The last 12 months has seen a huge shift in the way schools use their assessment systems and for most of this time it’s fair to say that SIMS has been catching up with the latest assessment thinking. November 2015 will see the release of the final key elements of Capita’s assessment without levels strategy.
This is the first of a two-part article on how the most recent improvements can help your school. In this first part, we’ll look at the programme of study marksheets which will provide benefits for primary and secondary schools. In the second part, we’ll look at the improvements to the KS4 systems.
SIMS Programme of Study Marksheets
There are potentially game-changing improvements for both primary and secondary schools in this term’s Programme of Study (PoS) marksheet improvements. If you looked at the programme of study marksheets earlier this year and decided that they weren’t for your school – look again.
Here are some key reasons why you should consider using the new system to power your assessment system:
1) You Don’t Have to Assess Everything
SIMS have included every single statement from the national curriculum within the PoS marksheets. This sounds great but in practice many schools found the sheer amount of assessments daunting. From the autumn release you no longer have to ask teacher to assess everything. You can now define certain key statements from the national curriculum as ‘school expectations’ and (this is they key improvement in functionality since the summer release) you can hide all the other statements. So if you want to use Michael Tidd’s Key Objectives system, or the NAHT’s Key Performance Indicators, then the new SIMS PoS marksheets are ideal.
2) Formative Assessment – SIMS has it Covered
The abolition of levels was the catalyst to re-evaluate the whole concept of assessment. Old-style sub levels didn’t help you identify the gaps in a pupil’s learning and told teachers nothing about the skills the pupil still needed to acquire. Summative assessment used to be the most important game in town, with teachers and Ofsted obsessing about 3 and 4 points of progress per year, and teachers promoting pupils to the next level or sub level without the pupil really having mastered the key concepts of the curriculum.
Now the focus is back on formative assessment. For formative assessment SIMS PoS marksheets are incredibly useful tools to show teachers what an individual pupil knows and doesn’t know, and also what groups of pupils know (and don’t know). It uses the very popular emerging-developing-secure-mastered system to build a picture of each pupils strengths and weaknesses.
3) Summative Assessment – SIMS has that Covered, Too
But schools still need to report to governors and Ofsted, and formative assessment is just too specific and too detailed to show overall trends and effectiveness. Again, that’s where PoS marksheets can help. Since the summer release teachers have been able to assign pupils an ‘overall’ grade for each subject (eg reading) as well as for the subject strand (eg reading comprehension). The overall grades are now analysed by a variety of new reports and can also be displayed in old-fashioned SIMS marksheets. Old-fashioned teachers will be glad to know that the overall grade is entirely a teacher decision – there’s no automatic link to percentage of statements achieved.
4) Better Analysis, Better Marksheets
The summer release provided lots of useful new analysis reports. I blogged some screenshots of the analysis reports in the summer release of SIMS here. The autumn update to SIMS further improves on these reports by providing more filters and selection criteria. One strategically important new PoS marksheet will be the ‘topic view’ that allows teachers to look at individual pupil’s progress across all the school expectations and across all subjects:
The autumn improvements also include extra PoS marksheets to show the overall subject and overall strand assessments, together with the next steps and strengths comments:
Many schools will have pupils working below their age related expectations, so the ability for schools to record assessments relating to any curriculum year (not just the pupils current year group plus the previous year group) will be welcome.
5) Secondary Schools Can Use Them Too
Key stage 3 teachers shouldn’t feel left out either. From the autumn release you’ll have access to PoS marksheets for the entire KS3 curriculum for year 7 to 9 – and class teachers will be able to enter results for their own classes.
6) Assessments can now ‘follow’ the pupil to their next school
One of the more strategic improvements in the autumn release, and one that I think will have far-reaching benefits for all children, is the ability to transfer PoS assessments with the pupil’s personal data – when he/or she moves to a different primary school or into Y7 at secondary school – via a CTF file. Imagine a world where detailed formative assessments are automatically transferred to a pupil’s new school. Secondary schools will be very keen to get hold of this information from their primary feeder schools.
7) Foundation Subjects: No Longer the Poor Relations
The relentless focus on core subjects meant that foundation subjects (art, design technology, history etc) often got relegated into second place. But several schools I talked to this autumn have piloted the use of PoS marksheets using the foundation subjects and have noted how useful they have been to encourage the full coverage of the entire curriculum.
8) Looking Ahead: Reporting to Parents from Spring 2016
This one isn’t available in the autumn release but it is promised for spring 2016. Look at this example of a possible report to parents, created using the existing SIMS ‘individual pupil report’ module, clearly describing what their child can and can’t do and exactly what he or she needs to do to improve:
The Programme of Study marksheets are maturing into an assessment system that schools need to engage with. Combining their functionality with the SIMS database (all your data, in one place) and available to schools for no extra charge, schools should re-evaluate their use of SIMS. For more information contact Capita, your local SIMS support unit or myself.