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RS Assessment from Hodder Education Blog

Maths: Understanding the strengths and areas of challenge for your new cohort
By RS Assessment from Hodder Education
05 May

As secondary schools start to consider their new intake of children who will be planning to join them in September 2021, this will be a time to better understand the strengths and areas of challenge for their new cohort. With the National Tests in KS2 being cancelled for the second year in a row, there will not be a consistent and common metric upon which to understand whether a child is keeping up with the demands of the curriculum. To get a clearer view of the impact of school closures on children’s attainment RS Assessment from Hodder Education prepared an analysis of aggregated test results from its market-leading primary termly test series PUMA (Progress in Understanding Mathematics Assessment). The standardised tests were used at the end of the Autumn term 2020 in over 800 primary schools; we then compared the results to tests taken in Autumn 2019 to look at which year groups, pupil groups and topics were most affected. To help secondary schools plan we have focused on the key effects on Year 6 pupils in autumn 2020 in this blog. 

Year 6 were, on average, least affected by the end of the autumn term 

Comparing the results of each year group we found there were decreases in average scores when comparing the 2019 and 2020 cohorts, for every year group. The analysis showed that Year 6 children were least affected in 2020, with average scores only slightly below the 2019 cohort, with an overall drop of a Standardised Score of 0.35. To help understand how differences in Standardised Scores correspond to time spent learning, we can apply a method to translate effect sizes developed by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), which indicated this could equate to a month’s learning between children in 2019 and 2020. Effect sizes were calculated by dividing the difference in Standardised Score points between 2019 and 2020 cohorts by the standard deviation of the 2019 cohort. These were converted to months using the EEF table, see: educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/evidence-summaries/about-the-toolkits/attainment




Pupil Premium children Year 6 could be, on average, 7 months behind their peers 

As well as overall changes in attainment, a specific concern is that children from disadvantaged families will fare worse than those from more affluent backgrounds. We were also able to analyse the effect on this group of children, using Pupil Premium status as a proxy for disadvantage in this analysis. The following figures show the differences in mean Standardised Scores between Pupil Premium and non-Pupil Premium children for cohorts who sat the tests in autumn 2019 (before school closures) and autumn 2020 (after school closures and re-openings). The figure shows that the pre-pandemic attainment gaps in Maths of 6-7 Standardised Score points tended to increase, giving a range in 2020 of 5-9 Standardised Score points. Older year groups were more adversely affected than younger ones. 

Using the EEF’s translation of effect sizes to months’ progress helps to put these gaps into context. This indicates that the Year 6 Pupil Premium group could now be around 7 months behind the non-Pupil Premium group in Maths, a widening of a further 2 months since 2019.  




Largest drops were in Geometry and Statistics 

Using the results of the tests in a diagnostic way has helped schools pinpoint their teaching to support children in keeping up with the demands of the curriculum. An analysis of Year 6 topics indicated that the largest drops were seen in Geometry and Statistics, whereas Operations, Measures and Fractions were least affected. In fact, children appear to have performed better in Number in 2020 compared to the 2019 cohort. 




Next steps 

The analysis indicated not all children have been affected equally, meaning, more than ever, understanding each child’s individual needs and their starting point will be essential to be able to build on prior learning.  

We hope that the information here will be of use as secondary schools begin to plan for their new intake in September. We know that understanding the needs of a new cohort of children is always a complex process, more so than ever now that these children are arriving with less information on their prior attainment and existing knowledge. 

Schools may wish to use further diagnostic tests and tools like Access Mathematics Tests to both understand a child’s overall attainment but also their areas of strength and any skills they may need further support with. These tests can be administered to a whole cohort of students on arrival, and will enable teachers to quickly understand what knowledge they have retained but also where gaps in learning may lie. 

RS Assessment will continue to monitor and analyse the results of Year 6 children throughout the academic year, so do look back for further analysis on our blog.  

To see the full white paper analysis visit: www.risingstars-uk.com/rs-assessment/whitepapers

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