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Ask any teaching professional about their pupils and, odds on, they’ll be able to tell you whether they are on-track to achieve expected standards. So using that as a basis of an assessment system seems like a good idea, and that’s the concept underlying Point in Time Assessment (PITA).

The basis of PITA is judging how pupils are performing based on what they have been taught so far, the emphasis being on whether they are at the standard expected for this point in the year, i.e. are they at age related expectations (ARE)? Descriptors vary, but are generally along the form of:

  • Below
  • Just below
  • At
  • Just above at
  • Above

The Target Tracker PITA assessment system is as follows:

Target Tracker PITA Assessment System

Note the colour coding – you’ll be seeing it again shortly!

Of course this also fits in nicely with the statutory assessment frameworks:

  • Early Learning Goals: Emerging, Expected, Exceeding
  • Teacher Assessment Framework: Pre-Key Stage, Working Below, Working Towards, Working At, Greater Depth
There are a number of other advantages as well, including:

  • Easy to understand
  • Allowing practitioners to make a judgement based on multiple data sources (workbooks, verbal responses, tests, professional knowledge etc.)
  • Predictions (‘at’ equates to ‘on-track to achieve expected standard’)

However there are also issues; how to demonstrate progress and how to track pupils who are ‘above’ or ‘below’.

Looking at progress using PITA will be covered in a later blog, but in this one I’ll try and unpick how we can be more precise about pupil attainment without losing the simplicity of this assessment approach. I’ll start by reminding you of the alternative to PITA…

Linear Assessment

In a linear assessment system pupils are assigned a grade which describes their attainment in some way. For instance, Target Tracker has ‘Steps’, which describe how much of the programme study for a particular year has been covered.

Each year (band in Target Tracker terminology) has been broken down into six steps:

  • beginning (b)
  • beginning + (b+)
  • working within (w)
  • working within + (w+)
  • secure (s)
  • secure + (s+)

The three broader sections may be thought of in these terms:

  • Beginning – Pupil learning is primarily focussed on the criteria for the band (year group), there may be minimal elements of the previous band still to gain complete confidence in
  • Working Within – Pupil learning is fully focussed on the criteria for the band
  • Secure – Confidence in all of the criteria for the band, there may be pupil learning still focussed on gaining thorough confidence in some minimal elements but the broad expectations for the band have been met

Though some systems have a ‘greater depth’ grade, Target Tracker has avoided this, using Steps to describe ‘breadth’ and statement assessment to describe the ‘depth’ of learning. This creates a much cleaner linear assessment system avoiding the overlapping grades that are sometimes used.

Using Linear Assessment to Underpin PITA

The precision which may be missing when using a PITA approach can be found by ensuring that there is an underlying linear assessment system, this is the Target Tracker approach.

Target Tracker’s PITA judgements are mapped to a particular step each half-term. Part of this ‘map’ is shown below:

Target Tracker PITA Judgements

So for instance, a year 1 pupil who is a judged as ‘working at age related expectation’ (yellow) in the summer term would be considered as a 1w+.

It’s important to note that the mapping is based on research on how pupils performed in the end of Reception and Key Stage statutory assessments compared with their Step assessment from Target Tracker. For instance 95% of year 6 pupils who were judged as working at age related expectations or better in Summer 2 achieved a scaled score of at least 100 in the end of Key Stage test. Look out for a future blog with an update from this year’s assessments.

Robust Tracking for ‘Below’ and ‘Above’

So with PITA underpinned by linear assessment, it’s now easy to answer that question ‘how far above or below is that child?’

Here’s part of the Target Tracker assessment entry screen:

Target Tracker Assessment Entry

Each Step (along the top of the screen) is colour-coded with the current term’s expectations. Assessment is as easy as double-clicking in the appropriate cell for each child.

However note that for ‘working below age related expectation’ (dark pink) and ‘working significantly above age related expectation’ (dark green) there are multiple steps which fall into those judgement categories. This allows teachers to make a judgement about how far below/above expectations the pupil is.

Experienced Target Tracker users will know that there are ways of using formative (statement) assessment to help inform those below/above judgements.

Analysing PITA

Though of course with the mapping of PITA to Steps the entire range of Target Tracker reports are available, here are two which may be particularly helpful.

Firstly, the age related profile report, giving a term-by-term pupil level indication of attainment:

Target Tracker Age Related Profile Report

Secondly, the age related expectation summary report, here shown in summary mode:

Target Tracker Age Related Expectation Summary Report

This allows us to compare some of the key groups.

To Sum Up...

The PITA approach is gaining traction in many schools as it provides a simply understood common language to talk about attainment. However for pupils who are working above or below expectations some extra detail is needed to ensure they are being tracked accurately.

The Target Tracker approach of linking an underlying linear assessment system to PITA judgements allows that precision without losing the simplicity of PITA.

In my next blog I will look at how we can talk about PITA and progress.

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Stephan Nicholls

Stephan Nicholls

Stephan Nicholls has worked in education for over 30 years including in leadership positions and as a Headteacher. He is now an Education Adviser, mainly for Target Tracker, but also as computing subject lead and a key stage moderator.