PiRA and PUMA: A school guide

Paul Main

PiRA and PUMA tests can provide valuable insights into pupil progress, in this article, we look at how assessments can move a child's learning forward.

What are PiRA and PUMA assessments?

Progress in Reading Assessment (PiRA) and Progress in Understanding Mathematics Assessment (PUMA) is standardised, curriculum-related series of tests developed to evaluate students' progress in Reading and Maths respectively. Both these tests use age-standardised scores, standardised scores, and the Hodder scale score to access the progress of students with just one paper each term.

As schools begin to rethink their formative assessment processes, we explore how classrooms can generate accurate performance indicators that provide a true picture of pupil progress. Whether you are a UK primary school or an international school, the implications of gauging the current progress of your students are imperative. Summative assessment models don't have to mean lots of laborious paperwork, let technology do the heavy lifting.


What is the difference between PiRA, PUMA and NTS Assessment?

The same purpose is served by the NTS Assessments, but NTS Assessments have been developed by the authors of SATs to the National Tests framework. Hence, each of the individual booklet reflects the feel and look of the SATs and is perfect for familiarising pupils with this kind of assessment analysis. This is the main difference both in the look and purpose of the tests. Another difference between the three is that of paper and auto-marked online format. One may administer PiRA and PUMA assessments interactively with auto-marking to save time. But, NTS Assessments are performed in paper format only. They are not available in an online assessment format.

PiRA assessments
PiRA assessments

What is PiRA?

PiRA reading assessments are the curriculum-linked, standardised tests developed for whole-class use, with children of all abilities. Uniquely, PiRA offers 3 tests for a single Primary school year, enabling to keep track of pupils' progress in reading term by term.

What are the main benefits of PiRA?

PIRA are small tests, providing age-related scores and standardised results, enabling to track student progress through termly scores. The main benefits of PiRA reading assessments include:

  • Confidently evaluate all content domains through pupil progress term tests to measure progress in curriculum learning;
  • Offer reliable pupil profiling – including a standardised score, Hodder education's scale and reading age score, against the termly benchmark performance of a large number of pupil population nationally;
  • Helps to monitor minor increments in the progress of pupils – offering a credible basis for predicting future progress in curriculum content and supporting planning;
  • Prepared by the established authors who possess many years of experience in teaching and test-writing and who have a passion for providing high-quality, diagnostic knowledge to support teachers and help children’s learning.
  • Supports the powerful assessment and identification of pupils strengths and weaknesses – informing instruction and emphasising areas where pupils may need more assistance;
  • Simple and time-saving paper present in form of interactive tests, print format and auto-marked online format of standardised tests - measure the progress of a whole class and mark in just 30 to 40 minutes;
  • Free of cost and easy access to students mark sheets and online robust reports for assessment outcomes.

The introduction of 'The New National Curriculum' has increased the standards of primary schools style reading. Therefore, it is important to assess children's reading according to the new standardised assessments approach. Based on expert teachers' feedback, the popular PiRA has made many changes. The new format includes questions of increasing difficulty to provide familiarity with the new and advanced SATs-style content.

puma online test
puma online test

What is included in the PiRA package?

Trusted by more than 6,000 educational institutes to identify gaps in learning and assess performance from Reception to Year 6, PIRA is available with:

  • Separate Reading Booklets to test pupils;
  • Write-in booklets for pupils to complete the assessment;
  • Include a variety of text types - stories, non-fiction and poems;
  • Feature questions covering language and comprehension, inference, presentation and structure;
  • Available in 10-copy packs of termly national test-style standardised assessments.

What is PUMA?

PUMA or Progress in Understanding Mathematics Assessment is a standardised, termly test that helps schools to predict and accurately measure the progress of students in maths and benchmark pupil performance against national averages.

These are straightforward and time efficient standardised assessment papers, used to assess the progress of an entire class – and are simple to mark. PUMA or Progress in Understanding Mathematics Assessment allows schools to accurately assess pupil attainment and predict their progress in maths in primary years.

What are the benefits of using PUMA in education?

  • PUMA tests have been used across thousands of schools to assess mathematical skills for thousands of pupils in online, auto-marked, interactive format and paper versions.
  • These assessments are easy to administer and they come with a supporting manual, which is easy to follow as well.
  • Interrogation of MARK (My Assessment And Reporting Kit) is easy to understand.
  • The test provides easy access to the detailed breakdowns of students' strengths and areas to develop, enabling teachers to be more targeted in their teaching and plan more easily.
  • The tests provide strand level analysis of the concepts needing additional and more effective teaching across the group/phase or class/year.
  • The common language, curriculum consistent questions, common expectations and common framework allows to make easier and quicker comparisons.
  • PUMA has made it easy to assess which of the students are behind, on track, or ahead of age-related expectations.
  • For each group, PUMA indicates the end of year expectation to the children and teachers, which enables schools to deploy their resources more effectively.

Rising stars carried out an explicit statistical analysis between the students' outcomes from the PUMA & PiRA tests for Year-2 & Year-6 and the national tests scaled scores. RS Assessment revealed that the raw scores of PIRA & PUMA for children belonging to 56 schools across the country have been connected to the scaled scores obtained by the same students in their actual national tests. Outcomes of RS Assessment were provided as graphs and tables to help teachers in using the outcomes by pupils to relate their own children’s PUMA & PIRA marks to the national tests scaled scores.


How else can schools facilitate teacher assessments?

At Structural Learning, we use formative assessment techniques to build a picture of what a student really understands. The building block methodology that we have been researching offers classrooms a creative style of assessment that enables children to build what they know. This playful pedagogy can give teachers an insightful performance. But watching the children build and talk their way through their structures, we get a clear picture of all the misconceptions they have developed. This process provides us with authentic assessment for learning opportunities.

Graphic organisers can also be used as part of school tests. These visual tools enable children to organise their ideas which helps them clarify what they actually know. Typically, they are used for reviewing a topic but their utility is much more than that. Mind maps can be integrated into all aspects of school life and offer children regular opportunities to consolidate their knowledge.

Block building as an assessment tool
Block building as an assessment tool


Final thoughts on PiRA and PUMA

Many school leaders are concerned about the percentage of pupils across the country showing underperformance against age-related expectations. Diagnostic PiRA & PUMA tests help to improve their overall performance by identifying these children more effectively through the Hodder education score and specifying the distinct areas in learning that they need more support with. The PUMA & PIRA provides a powerful analysis of students' abilities which is shared with pupils, parents, teachers, and school leaders. If these professional reports of individual performance indicate a sudden drop in students' performance, teachers can apply more targeted teaching for the students. The flexibility of PUMA & PiRA is something worth considering. By using assessments like PUMA & PiRA, schools won't only be able to reduce the workload of the teachers, but they would also improve the overall academic performance of the children. At the SLT level, PUMA & PiRA provide a fast and useful way to capture the entire school picture in terms of student attainment.