With KS 3 Level Assessment and Descriptors set to disappear and a free for all to begin this maybe a moot point. However SLT, Middle leaders, Parents, Children, Teachers and of course OFSTED all want to see some sort of progress no matter what system you might have in place.
Why do we baseline assess?
The baseline assessment we have at our school for PE was born out two main reasons. Firstly we received no information from Primary schools regarding physical ability other than ‘little Jonny hates PE with a passion and usually spends the lesson crying, screaming and hitting his head against the floor.’ Secondly FFT, my favourite indicator of student potential in PE set our students unrealistic targets (Level 7, 8 and EP). This meant that over 90% of children were ‘failing’ PE at KS3 and required improvement and intervention. A child like ‘Jonny’ who would see that he was failing PE would probably have his reluctance to join in compounded. Therefore a baseline assessment would allow us to get some up to date information on the children arriving in Year 7 and for the PE Department to, if not the school, set some realistic targets for the students.
What is our current process of baseline assessment?
3 lessons at the beginning of the year are taken out of curriculum to achieve this, which equates to 4 hours. Over the course of those three lessons we perform the following tests:
Cooper’s 12 minute Test. We test pupils current aerobic fitness and try to assess both their mental and physical resilience (Which I know is subjective). Students run as far as they can in 12 minutes and staff look to take notes on whether students do the following ‘walk, give-up, push themselves, talk to others in the class, distract others or cheat.’ We explain to them that the test is a sub maximal tests of aerobic fitness, which is considered a main indicator of health and fitness. Being the best or worse isn’t an issue, it is about trying to improve their personal best. Over the course of the next years students will learn many different ways of improving aerobic fitness and the importance for doing that to assure a healthy and active lifestyle.
Fundamental Movement Skills. Specifically we look at Catching, Overarm Throwing and Kicking. There are a number of test protocols but we have tended to use the ones set out in Fundamental movement skill competence among 10-11 year old children: Year 2 PEPASS Physical Activity Project. We try to make this as fun as possible for the students involved. The Department has discussed whether we should add other tests such as jumping, hopping, bouncing etc, but we are still yet to do that.
Creativity, Balance and Strength Test. A very subjective test as it is one of our own creating. Students are given 20 minutes to come up with a basic floor routine in gymnastics. The only information they are given is they must include the following: Two different balances of more than 5 seconds, weight on hands, jump, turn and a roll. Students then perform their routine and a teacher grades the three areas based on what they have observed. If anyone has any ideas how we can make this testing less subjective I would be very interested to hear.
Games play, team-work and communication. To ensure students who have played certain sports do not have an advantage we try and level the playing field. We teach them the basic rules and skills of Gaelic Football. In small sided games the PE staff then grade students on how quickly they can pick up the basics principles of attack and defence, whether they communicate and what they communicate and whether they try to work as a team, individual or don’t engage at all.
What do we do with all the data?
Once we have all the grades, comments and data in we set a baseline national curriculum score. Most students score between 1 to 4. Based on this we set them a realistic end of KS 3 Target. This target is review twice a year with the student and can move both up and down, however can be confusing with students when they see a very different target on their reports. I have been trying to get SLT to allow us to set more realistic targets, but so far they have resisted. Generally we have been pretty good at giving an accurate baseline assessment, and this has only got better as we have repeated and refined the process. At the end of Year 9 we re-test, and we hope to see an individual improvement in all areas. Added to how we assess throughout Years 7 to 9, this allows us to give students a better end of KS 3 assessment grade. It also is a good check for us as teachers if we have improved the physical competency and confidence in our students.
What will we do in the future?
For the immediate time being nothing will change. SLT have not even brought up that levels will disappear this academic year at KS3 and have not engage the school in a dialogue on what is the way forward. Therefore I assume will continue to use the current system.
I’d be very interested to hear from other PE Practitioners who baseline assess in Year 7, tests that could make our baseline assessment better or what way you will be approaching assessment in PE in the future now NC Curriculum levels have gone.
You can contact me via Twitter @ImSporticus or email ImSporticus@hotmail.com