5 things primary governors should know about data. Part 1: statutory assessment

Data is a minefield. It’s hard enough for head teachers and senior leaders to find their way through it all, but for many  governors it is a minefield in a swamp, with ditches filled with spikes, and pits of burning tar. And crocodiles. 

It is vital that governors have a sound working knowledge of school data. They need to know what data is collected and when, where they can find data for their school, and what – if anything – it tells them. They need to be able to separate the important stuff from the noise, pull out the key messages, ask the right questions, and understand the limitations of data. They need to understand how their school tracks the progress of its pupils but also understand that they must not seek to influence this process. They also pretty much need to learn a new language in order to get by, and this means knowing 1001 acronyms, which we’ll deal with as we go along. 

Data is a minefield and governors need to be able to navigate it. So let’s begin our 5 things governors need to know about data.

I originally intended this to be a single blog post, by the way, but it would have been huge, so I’ve decided to make it bitesize. Hope it’s useful.

1) Know what data is collected (statutory assessment)
Before we move on to those all important sources of data, we first need to know what data the DfE collect. This data is derived from statutory assessment, and there are four statutory assessment points in the primary phase: Early Years Foundation Stage Profile, Phonics, Key Stage 1, and Key Stage 2.

Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP) is carried out at the end of the reception year (YR). Pupils’ development is assessed against 17 Early Learning Goals (ELG) spread across 7 areas of learning. In each of these ELGs, a pupil’s development is assessed as either emerging, expected or exceeding. If a pupil reaches the expected level of development in the 12 key ELGs – those that make up the prime areas of communication and language, physical development, and personal, social and emotional development; and the specific areas of numeracy and literacy – then they are deemed to have made a ‘Good Level of Development’ (GLD). The percentage reaching GLD at the end of reception is a key measure and it’s worth governors being aware of it. This data is collected by the DfE but is not available in the public domain (i.e. in performance tables).

Phonics Screening Check (PSC) is carried out at the end of Year 1 (Y1). The assessment involves pupils attempting to decode 40 words, half of which are real, the other half made-up. The pass mark has been 32/40 since the assessment was introduced in 2012 but this may change at some point. If pupils do not achieve the pass mark in Y1 then they are assessed again in Y2. The percentage achieving the phonics check a) at the end of Y1 and b) by the end of Y2 are key measures, and again governors are advised to know – or be aware of – these figures. This data is collected by the DfE but is not available in the public domain. 

Key Stage 1 (KS1) assessments are made at the end of year 2 (Y2). Pupils sit tests in reading and maths (there is no test for writing). These tests are marked internally and marks are converted into a scaled score in the range 85-115. A score of 100 or above equates to the expected standard (unlike at KS2 there is no definition of a high score). KS1 scaled scores are only used to inform the final teacher assessment; the scores are NOT collected by the DfE and are therefore not used in accountability measures. Pupils receive a teacher assessment in reading, writing, maths and science. In science, pupils are simply assessed as having met or not met expected standards (science does not form part of key measures). In reading, writing and maths the vast majority of pupils are assessed as either working towards the expected standard (WTS), working at the expected standard (EXS), or working at greater depth within the expected standard (GDS). These are all pupils that are working within the KS1 curriculum. Your school may also have a small number of pupils assessed as pre-key stage (PKS) or working below (BLW). These are usually pupils with special educational needs (SEN) but may also be pupils for whom English is an additional language (EAL). The percentage of pupils attaining expected standards and greater depth in reading, writing and maths are key measures that governors should be aware of. Again, this data is collected by the DfE but is not available in the public domain. 

Key stage 2 (KS2) assessment is made at the end of year 6 (Y6). With the exception of writing in which there is only teacher assessment, at KS2 the test is king. There are tests in reading, maths, and grammar, punctuation and spelling (GPS, commonly referred to as SPaG). These tests are externally marked and scores are in the range of 80-120, with a score of 100 or above indicating that the pupil has attained the expected standard, and a score of 110+ classified as a high score. If pupils score below 100, they are deemed to have not met the expected standard (schools may  challenge this if the pupil misses the standard by a mark). Note that 110+ score is defined as a ‘high score’, not ‘greater depth’ (greater depth is for writing only). Pupils below the standard of the reading and maths test – due to SEN or EAL – will be assessed as  pre-key stage (PKS) or working below (BLW). Note: BLW/PKS assessments do not apply to GPS.

In writing, where there is no test, pupils are assessed by the teacher. Assessments are in the same format as KS1, with pupils assessed as either working towards the expected standard (WTS), working at the expected standard (EXS), or working at greater depth within the expected standard (GDS). As in reading and maths, pupils can also be defined as working below (BLW) or pre-key stage (PKS) if they are below the KS2 assessment criteria

In science, pupils are assessed as either meeting or not meeting expected standards. There are no pre-key standards.

KS2 results are collected by the DfE and are published in the public domain via the performance tables. The key measures are as follows:

  • Percentage of pupils attaining the expected standard in reading, writing, and maths combined
  • Percentage of pupils attaining a high standard in reading, writing and maths combined
  • Average scaled score in reading and maths tests
  • Average progress in reading, writing and maths
These are the measures that schools must publish on their websites and governors should certainly know about these figures. There is of course a lot more detail in the various sources of data, which governors should be aware of.

And it’s those sources of data that we’ll deal with in part 2. 

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