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RS Assessment from Hodder Education Blog

Know your students' starting points
By RS Assessment from Hodder Education
03 Sep

This year has posed many challenges to schools, including an extended national lockdown in the spring term followed by high absence rates. Despite this, teachers and staff have shown remarkable resilience and adaptability, and they have ensured children have made significant progress in their learning.  

We have continued our series of white papers , with a final analysis of attainment in primary schools in the 2020/21 academic year*. To help secondary schools plan for their new Year 7 intake, we have summarised the key findings in Year 6 pupils below, with commentary from Assistant Headteacher, Amanda Warner.  It is encouraging to see how quickly progress has been made in areas like reading, and we hope that this research will help identify the areas where additional focus is needed. 

Year 6 pupils broadly on track in reading 

Year 6 reading results showed very little change between the two cohorts and show very similar distributions in 2019 and 2021. In addition, the percentage of pupils who may have gone on to achieve the expected standard in the National Test, was stable across the 2019 and 2021 cohorts. However there remains a significant gap in attainment between those eligible for Pupil Premium and their peers.  

Amanda Warner, Assistant Headteacher, Hampshire  

“We ran a summer school this year which targeted our incoming SEND and Disadvantaged students. We don't normally do this, but we were able to use some of the catch-up funding to staff and resource it. We had about 120 students in for the first week and then they were in for 3 days in the summer holidays (the cohort size is 372), our focus was reading.  We have found that the biggest concern for Y6 was reading for our SEND and Disadvantaged students.  We can strongly correlate this with parental and student engagement during lockdowns. Our 8 feeder schools have said that many of their non-SEN and Disadvantaged Y6s happily had the independent skills to continue reading etc without the usual classroom support but they had noted that the quality of the texts that the students were reading was lower. SEND and Disadvantaged students read far less which is not atypical but without the school support and face to face contact of encouragement they were less inclined to read than their peers. The gap in these groups reading for pleasure compared to their peers grew significantly in all of our primary feeder schools.” 

More Year 6 pupils likely to have missed the mark in GPS 

Year 6 showed the largest fall in GPS attainment, with children potentially 4 months** behind their peers. The cumulative distribution of scores for the summer term papers, comparing 2019 to 2021, shows a pattern of underperformance across the attainment range. 

In contrast to the positive picture seen in reading, the test results in GPS show an additional 13% of children may have failed to achieve the expected standard in the GPS Year 6 National Test had it taken place this year. 

The topic analysis gives a more detailed breakdown of this under-performance among Year 6 pupils. The largest drop was in the punctuation scores, which declined by 10%, followed by grammar and spelling (down 7%) and vocabulary (down 5%). Extra support may be needed to ensure that the new intake of Year 7 children have mastered these more technical aspects of English before progressing to the usual Key Stage 3 curriculum. 

Disadvantage gap grows in maths 

By the end of the spring term after the extended national lockdown there were large drops in attainment, so it was encouraging to see an improvement on this. However, Year 6 pupils still remained potentially 2 months behind their peers. The cumulative distribution of scores for the Year 6 maths summer term papers, shows pupils in the middle of the scale were disproportionately affected in 2021.  

The gap between those eligible for Pupil Premium and their peers also appeared to grow further, with potentially up to 7 months learning between the two groups. We also summarise that around 5% more Year 6 pupils might have failed to achieve the expected standard in the maths National Test in 2021 had it taken place. 

Amanda Warner, Assistant Headteacher, Hampshire  

“Maths is a significant concern really - much of our catch-up funding in the autumn term will be focused here. Parents of primary school children had reported more concern in terms of maths progression during lockdown but testing suggested that it isn't as bad as the parents were suggesting. Possibly it is more to do with how the parents feel about Maths and supporting the children at home using unfamiliar methods and needing to draw on skills that they often haven't used since their own school days.” 

Next steps

As we kick start the new academic year, understanding each child’s individual needs and their starting points is essential to be able to build on prior learning.  

Understanding the needs of a new cohort of children is always a complex process, more so than ever now. To help, schools may wish to use additional diagnostic tests and tools like Access Reading Tests and Access Mathematics Tests both understand a child’s overall attainment but also their areas of strength and any skills they may need further support with.

For more information or support, you can find your local assessment consultant details here.

*These papers analysed a large dataset of 250,000 test results across England, comparing average results in the summer term attainment tests taken in more than 1000 primary schools in summer 2021 with the prior cohort in summer 2019, before any school disruption. 

**The estimates of months’ learning loss quoted above were calculated using a method2 developed by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) that translates effect sizes to months of learning. They should be treated with caution and are no more than a rough indicative guide. Effect sizes were calculated by dividing the difference in Standardised Score points between 2020 and 2021 cohorts by the standard deviation of the 2020 cohort. These were converted to months using the EEF table, see: www.educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/evidence-summaries/about-the-toolkits/attainment 

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