Reading time: approx 2 minutes, 55 seconds (741 words).

Find out how we helped Thorngumbald Primary School reduce staff workload and spend more time on teaching and learning.

“The sign of a good pupil tracker is when you’re not using it much. I’ve got that now. Our staff can login, record data, get the analysis they need and get out, fast! This means more time to spend on planning, and of course teaching and learning.”

Joanne Carroll, Headteacher at Thorngumbald Primary School.

How we reduced workload

As with any ‘tracking review’ session, the first thing Joanne and I looked at was the codes that were being used. This is always the best place to start. We could have looked at learning objectives first, but we’d come to that later!

1) Teacher Assessment Codes

Joanne showed me the 7 codes, and their descriptors. They were a common set of codes, ones that I’ve seen used many times:

  • B for ‘Below standards’,
  • Three codes dedicated to showing progress, as a pupil is ‘Working towards standards’,
  • Then a further three codes for ‘At standards’, ‘Mastery’ and ‘Exceptional’.

These codes weren’t a major issue. But the time spent on working out which of the codes to use, for each pupil was. Staff were calculating the percentage of learning objectives that were understood. Then using that percent, they worked out which of the 7 codes each pupil should be in each subject.

I suggested considering a Point In Time Assessment model (PITA). We discussed using 3 codes to identify ‘Working towards standards’, ‘Expected standards’ and ‘Greater Depth’.

Teachers’ would then ask “based on what I’ve taught to date, has the pupil understood what we’ve covered?”

  • If the answer is “some of it”, then record a WT
  • If it’s “yes”, then record an EX
  • If a pupil needed more challenging tasks etc, then enter GD.

We scrutinised the method to make sure it would work for Joanne and her team. After considering all needs, we found that this worked great for Thorngumbald.

There’s more to PITA than the above, but I want to keep this article short…

Contact us to see if PITA will work for you

2) Learning Objectives

Joanne’s school were tracking objectives using an amended version of the national curriculum, with objectives for Reading, Writing and Maths only. That doesn’t sound too bad, right? But when we looked closer it soon became a concern. Here’s an example of the work we did:

  • There are 209 learning objectives in the year 6 curriculum
  • There are 36 pupils in year 6
  • If each pupil moved from ‘not understanding’ to ‘showing signs of understanding’ to ‘understood’ in each objective, that would be 3 assessments to record through the year.

So, (209 objectives x 36 children) x 3 assessment outcomes = 22,572. That’s 22,572 boxes that the year 6 teacher has to click each year!

Some pupils may jump from ‘not understanding’ straight to ‘understood’ within a term. Not all will, but some will. Let’s assume however that all will:

(209 objectives x 36 children) x 2 assessment outcomes = 15,048. That’s still a massive data entry task for the teacher.

When we applied this to the entire school, we found that over 90,000 assessments would need to be recorded in a single academic year. We knew we had to address this problem somehow.

Looking at books

With the introduction of the PITA model, and with an understanding of the time spent recording objective level data, we decided to explore if there was any need to commit so much time to data entry.

Recording and reviewing pupils’ gaps in learning is vital for great planning. The teachers’ at Thorngumbald already had a great system in place for this. They stuck learning objectives into pupils’ workbooks. Then, when a teacher saw that a pupil had understood an objective, they highlighted it. Simple, effective and child-inclusive.

That was the ‘nail in the coffin’ for the electronic recording of objective level data. And welcoming news for staff!

The way forward

Thorngumbald now uses a simple PITA model for tracking attainment and progress. Teachers’ record assessments for 3 subjects, 3 times a year. That’s significantly less than 90,000 boxes to click.

“Teachers’ record and analyse assessments with ease, and senior management still have access to the data we need. It’s makes so much more sense now.”

Joanne Carroll

The work that Joanne and I did has guaranteed less pupil tracking and more teaching and learning. That benefits everyone in school!

Book a session to see how we can help you reduce workload too

Further reading

[1] – What is a Point In Time Assessment model?

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