James Marriott: Welcome to the Primary Knowledge Podcast brought to you by Cornerstones Education. I’m James Marriott. Today we are getting to know Assessment Maestro. Simon Hickton is the founder of Cornerstones and is with me today. Obvious first question here, Simon, what is Assessment Maestro?
Simon Hickton: Welcome, James. Thank you for having me today. Basically, school assessment is evolving, and rightly so, especially in primary. Assessment Maestro is something that schools are going to be able to use to fit with their evolving assessment policy. It’s a flexible assessment system so schools are going to be able to assess, monitor, analyse and report, right from nursery to year six. And it’s designed for what’s needed now, and that’s the assessment of a broad and balanced curriculum. Foundation subjects as well as core subjects. So not just maths, English and science thrown in, but all subjects in a broad and balanced curriculum. And it’s taking the best from the past. Those databases, tracking systems that did support teaching and learning, and putting those into a modern system that’s right and makes sure that things are done with as much efficacy as possible. And, as I’ve said before, to support teaching and learning.
James Marriott: Now, I know that the features of Assessment Maestro are quite unique, but just talk us through those; if you would do, take us through what those unique features are.
Simon Hickton: Assessment Maestro is not just something for the senior leadership team. It’s about for teachers and everybody to use. It’s a live system from the classroom up, so it gives every single stakeholder in school something back. And that’s why it’s able to support, as I’ve said, the teaching and learning. It’s built on a very comprehensive progression of knowledge and skills framework that ties absolutely everything together right from the EYFS phase of learning right up to year six and the primary subjects that you do from Year 1 to 6. And it ties that together through that progression of knowledge and skills framework to make sure it can be built and integral to the school’s curriculum. So, you can align your entire school’s curriculum to that. So that assessment for learning can truly become part of teaching as it should be.
One example of a feature is the work we’ve done on monitoring progression, and what we’ve done is we’ve looked at the old favourites like progress matrices and said, well, how can they be even better? And then, we used modern technology to be able to look at it and what the user needs and that insight and what does a primary teacher need? What does the primary SLT need to see and how quickly can they see that? And that’s how we’ve built Assessment Maestro.
James Marriott: Okay. So effectively what we’re talking about here is, a commercial package. So how can a commercial package like Assessment Maestro, how can that support schools in assessing their curriculum?
Simon Hickton: For teachers, and as I said, it starts from the classroom and builds up because it’s not going to start from the curriculum. But if we take the classroom and what teachers, teachers know the children, that’s what’s brilliant about primary teachers. They know where the children are at, and they know if the curriculum is good, they know where the children are at, where they are going and where they’re going to get to, not just in their class but throughout. But teachers have to carry a lot of information in their heads, and sometimes the information is brilliant for them, they’ve got it in their heads. But what about the next teacher? What about the teacher in two years’ time? What Assessment Maestro does is enables as you’re teaching to be able to collate, record and find out exactly what’s in your head, put it there into a system so that can be collated, and then all the information within that set (and I will not be able to say this correctly because I never can), quantitative or qualitative data (not too bad), can be collated to inform not just the teacher there and then how to support the learning, but down the line as well. And to see, well, where were gaps formed? What caused problems? What’s building up into maybe an issue within school or a real strength within school? So, you can see the whole thing. So that’s what it does and that’s how it develops within a school.
James Marriott: From what you’ve said, it sounds brill. I’ve got to raise this question. What are we talking about in terms of investment, then? How much does Assessment Maestro ultimately cost?
Simon Hickton: We know that schools have got current practice with respect to assessment, and they’ll be looking to evolve this and make it better, especially when you’re looking at teacher workload and they want to move away from things that have been too work intensive for the reward. It’s always effort and reward. There’s always got to be some effort, but what’s the reward? With Assessment Maestro, we want the effort to be minimum and the reward to be the maximum, and we want schools to be able to have a look at this and see if that’s the case and to prove it, and also to give us the feedback so we can continue to make it even better. So up until March 2023, Assessment Maestro is completely free to schools. And then after that, from March 2023, we’ve obviously looked at the markets and, well, what do we feel? Because I think that sometimes assessment packages have been priced very high. So, what we’ve done is say, well, what is that base level where we can actually keep developing Assessment Maestro but is great value for schools? And that’s £3 per pupil capped at £1500. So even a very large school won’t pay any more than that. So, £3 per pupil.
James Marriott: Great deal, brilliant. Okay. Thinking about support and kind of ongoing support and things like that. So, what do you offer in terms of support for the schools that do want to implement Assessment Maestro?
Simon Hickton: Well, whenever we’re doing anything at Cornerstones, we talk about pedagogy, quality, and we also talk about support. That is absolutely key to us because there’s no use for us, us saying, ‘oh, here’s a product’ or ‘here’s something to help you’, and then the school not getting the very best out of that. So, we always give support as part of a licence. And that means live chat, email; it means bespoke support, giving us a call and people talk to our curriculum advisors that are on hand, and we’ve got certain people who are absolute experts on assessment, others that are brilliant with the mixed age planning and things like that. So, it’s all about supporting schools as part of that annual licence. And it is key because we want them to get the very best out of our platforms and content.
James Marriott: So, let’s say that I’m a school, let’s say that I’m interested, I’m intrigued. What happens next? What can schools do if they want to see it for themselves?
Simon Hickton: Easiest way, if they want to just quickly jump on our website and sort of navigate to Assessment Maestro. They can look at a couple of videos there and read a little bit first if they wish. Or, as always, give us a call, book a demo, have a look at it and have a discussion about how it might meet the needs of their school. Because that’s what it’s all about. It’s about meeting the needs of individual schools: what are they wanting, what have they seen, what maybe they’re looking to develop with respect to their assessment policy and how will it all fit together with that?
James Marriott: Brilliant. Simon, thank you very much. It’s been great to learn about Assessment Maestro; some really interesting points in there and a lot for schools particularly to be thinking about. So, thank you very much.
Simon Hickton: One other thing to mention is that any school that is currently using Curriculum Maestro they have all this as part of their package of Curriculum Maestro, and they’re able to tie all the content that they’re adapting from Cornerstones into the assessment that we provide.
James Marriott: Perfect. Well, thank you for joining us for this episode of the Primary Knowledge Podcast. If you want to learn more, then head to the show description; lots of links and other kinds of resources and things that you’ll find useful hand-picked for you in there as well. There’s loads more information, and you can find all our other episodes at cornerstoneseducation.co.uk. Thank you for listening, and we’ll see you next time.
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