What makes our ‘JK Assessments’ so essential?
by Managing Director Katie Krais –
In short… to shed some light on how your child is doing in school!
One of the main reasons why my friend and colleague Lorrae Jaderberg and I set up our consultancy over five years ago was to bring parents into the ‘classroom loop’, to enable them to fully understand how their child was doing academically and therefore make informed decisions. Back in 2010, too little information was being given to parents. Today they are given even less.
Most parents come to us at Jaderberg Krais because they are confused about how their child is doing at school. For some, they fear they are struggling, for others they fear they are coasting. We believe parents need to know how their child is doing in reading, writing and maths compared to others nationally.
The general trend in both state and private schools is that parents’ evening has become the main way of reporting back on how a child is doing. Typically, this is vague at best. Rarely will you find out anything you didn’t already know. You might be told they are hardworking, or daydream, or are fidgety. You may also find out that they enjoyed their trip to the local art gallery, or performed well in the end of term assembly. Of course this is all useful information, but what you really need to know is how your child compares against others nationally, as these are the students they are competing against. And much more importantly… how are they doing in relation to their ability? Are they reaching their full potential at school? And if not, why not?
Comparing a child against the national average can only be achieved using national or age standardised figures. Historically, schools were able to track children’s progress using objective national curriculum levels but since September 2014, these have been phased out. All schools have been told to track pupil progress in the way that they feel best represents the school. The government stated that by removing levels it would allow schools greater flexibility in the way that they plan and assess pupil’s learning. Instead, it has led to confusion, lack of consistency, and parents being even less informed than they were before. Schools are using phrases like ‘emerging’, ‘developing’, ‘secure’ and ‘mastery’. Alternatively, they could be using letters such as B. B+. W. W+. S. S+. Does anyone really know what these mean?
Independent schools may confuse parents further by giving them information which is too subjective. Often reports at private schools give grades for effort and achievement. You could easily assume that if your child was given an ‘A’ grade it looks good and they are doing well. But what does an A mean? An ‘A’ in your child’s school could be the equivalent to a ‘B’ at another school that is more academic. If your child scored 75% score in a test it also sounds good. But what if it was a really easy test and the majority of class scored 95%? Equally, if your child scored 50% you might think they didn’t do so well, but what if this was the top grade and the majority of children in the class scored less than 40%. Parents need to be able to put scores and grades into context and very few private schools do that.
All schools need to make it clearer to parents what their scores mean and put them in simple terms parents can easily understand. Ultimately, whatever method of progress tracking schools use to replace national curriculum levels, they must help parents know if their child is working towards national expectation, in line with national expectation, above national expectation or significantly above national expectation.
An alternative way of transmitting this information to parents is by giving out their child’s age standardised scores in school tests. This is calculated by putting a child’s raw score and age into a grid and comparing against national norms. Those who score between 85 and 115 are within the average range with a score of 100 being exactly average. If you are told an age standardised score for your child, this will put their performance into context.
Testing in verbal and non-verbal reasoning helps understand a child’s potential. Non-verbal reasoning tests IQ, and also gives us a good idea of a child’s potential in maths. Verbal reasoning tests how well a child should perform in English, but also how well they learn in a range of subjects in class, as science, geography and history are all delivered in English. Instructions in the classroom are all delivered in English. Verbal reasoning tests how well a child understands and manipulates language, and how well they grasp the meaning of what is going on around them, including their ability to focus.
During the last five years we have assessed over a thousand children. We have been able to reassure many parents that their child is working to the best of their ability and this should be celebrated. For these children there is no magic wand to further their academic progress. We are very keen not to tutor children for the sake of it, or to try and achieve places at schools that would be wrong for them.
Our assessments have also enabled us to identify the children who are underperforming in class and understand why this may be the case. For some it is lack of confidence, for others, a lack of maturity or motivation. It could be that there are thirty in the class and the child is simply slipping through the net, or that the child does not like his teacher, or struggles to understand the way the teacher is delivering the curriculum to them. It could also be due to a specific learning difficulty such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, ADHD, processing difficulties or poor short-term memory, all of which have the potential to create a barrier to their learning.
Assessments are our keystone at Jaderberg Krais. It is a fantastic starting point when supporting children with their education. It is an initial benchmark that tells us how they are doing compared to others and if they are reaching their full potential. From this we create an exclusively bespoke journey for the child. For some children we do not advise tuition; there is no need if they are reaching their full potential and thriving at school. Children should have fun and enjoy lots of extra-curricular activities. Tutoring should only be considered if the child is not reaching their full potential, or when they need additional support in preparing for examinations.
If preparing for entrance examinations, children should only be prepared to sit examinations for schools that are appropriate for them. We are often asked if we can provide a parent with a tutor to get their child into a specific state selective school, the initial answer we give to these enquiries is always no. We are happy to assess a child to see if it is the right school for them – where they would be happy and reach their full potential. If it is the right school, and for most state selective schools, that child would need to be scoring in the top 5% nationally, then we would be happy to support them with their 11+ journey to enable them to show their best on the day. However, if they are not in the top 5% then this school would not be the right school for them and, in the very unlikely case that they did achieve a place, they would probably be very unhappy there.
Our assessments at Jaderberg Krais are an essential tool to really understand how a child learns and to discover their strengths and weaknesses. I often refer to it as an ‘Academic health check’. It puts a child under a magnifying glass, a luxury most teachers do not have when there are twenty nine other children in their class. It enables us to create a bespoke programme to support both the child and their family from primary school and beyond, up to A Levels and university applications.
We look forward to assessing our next thousand children so that their parents can make informed and accurate decisions for them, allowing them to thrive in their future schools, receive an appropriate education and reach their full potential.
Click Here to visit our assessments page.