Co-constructing a MAT-wide assessment strategy
Since forming Schoolsworks in 2012, we have been on a journey to build a truly inclusive model that supports and empowers its schools to deliver the very best educational experiences – for teachers and students. Over the past couple of years we have adopted Renaissance Star Assessments for reading and maths as a robust solution that not only provides access to powerful trust-wide data, but more importantly gives teachers insights to guide and inform pupil progress.
Schoolsworks was very much born out of an ambition to create an education environment that was not just about standards but one where we could foster collaboration and build relationships with schools who shared our values. We have remained true to this vision, which I believe has helped to form part of our success. Whenever new schools express an interest in becoming part of our family, we invite them to join us as an Associate Member for a term, which gives them the opportunity to experience first-hand what our culture, processes and team is like. And from our perspective, it helps us to evaluate whether we’d be able to support their needs effectively.
This relationship-first strategy has been a major building block in Schoolsworks as a MAT. We’ve fostered a culture which promotes sharing of ideas, supports exploration of new practice and encourages schools to learn from one another. It’s this very ethos which first led us to Renaissance.
When joining us as a new school, River Beach Primary was already using Accelerated Reader very successfully and had started to explore their use of Star Assessments in a bit more depth. After sharing their best practice with other schools in the Trust, we all fell in love with how the programme can engage even the most reluctant readers, but when we looked at the potential of Star Assessments in more detail, we realised there could be a much wider benefit to individual schools – and the Trust as a whole.
Reducing teacher workload
We’d previously been using paper-based tests three times a year to assess literacy and maths, which naturally came with a lot of marking and manual data analysis. Reducing teacher workload and not creating unnecessary administration are key targets for us, so the potential for using an online system that would remove the need for marking and analysis was very appealing. But it wasn’t my decision. We asked our member schools to undertake their own evaluations and collectively they unanimously made the decision to move to Star Assessments.
We have completed a full year and a term now with all our schools using Star Assessments and it’s been enlightening to say the least. We finally have a common platform that produces reliable and robust data across the board – without negatively impacting on teacher workload.
The common link
Star Assessments has become the important layer that knits us all together: the common link. And even more importantly, it’s enabled us to confidently assess and guide teaching and learning in all year groups – not just Year 2 and Year 6. That said, after our first full year with the programme, we conducted a data study and confirmed that Star Scores have over a 90% correlation with our SATs results… which gives us even greater confidence in the system.
So far, we’ve had an overwhelmingly positive experience with Star Assessments. It’s given us an unprecedented level of consistency that enables us as Trust leaders to make accurate management decisions regarding the allocation of resources and budget. It’s also given the member schools a new way to interact and engage with each other, because Star reports and data provide a shared platform.
As a company, Renaissance has played a prominent role in supporting our journey. Being able to speak to people who understand education, talk our language and appreciate what it’s really like to be in a classroom (juggling many priorities) – is priceless.
Cathy Williams - January 2020