Measure what matters for success

CEM: Centre for Evaluation & Monitoring

Mark Frazer, Cambridge Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM)’s learning and assessment lead, explains why measuring pupil abilities is so important – and how to do it with CEM’s new adaptive baseline assessment, Cambridge Primary Insight

Our Expert
Mark Frazer

Mark Frazer

Learning and Assessment Lead, Cambridge Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring

What we provide

  • Baseline assessments for ages 3–19 that give you measures of a pupil’s potential and progress through school 
  • The Cambridge Wellbeing Check, which equips you with the tools you need to evaluate, explore, teach and promote wellbeing – and have a lasting, positive impact 
  • Entrance assessments that help identify the young people that meet the selection criteria for your school intake

What is your background and what role did assessment play?  

Before joining CEM in 2015 I was a teacher for eight years and then a headteacher for another 10 years in primary schools in north-east England.

I was always very interested in assessment, seeing it as a dimension of education that was frequently undervalued. By this I mean that a lot of assessment activity took place, but then very little happened with the information gathered.

I was interested in knowing how assessment could be used more effectively to improve students’ learning outcomes. 

Why should schools measure their pupils’ abilities?  

When we assess something, we gather information about it. The more information we have, the stronger the position we are in when it comes to identifying issues, making decisions and setting priorities.

If we understand the main barriers to individuals and groups of students, resources and support can be more effectively targeted. Also, once we know where students have started from, subsequent assessment points will reveal the rate of progress they are making.  

Why is an adaptive assessment so important?  

Adaptive assessments give students a unique and motivating experience. Questions are matched to a student’s ability and appropriate challenge is offered.

A good adaptive assessment will also provide a range of reports which offer useful feedback, identifying areas of success and opportunities for further development. Our new Cambridge Primary Insight assessment offers a new individual parent report and teacher guidance on how to support the best next steps for pupils. 

“Adaptive assessments give students a unique and motivating experience.”

How can schools put assessment insight into action?  

Following an assessment, look carefully at your data; don’t just file it away. Avoid being distracted by minor differences in scores. Instead, look for anomalies and patterns for individuals and groups.

Data analysis should not be a management activity alone; classroom practitioners must be directly involved in the discussion and decision-making process. Finally, teachers must feel ownership of the data and should not be judged by the results.  

What advice do you have for schools looking to start measuring student ability?  

Decide what the focus of your assessment is going to be (e.g. you may already suspect there is an issue with a certain part of the curriculum and want to find out more about the situation). Start as soon as possible and have a clear focus and a plan in mind.  

Whatever you do, no measure is adequate in isolation; you need to build a holistic picture of your students’ abilities. To do this, you may want to assess at multiple points throughout the year, perhaps having a cycle involving different forms of assessment, observation or evidence gathering.   

Join CEM for a free webinar on 18 April to find out how Cambridge Primary Insight can help you measure what matters for your pupils. Sign up here.


CEM: Centre for Evaluation & Monitoring

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