Pick your yellow brick road

    Published: 23 March 2021

    Here at HfL maths headquarters, we are keen on providing a range of assessment materials that do more than just give you a score.

    We have always stressed that any sort of testing should be predominantly focused on generating useable information, which allows us to intelligently adjust learning pathways to ensure that our children are getting the best provision possible. If the information is not used to impact our planning, then what was the point of the tests?

    However, we also know that it takes significant time, skill, and resilience to conduct a detailed review of 30+ scripts, identifying whole class and individual misconceptions and discriminating them from 'silly' errors (mistakes). Hence the introduction of the diagnostic tests and their accompanying toolkits.

    I am not going to go into the purpose and benefits of multiple-choice questions or how to use the colour-coded mark books with all of their pretty graphs, as this has already been taken care of here in this blog.

    Instead, I will attempt to clarify the multiple different pathways that you could choose to follow. So the question is, which is your yellow brick road?

    There will be three different diagnostic pathways to choose from in a few weeks. This blog aims to help you see how everything links together and to ensure that, despite which path you follow, you make it to the end.


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    We don’t recommend that you do both the spring diagnostics and the Summer Success tests. They have different purposes and, as such, different forward planning implications.

    Let's look forward, not back!

    Let’s be honest, we can’t do everything. We have choices to make.

    Do we want to look back across the past academic year and identify and fix the curriculum gaps? If so, then the traditional diagnostic pathway may be for you. However, do bear in mind that these gaps may be numerous and varied for many classes.


    Do we want to focus on what will be most helpful for our children to empower them to succeed in the autumn term of the year to come and beyond?

    There are several benefits for focusing on fewer but conceptually significant areas of the curriculum. Here are a few highlights:

    1. It enables teachers to focus on a narrow section of the curriculum, constructing deep learning in a connected way, allowing teachers to control their curriculum and be confident that they are making a difference to clearly defined and achievable end goals.
    2. It provides the opportunity to make sure as many children as possible have the pre-emptive skills and knowledge needed to be prepared for the teaching to come.
    3. Success breeds success; children will have the confidence to actively engage with their new learning, which is highly motivating.

    If this is the pathway for you, you need to consider joining the Summer Success in Maths Project.

    Summer Success in Maths Project

    Summer Success in Maths is a structured project that will run across the summer term. It aims to help leaders and teachers prioritise and focus on securing crucial learning. New diagnostic assessment resources have been designed to support each teacher to identify key focuses and to build a plan to maximise teaching time.

    End of year ‘milestones’ and assessment materials will help leaders and teachers build a profile of learning. This will support transition and further planning adaptations for the next academic year.

    The profiles will be collated to share a wider view of each year group’s strengths and areas of development with all project schools.

    Professional development is provided in the form of webinars. The leadership focus starts and ends the term (28th April and 7th July). The individual year group webinars run in the weeks beginning 10th and 17th May.  

    The resources will be accessible via our learning platform. This will include the recorded webinars if ‘attendance’ at the live event is not possible.

    Details on exact costs and how to be involved in this exciting project will be shared very soon. But for schools with a package of maths adviser support, a time exchange will be available, equating to 0.5 days.


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    For more information about the project and to book your place, visit the Herts for Learning CPD Hub.

    If you decide that the Summer Success in Maths project is not for you, use this checklist to ensure you are prepared and get the maximum benefit from your diagnostic pathway. 

    Checklist for ‘traditional’ style termly diagnostic tests

    1. Do you have the correct set of resources?

    a) Check your curriculum pathway.

    If you have been following the adjusted curriculum pathway (aka Back on Track), then the tests' front covers will have additional information about when the diagnostic is designed to be deployed.

    If you migrated onto the remote teaching plan, developed in response to the continued lockdown in the spring term, there may be content within these tests that may not yet have been taught. Teachers will need to use their knowledge of the taught curriculum when identifying ways forward.

    b) Check you have the correct tests for your class.

    Do you follow the mixed-age or single-age planning? The mixed-age curriculum follows a slightly different pathway. Therefore, you must make sure you have the test that matches your taught content.

    This is an example of a Year 4 spring term test for a mixed Year 3/4 class. There are separate tests for the Year 3 children in the class.

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    It has been designed to be used after Priority 11 has been taught as it will explore content up to that point.

    c) Check you have the complete set of diagnostic materials.

    There are 2 papers in each set.

    • paper 1: arithmetic focus
    • paper 2: reasoning focus


    • a planning guide
    • a mark book
    • test administration guidance

    d) Choose to use the original or squared paper versions.

    Following feedback from schools, squared paper versions of the tests have been designed to allow children space to work out and check their answers should they choose to use it. It also enables teachers to identify the strategies children are using to solve particular problems. This choice may be a whole school decision so it is worth checking with your Maths Subject Leader.

    It is important to note that the squared paper versions only have squares for questions where we think it would be helpful, so they are not on all questions.

    Year 1 do not have a squared paper version but do have the option of papers with designated blank spaces.

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    Year 4 (from Year 3/4 mixed year group) paper 2 spring term test (squared paper version)

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    Year 1 (from single age year group) paper 1 spring term test (blank space version)

    e) Check that you have access to correct the planning guide.

    Each set of papers has its own planning guide which aligns to the relevant curriculum pathway.

    f) Check your mark book.

    There are new versions of the mark books available. The older ones still work so you don’t need to update. However, the newer ones have updated cell control and filtering possibilities. They may open up with the option to activate macros – if so, do activate them as this ensures the mark book works correctly. Alternatively, they may open automatically activated (depending on how your system has been set up).

    Either way, the front page should look like this.

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    2. Have you read the guidance document?

    Key questions are addressed, including:

    Q: Can children use concrete resources?

    A: Yes, if they are part of everyday practice.


    Q: How long should each test last?

    A: This is at your discretion.

    There is also guidance on how to introduce the test to the children and the rules on reading the questions aloud.

    3. When and how are you going to structure the tests?

    How you use the tests is entirely in your control.

    When will you do the papers? The only condition is that paper 1 is done before paper 2. We would not recommend that they are done on the same day.

    Whole class or small groups?

    Whole paper at a time or just sections?

    4. What is the plan after the tests?

    a) Input the data.

    Who is going to input the data into the mark book and when is this going to happen?

    Even though inputting the data may appear to be solely an administrative task, as you are entering the data, you start to notice patterns and also when there are deviations from the patterns. Therefore, we would recommend you doing this yourself as the class teacher.

    b) Complete the analysis

    Ensure that all the effort you and your children have put into completing the tests is worthwhile!

    Using the simple proforma provided in the planning guide, you can rapidly develop clear and focused actions for the following:

    • everyday fluency – Which areas could be maintained or strengthened with inclusion into the 10 minutes a day fluency sessions outside of the maths lesson?
    • whole class input – Which areas need reference back to prior learning before teaching?
    • small group focus – Who needs more and what of? How will this be arranged and who will deliver it?
    • individual pupil support – Who needs a 1:1 focus and what on? Focus on high-value areas such as place value, number sense and mental methods. How will this be arranged and who will deliver it?

    There is more guidance on how to extract information from the mark books in the aforementioned blog.

    c) Make a plan.

    Once you have identified what needs to be addressed and with who, you need to make a plan. Don’t forget that the planning guide tells you when this learning is going to be built on in upcoming sequences and where to find the recommended pre-teaching steps.

    • when is it going to be done (big picture)? Refer to your medium-term planning; when does it need to be addressed?
    • when is it going to be done (fine detail)? When in your daily timetable are you going to build this in? How much time do you predict will be needed? Is it in fluency time, within the maths lesson or outside of the maths lesson?
    • who is going to do it?

    We look forward to working with as many of you as possible on the Summer Success in Maths project to:

    • identify and prioritise learning
    • explore the rationale of a ‘concept significance’ approach
    • manage and focus summer term teaching time
    • pave the way for smooth academic transition
    • integrate and re-sequence curriculum pathways for the next academic year

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