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RS Assessment from Hodder Education Blog

How do secondary schools plan on measuring student understanding in September?
By RS Assessment from Hodder Education
17 Jun

As schools begin to reopen and plans for the new academic year are put in place, teachers and assessment experts share their thoughts on how and why they’ll be using Access Mathematics Tests (AMT) and Access Reading Tests (ART) to measure students’ understanding after a long period of remote learning and the cancellation of SATs.

Using AMT and ART to baseline and inform intervention programmes

During my 20 years at Honley, we have always baseline tested our Year 7 students on entry in September. These tests have included cognitive abilities tests, a reading comprehension test and a spelling test. In the past 5 years, we updated the reading comprehension element, so began using ART, and introduced AMT. We normally test by form group on a rolling programme over the first two weeks of entry in Year 7.

We use this information to target specific support from the Learning Support department at students performing below expected levels. In recent years this support has been provided by a team of seven TAs, three for numeracy and four for literacy who run weekly withdrawal sessions on structured multi-sensory literacy and numeracy programmes. The students on the intervention programmes are re-tested in March using ART (and AMT if applicable), then we might use Diagnostic Reading Analysis  (DRA) for students who are really struggling to get a more in-depth profile of barriers to reading comprehension. We then re-test in December and June of the following years after any further interventions. ART and AMT are also used for assessing any in-year admissions.  

In addition to informing intervention programmes, we use the information from this baseline testing to provide additional information for completing the History of Need section for the Form 8 applications for extra time / readers and scribes for GCSEs. ART and AMT data is also helpful when we are reporting back to parents.

As there is still uncertainty of how September will look, we haven't put the testing timetable in place yet. We will be doing the testing, but this may be reduced or extended over a longer period. Because we have the baseline data over the past 5 years, it will be interesting to see how this year’s data compares following such a long period out of school.

Gill Reas

Specialist Assessor, Honley High School


Using ART to baseline in Year 7, 8 and 9

ART is specifically used at John Taylor High school by the SEND department as part of our baseline testing package. This year, such testing will be even more important as we will not have the benefit of Key Stage 2 National Test data or the results from the testing that is carried out during Year 7 induction in July.

We use ART for students in Years 7, 8 and 9. We test on entry in September and then at six monthly intervals and use the standardised scores as our reporting measure. Initially, it provides an indicator as to a student’s reading comprehension ability to establish if any additional intervention may be required. We find ART useful for highlighting students who struggle with inference in particular. Subsequent testing allows us to measure progress and the efficacy of any intervention that has been put in place. 

The SEND department has reliably used ART throughout a variety of year groups for selected students whether this is for a baseline, recurrent testing or for supporting evidence for Access Arrangements. It is a quick and simple test to administer and it is easy to mark. We prefer to use a standardised test so that we can be sure of the reliability of the assessment when reporting results to our exams inspector and to parents.

Gail Gilbert

Assistant SENDCo & Access Arrangements Assessor, John Taylor High School


Find out how much students know and don’t know before planning lessons

It sounds obvious, but the key message from the teachers we’ve spoken to is that they don’t want to waste their time or students’ time by teaching what they already know. Instead, find out what they don’t know and focus on that – time is too precious to waste, especially now. This will also prevent students from getting bored if they feel they’re repeating what they’ve already learnt.

This thought is echoed by assessment author Colin McCarty, who told us that working in this way will help schools to increase the catch-up rate for their new cohort, who are likely to have much larger and disparate widths of experiences depending on their home schooling.

In these special circumstances, both ART and AMT have the distinct advantages of being fast, efficient and effective at providing clear information about progress against national norms and diagnostic information about performance. This diagnostic analysis can form the basis of an action plan for each student.

They can also help you to form short-term intervention setting arrangements in maths and English to match your student’s present understanding and performance. Then, at the end of the autumn term, they can be used to review progress and see what new setting arrangements may be more appropriate for the rest of the year.


Thanks to everyone who contributed to this blog. We hope you find it useful when making your own back to school plans. You can find out more about AMT and ART and how they can help you to evaluate gaps in your students’ understanding by clicking on the links.

We would love to hear your plans on assessing new and returning students. If you would like to share them with us, please email

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