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Using pupil portfolios in primary school

How can pupil portfolios be used in primary schools? Find out in this case study by Paula Ayliffe, Headteacher of Mayfield Primary School.

Mayfield Primary School is a lively, diverse two-form entry primary school in the north of Cambridge. We have over 40 languages spoken by our pupils and a high number of children with additional needs. We have a Hearing Support Centre for pupils with hearing loss and high-level language needs.

We have 25 teachers, some of whom share classes. Many of our teachers are in the early years of their profession, having trained locally.

The initial challenge we faced was to demonstrate clearly the attainment and progress made by our pupils when moderated by local authority representatives for EYFS, KS1 and KS2. We wanted the children to demonstrate their learning rather than relying on their written work and the opinion of their teachers. We had previously come away from these meetings feeling that we either hadn’t done the children justice, or that the moderators hadn’t really believed us and rather reluctantly agreed with our judgements or, in some cases, marked us down.

An additional challenge was the use of technology for the pupils themselves to show their learning to each other and to make others aware of all the learning that was taking place in school.

The approach

We, like many schools, have used iPads increasingly over the last few years. Foundation Stage, as a matter of course, use photographs and video for assessment purposes and to inform further planning. In addition they, via the Tapestry app (an online learning journal), share these with parents on a daily basis – parents log in and view their child’s file as often as they wish. A shared understanding then exists between school and home about that child’s learning. This led us to start to attach evidence to each pupil’s profile on our online markbook, Classroom Monitor. This is then shared with parents at consultation evenings.

We had also previously been involved in a research project on the role of pupil voice in self-assessment led by Professor Lani Florian, Dr Mhairi Beaton, Dr Holly Linklater and Dr Amy Brereton which used digital tools to allow the teachers and pupils involved to reflect on learning and focus on significant moments between teachers, children and researchers. The techniques developed from this project led to our use of video and photos today.

What’s involved

We started with photographs of other written work that didn’t appear in exercise books, such as evidence from whiteboards and shared group work on large sheets of paper. We then started to add clips from video, in particular clips of children reading and answering questions about the text they were studying. We could then show these to the moderator, instantly demonstrating and validating the quality and accuracy of our assessments. We have also shown these example to teachers who are new to the school, or new to the year group. All photos and video are only stored with the permission of the parent/carer and become their property at the end of the academic year. They are then deleted from our systems.

In addition, this year, each child in Years 1 to 6 will choose several pieces of their work to add to their own personal learning journal. Alongside this they will take part in three, 30-minute interviews with their class teacher to discuss their learning and how they can work together to make the most of the opportunities available. The comments from both teachers and children are recorded and added to the learning journal. This journal will form the basis of the discussions that take place at parent consultation meetings, as well as forming the substantial part of the child’s end of year report.

In the Foundation Stage the children also use the iPads and cameras to record the learning they observe taking place by others in the setting. We developed this because the children were very keen to share what they had been learning (often they used the word ‘proud’) for themselves but were unable to talk about the learning of others. We call this activity ‘newsreporters’. The children then have their photos uploaded and talk about the photos to the class at the end of the session, showing everyone the learning they have noticed from others. We tend to find that they have a lot to say when a photo is shown on the screen, but less when it is a video. Asked why, the children reply: “We don’t need to talk, you can see and hear what’s happening for yourself!”


This approach was used at our KS1 moderation visit last June. The moderator praised the teachers in their use of video especially for reading and have taken this idea to be shared more widely as ‘good practice’. Current teachers in FS, Years 1, 2 and 5 are using it over the whole year and for foundation subjects such as geography, DT and art. They will report back to staff at defined points this year; e.g. Autumn 2 INSET day and staff meetings in Spring 2 and Summer 2.

Parent feedback will be obtained at the end of the year after they receive the report/learning journal. Pupil feedback is being obtained via the summaries from teacher/pupil interviews. Children have commented:

“I like it when others give me feedback, even when it’s not so good. All feedback makes it clearer to me about how I can improve.”

“I like it when I can show my parents my work, then they can also see the progress I know I am making.”

‘Newsreporters’ has supported improvements in foundation stage data in ‘speaking and listening’ and ‘managing relationships and behaviour’ as well as in other areas. Opportunities for ‘talk’ within lessons has increased, especially before writing tasks and talking through why they have answered a maths question in a particular way.

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