Making KS3 data meaningful

Sponsored content by Pupil Progress

Introducing system changes can feel like a huge job, especially when it comes to KS3 assessment. But it doesn’t have to be. These core principles enable a successful approach to managing any changes without having to start from scratch again.

Keep it simple

Your core assessment model should be explainable in 30 seconds covering:

  • How you measure attainment
  • How you show progress for individual students
  • What has been used to assess your students

The simpler it is, the more likely that all parents and students will understand it and be able to support and celebrate with their child when they make good progress.

Attainment and progress

Define your attainment descriptors or grades clearly, both in terms of what is a minimum expected grade for any student if they are going to be able to move on to the next part of the curriculum, and what each grade means.

Schools that report progress without referring to attainment tend to have a lot of inconsistency in how it is applied, and therefore the data is rather meaningless. This is commonly seen when teachers are asked to report on whether a student is below, on or above expected progress. If there is no common language for attainment, then it’s challenging to say whether a student has made progress.

What is the purpose of this data?

In an assessment review, your school wide attainment descriptors and progress indicators should show you:

  • Which students are/ are not making progress?
  • Which classes/ teachers need support?
  • Which subjects need support?
  • Which parts of the curriculum or assessment process need reviewing?

Introducing a simple, easy way to track empowers teachers to onboard, understand and use the data while implementing the change in your KS3 assessment strategy. Once the data has been reviewed, supportive and celebratory actions can be put in place. Ideally any actions to raise achievement and progress should be taken within curriculum time.

Managing collected data

When you have  too much data, the purpose of why it is being collected can get lost. The workload associated with this is high, so actually, the quality and trustworthiness of the data decreases. 


  • What actions are you going to take with this information now you’ve collected it? 
  • Do you actually still have time to? 
  • Would that time have been better spent on other aspects?

Keep your data focused, enough to inform you and your students how to approach the learning in the lead up to the next assessment.

Allow flexibility at a subject level

Once the schools attainment descriptors have been defined, it makes it easier for subjects to be able to assess in a way that fits their curriculum. 

To achieve this, every subject needs to have a measure of flexibility in the way they assess. Generally subjects will either be:

  • Test-driven – with lots of questions and a mark scheme or
  • Criteria driven – levelled descriptors to assess a piece of work, performance or practical work 

Professional examiners at KS4 and 5 recognise that subjects assess skills and knowledge differently, so they need different forms of assessment, so we need to allow this at KS3 too. Tracking should support the different types of data collected and make it simple for the raw values to be converted into the schools attainment descriptors.

Implementing a simpler, clearer process can actually relieve workload and also provide more meaningful data, so everybody wins!

Discover how to simplify your KS3 assessment approach to maximise student impact, improve communication with parents and reduce workload at the second version of this Pupil Progress live workshop – now with further focus towards subject leaders too, unpacking types of assessments and descriptors – Tuesday 28th February 2023 at 16:30-17:00 GMT via Zoom.

To find out more about Pupil Progress, visit their EdTech Impact profile.

Updated on: 16 February 2023

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