Guest Blog: Cathy Williams shares more of her story

By Chris Jarosh

Data-driven best practice

Cathy Williams, Director of Teaching and Learning at Schoolsworks Multi-Academy Trust (MAT), joined us recently for a guest blog to share her experiences of co-constructing a MAT-wide assessment strategy. Here, Cathy returns to pick up where she left off… bringing more practical advice on how data can be used not only to inform resource strategies, but more crucially to support teaching practice in the classroom.

A key milestone in our assessment journey has most definitely been reaching the full year mark of having Star Assessments in use across all our schools, because a whole school year equates to a full and robust data set for assessment.

But what does access to this data mean in real terms? Well, for our data manager it was sheer excitement! With a comprehensive and reliable data set to work with for all our schools, she was able to conduct a very detailed analysis which identified where we were making progress, and where we might need to direct additional support – all of which was achieved without having any negative impact on teacher workload.

From a data perspective, the most exciting confirmation was the correlation between our Star scores and Year 6 SATs results… which was a staggering 90%! This high level of correlation might be seen by some as a vanity statistic, but it is most certainly not. While we use Accelerated Reader as the backbone of our reading programme, for maths we follow a different programme: Inspire Mathematics. We did have reservations that Star Maths might not be as effective as Star Reading, given the link with Accelerated Reader – but the data doesn’t lie. It works just as well and now we have even more confidence in the system.

What’s more, having the absolute confidence that our Star data correlates with Year 6 SATs means that we can use Star scores as predictors throughout a student’s lifetime with us – all the way from Year 2. In doing so, we can now introduce interventions (if needed) very early on and ensure that students receive the support they need to make the right progress, monitoring this through all the key stages, not just when there’s high stakes SATs.

Insight to action

As a MAT, we have never focused purely on standards. Our priority has always been on delivering a rounded education experience that puts teaching and learning first. And we’re no different when it comes to data and assessment. We’ve worked closely with our schools to develop a best practice approach to using the data to support what’s happening in the classroom and with students’ learning. We take the data and we turn it into an actionable plan, and in many ways this helps to guide or validate teachers’ judgements on students’ progress.

Training and coaching have been instrumental in us being able to use data to support teaching. We’ve held sessions where assessment leads, teachers and leaders can come together from across our seven schools to learn from each other – and from Renaissance – about how best to use the data to address their specific priorities.

For me, if the data isn’t being used by teachers on the ground to underpin teaching, then it is being wasted. But through our collaborative approach, a very supportive environment and sharing culture, I can honestly say Star Assessments are already much loved by our teachers. In fact, when we were (un)lucky enough to be one of the first to receive a new Ofsted inspection recently, the teachers were keen to show how assessment could deliver detailed data, guide learning and add value – all without impacting workload!

As with any journey in education, we’ll continue to learn and evolve as we bring new schools on board and develop our understanding of how we can further improve our assessment strategy. But for now, I’d genuinely urge any school that is looking to use data for more than reporting purposes to come and visit us and see exactly how assessment can play a positive role in teaching and learning.

Let’s connect

If you’d like to ask me any questions about assessment at Schoolsworks, or how our relationship-driven ethos underpins our approach, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or follow our MAT on Twitter @schoolsworks

Monthly newsletter