With yet another round of outstanding 11 plus scores to celebrate, Headmaster Iain Robertson talks about how assessment of pupil progress fits into the daily routine and how it is used to raise achievement.
“We believe that assessment and testing has its place in the school curriculum as long as the results are used effectively. Monitoring children’s progress should begin the moment they start school.
“At Buckholme Towers School, the reason behind this is simple, if you don’t know where a child is in their learning at any given point, how can you plan their next steps? The main two types of assessment are formative assessment, which is ongoing and is used to advise the pupils of the next steps, by saying what is good about their work and how they can improve it, the second is summative assessment which evaluates their learning, often through a test or exam.
“We involve our students in the assessment of their own work. Even in the early stages we explain to them what the success criterion are for a task and what the learning outcomes should be. If they are clear on these things before they start, they can review their own work and see how successful they’ve been in achieving the goals. Sometimes older children will review each other’s work.
“Each term, pupils are tested in the core subjects of literacy and maths. This helps us to track their progress and even predict outcomes. The majority of Buckholme students are performing above or well above national expectations, so it is important that rates of progress are, at the very least, maintained. The combination of the formative assessment and the summative assessment helps us to build up an achievement and progress profile for each child.
“Because assessment is part of the culture at Buckholme, children quickly learn to take it in their stride. Most go on to do public examinations such as the 11 plus, for grammar school entry, and while I’m sure they get nervous, they have a sound understanding of what is expected, as well as a good grasp of exam techniques.
“Of course, achievement is not only about literacy and maths scores, students at Buckholme are exposed to a broad and varied curriculum and this is vital if we are to get the best from them, overall. Pinpointing their strengths early on and celebrating their successes and achievements at every opportunity means that self-esteem and confidence are high.
“This is much more easily achieved at Buckholme, where class numbers are small. We hear more and more from parents that in classes of more than 30, their children are ‘lost’, they are unnoticed and floundering. In this case children might either become withdrawn, or misbehave. In short, they don’t know how to do their best, and indeed why they should bother.
“Music, sport, drama and art are all high on the agenda at Buckholme and with the ‘can do’ culture that exists, most become involved in everything that is on offer. In this way, every child is happy because they have something to celebrate.”