Summative Data - A Cautionary Tale...

Steph Reddington, 14th November 2016

Summative Data - A Cautionary Tale...

With the removal of levels, schools have chosen to use a range of alternative summative methods to support the tracking of cohorts across the school. This sometimes takes the form of linear progression model, such as Age Bands/Steps or flat progression model, such as a Point in Time Assessment (PITA) or Grades. Summative data can of course be useful; however, it is not the only data that should be analysed, particularly when considering the progress that individual pupils have made.

Pupil Asset users have access to in depth formative assessment analysis tools such as the 'Ghost Rows' which means that some of the pitfalls associated with analysing summative data alone can be avoided. 


Inaccurate reflection of actual progress made: 

Remember when 2a to 4c and 2c to 4a were both counted as 2 levels of progress?  Even though the children had actually made very different amounts of progress? 

Well, if you choose to focus all your data analysis on summative judgements alone, this problem does not go away!


  • Both children meet the school’s criteria for WT (15-30%) in Autumn 1.
  • Both children meet the school’s criteria for WT+ (31-45%) in Autumn 2.





Therefore, in summative terms, they have made the same progress. However, these two children have actually made very different amounts of progress:

  • Doris has gone from 29.2% to 32.5% = +3.3% (weighted percentage)
  • Tarell has gone from 16.7% to 43.3% = +26.6% (weighted percentage)

It would be a shame not to recognise the amount of progress Tarell has actually made, or even worse, assume Doris was making good progress on the basis of her summative grades and do nothing about it!


Higher Ability children can ‘coast’:

Some of the highest attaining children exceed age related expectations and are continually deepening and broadening their understanding of the curriculum. However, how much are they really embedding or mastering? Are they simply coasting through the year?

Both children could be considered as working at a level of Greater Depth on the basis that they have met all age related expectations and are deepening their understanding of the curriculum.

However, these two children have actually made very different progress:




  • Shion has mastered 5 more skills over the last term (number of skills achieved at the level of GD)
  • Gryff has mastered 22 more skills over the last term (number of skills achieved at the level of GD)

Neither are likely to be flagged up during a pupil progress meeting if viewing summative grades alone as both would be reported as working at above age related expecations; however, it is very clear that Shion is coasting and may not be reaching her full potential.



In a world without levels, we have been given an opportunity - we can free ourselves from collecting and analysing reams of summative data, focussing instead on what really matters: individual pupil progress; ensuring children are not moving through the school with huge gaps in their understanding; consolidation of key skills; and providing children with a rich and deeper understanding of the curriculum.

Let’s not waste this opportunity - to quote James Pembroke, TES' Data Doctor, let’s “stop obsessing about quantifying progress… let’s track and monitor, not measure and quantify”.

Written by Steph Reddington


For more info on the range of different tracking options we can support in Pupil Asset, click here.

For more information on how Pupil Asset can support your formative assessment tracking click here.