We chatted to Clare Willcocks, the deputy head at Riverside Community Primary School, to find out more about their school’s approach to assessment, how they went about choosing a tracking system and how they’ve been getting on.
Customisable tracking that works
“We could approach assessment in any way we wanted, add our own objectives, assess them in any way we wanted and assess at any frequency.”
Putting Philosophy First
“Three years ago the headteacher and I went to a conference where a range of speakers gave examples of what they were doing for assessment. They all advised the same thing, which was to solidify our principles of assessment and THEN build a system on top of that.
“We decided to put our philosophy first. We believe class teachers are the people best placed to know what children need. We have regular progress meetings to check that, but as a school we’ve decided to ignore meaningless progress measures.
“Our aim is to have all children be secure in everything we teach. In terms of tracking, we believe that as long as we know where children are relative to their age related expectations, we’ll be OK. As long as we can see where pupils are struggling, we can address that through planning issues and so on (for example, we introduced top-up sessions to give pupils the opportunity to have 1:1 time with their TA).
“Before we had Insight in place, assessment of writing was our biggest issue. We starting releasing each class teacher once a week for writing conferencing.
“To us the curriculum was wordy and unfriendly, so our team took the NAHT KPIs and modified them to suit our children’s needs. Only after all this was in place did we start looking at tracking software.
“Being able to track groups is really important for us. 70% of our pupils are FSM and we have a lot of vulnerable children.
“We have an internal social matrix for tracking our particularly vulnerable groups – Pupil Premium boys, for example – so being able to analyse these groups was a big factor in which software we chose.
Choosing a Tracking System
“When we started looking at the software options available, we were recommended Insight by the deputy headteacher at another school, who thought it worked really well.
“We shopped around and felt that other systems were shoe-horning in levels in disguise. Nine out of ten of the presentations we saw included made up measures for tracking progress, which wasn’t what we were looking for.
“The thing we like best about Insight is the flexibility it gives us. We didn’t want a system which generated any teacher judgements for us; we wanted the ability to define for ourselves, for example, what ‘Well Below’ means. We can worry about how robust our data is through school processes.
“Insight suits our requirements as we can approach it in any way we want. We can add our own objectives and assess them at any frequency. At the same time we can add our own discrete, teacher judgements for analysis, making quick judgements and keeping an eye on groups and classes.
“It’s great for us to be able to add all the different tests we do as well, which back up the teacher judgements. Plus, being able to enter historic data so easily is great. You’d be surprised how difficult this turned out to be in other systems we tried.
Making the Transition
“Getting set up with Insight was a smooth process; we had none of the problems we expected to have when setting up a new system.
“There are lots of things that can be configured. The system doesn’t overwhelm you with information, but nine times out of ten what we need can be done quickly with the help of the Insight Team. It’s nice to know that we can phone or email, or even turn to the forum for support when needed.
“It’s really intuitive to use. That’s the feedback I keep getting from teachers – they can just get on with it. I love the simple reports, which enable us, for example, to really see the impact that our weekly writing conferencing is having.
“Everybody is really pleased as it’s so reliable and quick. My job used to take two weeks a term and now it takes two afternoons! We honestly love it.”