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Turning pupil tracking on its head

January 24, 2022, 10:23 GMT+1
Read in 4 minutes
  • Frazer Westmorland discusses how his school uses technology to intervene earlier and boost pupil success
Turning pupil tracking on its head

One thing that gets a school leader out of bed in the morning is the desire to unlock the true potential of every child. 

Our school, Mundella Primary, in Folkestone, serves a community with pockets of significant disadvantage, with about half of pupils on free school meals. 

We’ve been on a journey to uncover the difficulties children face and break down barriers that hold learning back. We wanted a deeper understanding of what each pupil was capable of achieving so the right support could be provided at the right time to help get them there. 

No looking back

Schools are focused on catch up and missed learning, but teachers can’t always spend hours crunching attainment data to see the depth of information needed to improve pupil progress. 

All schools use technology to help them get insights into their pupils. Often, a piece of whizzy software simply provides a convenient place to record historical pupil assessment data or create reports based on past achievement. Schools need a simple way of identifying gaps. 

Bang for buck

It’s impossible to know in advance whether a particular intervention or support scheme, or recruiting a specialist teacher, will have the maximum impact on pupil achievement. 

If we could predict where targeted support would help most, we could all make good and timely decisions about when and where to put support in place. 

We wanted to find out whether technology could help, so we decided to pilot a new achievement tracking tool from Juniper Education, called Sonar Tracker. 

Future view

The trial was an eye-opener of how pupil tracking technology has moved on in recent years. 

We could see a realistic picture of what individual children and groups were capable of achieving now as well as in the future, making it easier to keep pupils progressing towards their learning objectives. 

Teachers could easily spot children who were coasting, and issues were uncovered that might otherwise be missed too, such as a child or group smashing their learning targets in English but falling behind in other areas. 

Having targeted insight changed our approach to supporting pupil progress. 

Successful interventions

Using pupils’ historical attainment data, we could ‘model’ the potential outcome of putting an effective intervention in place, running various scenarios, on screen, in minutes. 

We can now identify the children who would benefit from a targeted programme and plot the potential uplift in achievement of a class, year group or the whole school. 

Detail without the faff

Having constantly to update pupils’ records unnecessarily is a real burden, particularly if progress has been maintained. We changed our processes and now pupil attainment data need only be amended if pupils deviate from being on track.

We’ve realised the importance of having the latest school wide information on groups at our fingertips too, such as pupils with special needs, pupil premium or gifted and talented so that school leaders, subject coordinators and teachers can plan effectively and respond rapidly. 

Not boxed in

We want every child to benefit from the learning and enrichment opportunities we provide, including through our forest and beach school activities. With our new approach to data, we can monitor children’s performance, in all subjects, and provide targeted support that promotes their success every step of the way. 

Frazer Westmorland is headteacher of Mundella Primary School, Folkestone. Sonar Tracker is available from Juniper Education.