets out the content requirements, unlike the Primary curriculum, it is not year group specific, making it difficult to judge whether pupils are working at the expected level. PUMA will allow us to measure them against a national standard, so we know whether they’re on track, and to keep them focused and moving in the right direction. We need rigour and certainty, and we believe that PUMA will give us that peace of mind.

Because PUMA is also used by the primary schools in the Trust, PUMA KS3 will also give us continuity across KS1, 2 and 3, allowing us to track and monitor progress as children make the transition from primary to secondary. It has credibility amongst secondary practitioners because we’ve seen the good correlation between PUMA data and SATs results. In fact, the decision to pilot it was based partly on the recommendation of our primary colleagues.

Across the secondary schools there was a variability amongst teacher assessment, which meant that the judgement of children’s attainment or progress was not as accurate as we would have liked. Because we have always used common assessments across the Trust schools, we already have a common language of assessment, and well-established moderation processes. PUMA will give an objective picture of how students are doing, as it just measures accuracy. The age standardised scores enable the age of the child to be taken into account, ensuring Summer born children are not put at a disadvantage by being compared to children that could be almost a year older than them.

How PUMA is used

One of the benefits of being part of a Trust is the collaborative approach across all schools.  Amongst the secondary schools, this means we share a common curriculum. Pupils are assessed against a continuum of developing, assured and extended skills within the schemes of work. Initially we designed our own assessments, but realised we had no way of knowing whether we were working at national expectations with our children. Checking progress against national standards is vital. I’ve got no doubt that adopting PUMA KS3 will help us see which children are working towards/ working at or exceeding expectations for these key skills.

We also work closely with our primary colleagues, and I see all the PUMA data from our Trust primaries to give a richer picture of the children’s strengths, weaknesses and capability in maths.  For children moving from one of our primaries to one of our secondary schools, their PUMA data can now follow them, and, if required, be shared with the SENCo for remedial support.  Using the full suite of PUMA tests gives us the flexibility to support children working several years below their chronological age in maths and get a reliable score to track and monitor their progress as we aim to narrow the gap.   

However, not all children arrive from our Trust primaries, or indeed with KS2 data. We’ve therefore decided to use PUMA 6, the summer tests, as a baseline on entry to Y7 from the start of the 2018/19 year. This will be used to inform setting decisions and allow us to get going immediately with our maths curriculum as not all students join us straight away and it can take a while to receive the SATs data from our Authority. I’m also doing a personal research project looking at the maths topics that children regress in. I’m intending to use the baseline data to see which topics children are most likely to drop off in, and use this to inform our start of Y7 SoW.

One of our schools has relatively high levels of student mobility, and again, for students arriving part way through a year in KS3, PUMA gives a steer on where to place them, and how to support them.

Looking ahead

We’d ultimately like to be able to make predictions about the likely GCSE outcomes for our children, and use it to track their flightpath so if they start to dip, we can pick them up and ensure that they remain on track with extra support to make sure we’re going to the best results we can for them.

We’ll be sharing our experience of using PUMA KS3 with other schools in our area, who I know are interested in adopting high quality standardised tests, with a view to improving the quality and rigour of their assessment process.

Based on an interview with with Jayne Smith, Trust Director of Mathematics, Ninestiles Academy Trust Limited

About Idsall School

Idsall school in Shifnal is thriving comprehensive with over 1,300 on roll which in a recent Ofsted report was praised for the effectiveness of its teaching, and strong relationships between staff and pupils. Places at the school are sought-after and the school is always over-subscribed.
The Key Stage 3 maths team is in the process of implementing a new Scheme of Learning. One of the priorities has been to find an assessment approach which balances the requirements of SLT with needs and priorities within the maths department.
The school has recently trialled PUMA Key Stage 3 summer tests, with a view to adopting the assessments alongside their chosen maths scheme. 

Why did you choose PUMA KS3?

We wanted an independent assessment product which provides rigorous and valid assessment results. Over summer, we ran our normal scheme tests alongside the PUMA tests after to see which gave our kids the best experience and to evaluate whether they generated the data we need in the maths department. The feedback from pupils was positive: they preferred the look and feel of the tests to those provided by the scheme publisher. 

From a staff point of view, the one-mark questions make it easier to dissect the strengths and weaknesses of each pupil. Questions are short and sharp and test each skill separately so we’re not having to work out which part of the question relates to a specific skill, and what the student got right. I would definitely say it’s good for identifying gaps making it easier to plan the next steps in a pupil’s learning.

With PUMA its one test for all, which means it shows the range of abilities. The benefit of a common test is that it allows you to rank students’ abilities and that can really help in terms of setting.

How would you envisage using the tests?

The tests would be used for an end of term data drop. These sit alongside half-termly tests put together by staff drawing on questions from our scheme. In terms of expectations of management, we’re expected to do flightpath predictions, so we need to see whether the student is on track to achieve their predicted score.

We shared the test scores and test papers with the pupils, so that they could see their own strengths and weaknesses, to encourage them to take responsibility for their own learning.

How easy was it to use PUMA KS3?

From an administrative point of view, we found it easy and straight forward to use because of the way the paper and mark scheme is structured. There were a few staff concerns that we hadn’t followed the schemes of work that the tests were designed for, but I don’t think this caused any real issues. Generally the students that performed less well did so because they are our lower attainers, rather than because they hadn’t been taught the relevant content.

Based on an interview with Anthony, Head of KS3 maths at Idsall school in Shifnal

About Alderman Peel High

Alderman Peel High is a small comprehensive school in Norfolk with high expectations. The aim of the maths department is to achieve the best possible results for students. PUMA Key Stage 3 provides certainty for Alderman Peel High School in a post National Curriculum Level landscape.

Why did we choose PUMA KS3? 

Like many schools, the removal of National Curriculum levels left us concerned over the consistency of our assessments at KS3, and our ability to track and measure student progress: without levels it's very difficult to make any kind of objective assessment over whether students are achieving in line with students from similar starting points in other schools. We were looking for a comprehensive standardised assessment package which measures our students against national standards, and allows us to make reliable predictions over future performance. Schools have been left trying to measure progress against predicted attainment based entirely on KS2 results, and it is debatable whether that's sufficiently detailed or robust enough to monitor progress against GCSE targets. 

How do we use them? 

They're used at the end of each term in Y7, 8 and 9, with the summer tests acting as our end-of-year tests. The intention is that the tests will generate a robust and reliable standardised score which will indicate that what we're doing in class is working. This is then reported in a data drop and shared with SLT. 

We're also part of a pilot to track PUMA scores across KS3 and then see how these students perform in GCSE, so in time it will be possible to give schools really reliable and robust information about the likely attainment of their pupils, ultimately taking away the guess work involved in predicting student scores in maths. Based on our experience so far, I'm confident that the tests will be a reliable indicator of GCSE results, as well as providing an accurate a consistent approach to measuring attainment and tracking progress through KS3.

Why should other schools consider using them? 

One the of the key selling points for us was the provision of a maths age, because that makes conversations with parents so much more meaningful and relevant. Rather than talking about a range of different measures such as standardised scores or scales, it helps to paint a picture for parents about where their child is. Adopting the tests gives us a common language for talking about maths attainment and progress which is meaningful for specialists and parents alike. 

Importantly, it has allowed us to replace a collection of inhouse class tests that we were doing two or three times a term, with one longer and more robust test at the end of each term, both simplifying our assessment procedures and allowing us to gather more useful information. This is in line with Ofsted's advice to reduce the excessive data capturing that is creating an unsustainable workload for teachers. 

They’re very easy to use: there's just the one test for each term and year group, and the marking is very straight forward. We take the raw scores and use the lookup tables to populate the spreadsheet with the standardised score. Adopting the tests has reduced teacher workload.  

Overall, we're very happy with our decision to adopt PUMA Key stage 3, and recommend it to other schools looking for a more reliable and consistent approach to measuring progress and attainment in maths.

Based on an interview with Bill Boyce, Head of Maths at Alderman Peel High School  

PUMA KS3 is ‘a real motivator for students’

Alexandra Paine is the Senior Leader for Maths and Numeracy at Magnus C of E Academy - a mixed 11-18 Academy in Newark. Below, Alexandra explains how the termly standardised maths tests (PUMA KS3) have helped to reduce teacher workload, track progress throughout KS3, and best of all, motivate students to boost their performance in maths...

Why did you choose PUMA KS3?

We wanted a standardised test that would give us a clearer picture of where students sat compared with the national cohort and specifically wanted a maths age score.

Whilst we have well-written in-house assessments, grading from these is difficult as we don’t have many students in our school to compare against. There is a long time between KS2 SATS and GCSE for tracking students with in-house or GCSE papers as a measure of progress. PUMA KS3 has helped to reduce the workload.

What are the benefits of PUMA KS3?

We really like the simplicity of marking as it is binary, and the questions are still very challenging.

What we were not expecting was for students to be hooked into their maths ages. It’s a real motivator for most students. They have taken well to the challenge of increasing their maths age and exceeding their chronological age. They are keen to find their results as they totally understand what this means and is tangible to them.

We analyse results using the free online reporting tool (MARK) which helps us to identify areas for intervention, learn when, what and who to re-test and gauge progress of interventions.

PUMA KS3 data pulled from MARK has shown that when we introduced the first tests in Autumn for Y7 and Y8, very few students exceeded their chronological ages. However, by the time we reached Spring this was a changing picture with almost all students in the highest set now exceeding theirs.

The online tool has certainly saved me time because it removes the need to write the question level analysis spreadsheet as I can simply download and go. The analysis reports also save me time. 

Final comments

I would recommend PUMA KS3 alongside other forms of assessment including where method marks are awarded for partially correct responses. Students need both this and in-house assessments to cover all exam question experiences and practice.
Alexandra Paine, Senior Leader for Mathematics and Numeracy, Magnus Church of England Academy

Thoughts from a trial school

The Lancaster Academy

Working with us to trial PiRA KS3 at The Lancaster Academy allowed Camille London-Miyo, Head of Communications Faculty, to explore an alternative and effective way of assessing student progress following the removal of national curriculum levels.

“We knew we needed to explore standardised assessments as an alternative at KS3 English for a ‘life without levels’. We wanted a benchmark to assess progress in Year 7, 8 and 9, which is what PiRA KS3 offers. Students enjoyed reading the stories, and taking the assessments certainly highlighted possible gaps in their learning.” ~ Camille London-miyo MBE, Head of Communications Faculty.

Full case study coming soon...