NTS Assessments, PiRA and PUMA: What are the differences?


After talking and listening to teachers, like you, about how we can help to make your life a little easier whilst providing insightful performance and progress data and familiarising pupils with the SATs, we are very pleased to launch NTS Assessments: our brand new termly, standardised, National Test-style progress tests for Years 1 to 6. As excitement builds for NTS Assessments (National Test-style Standardised Assessments), many of you are asking about the differences between these new papers and our popular existing standardised tests: PiRA and PUMA. We’ve written this article to help answer your questions.

What are the similarities between NTS Assessments, PiRA and PUMA?

NTS Assessments, PiRA and PUMA are all standardised termly progress tests written to the 2014 National Curriculum. With all suites, you can use gap analysis to inform teaching and learning and track progress using standardised scores, age-standardised scores, maths ages, reading ages and the Hodder Scale score. What’s more, you can predict future performance and benchmark against national averages. Even better, all tests come with free access to MARK, our online assessment and reporting tool.

What are the differences between NTS Assessments, PiRA and PUMA?

PiRA and PUMA have been developed to assess progress in curriculum learning and do so effectively with a single paper per term. NTS Assessments also serve this purpose, but have been written by SATs authors to the National Test framework. This means that every individual booklet reflects the look and feel of the SATs exactly and are ideal for familiarising children with this style of assessment. This is the key difference both in the purpose of the tests, and how they look.

You may wish to administer your assessments interactively: PiRA and PUMA offer this option, with auto-marking to save you time. NTS Assessments, on the other hand, are not available online. They come in paper format only. This is because one of their key purposes is to reflect the SATs papers.

It’s your decision!

We know that many customers will value this termly exposure to SATs-style content, but equally appreciate that a close reflection of National Test-style is not crucial for everyone. By publishing both of these sets of assessments, we are providing you with a choice and enabling you to access whichever style of paper works best for your school and, crucially, your pupils.


Feature of PiRA and PUMA Feature of NTS Assessments
Format (all supported by MARK, our free online assessment and reporting tool) Available in print or digital format with auto-marking Available in print format only, to reflect the National Tests
Content and test frameworks Reflects the content of the national curriculum and National Tests Reflects the content and style of the National Tests, with all questions written to the National Test frameworks
Purpose Ideal for schools looking for pupil-friendly tests that provide high-quality termly analysis and tracking Ideal for schools looking for pupil-friendly tests that are slightly more demanding and increase preparation for National Tests, with high-quality termly analysis and tracking
Mark schemes In-depth, slightly shorter, easy-to-use mark schemes In-depth, slightly longer, easy-to-use mark schemes, written in the style of the National Tests marking guidance
School type Ideal for all-through schools, as both primary and secondary tests are available Ideal for use in primary schools only
Ages Tests from Reception to Year 9 Tests from Year 1 to Year 6
Booklet structure All elements of each test are provided in one booklet per term (all reading texts can be pulled out of the middle of the booklet) Test papers reflect the National Test structure with separate reading booklets, separate reasoning / arithmetic booklets and separate KS1 paper booklets
Written by trusted    experts Written by experienced curriculum experts and trusted by thousands of schools, now in their 2nd and 3rd editions Written by experts in National Test development, with experience teaching, writing and marking the SATs


Find out more about NTS Assessments or speak to one of our customer representatives

Challenging ‘Behaviour Policies’: Misunderstood, inappropriate and unfair

I believe that proper assessment would reveal that these children have a range of social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) problems that are the real cause of their misbehaviours.

Thanks to Rob Long, educational psychologist and author of SNAP-B, for the following article.

Recently I attended a meeting on school exclusions where clear evidence was presented which highlighted there are certain ‘at risk’ groups that are more likely to be excluded. For me this reinforced the article I had read by J O’Brian in which he suggested that there is a systemic bias in the education system against certain ethnic groups.

With this thought in mind I began to wonder if there is a similar bias to explain why children and young people with special educational needs and disability (SEND) or Educational Health and Care Plan (EHCP) statements are also a vulnerable group to being excluded as the data suggests that they are higher than other non-disabled groups on exclusions.

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SENCO or Superhero – how on earth can any one person even start to do it all?

At first glance, the key issues related to SEN support and provision seem overwhelming. It gets worse at second glance, and the third … Small wonder so many schools find recruitment so hard for this role.

Thanks to Charles Weedon, educational psychologist and author of Special Needs Assessment Profile (SNAP) SpLD and SNAP-B, for the following article.

Who are they, who should they be?

The SENCO is the only role in a school that must be a qualified teacher and have a post-graduate qualification (unless they were in post before 1 September 2009). As a SENCO, you’re responsible for some of the most challenging pupils in a school – at the same time you’re at the confluence, the crunch point, for an ever-increasing barrage of expectations and demands.

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The most common SpLDs found in the classroom: How identification and intervention can remove barriers to learning

By identifying and minimising the barriers to learning, the child can feel more comfortable in the learning situation and will usually respond more effectively to the intervention offered.

Thanks to Gavin Reid, educational psychologist and author of Special Needs Assessment Profile (SNAP) SpLD, for the following article.


Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs)

In every classroom in every school there will be a considerable number of children experiencing some form of specific learning difficulty. These can include: literacy difficulties (dyslexia), movement and coordination issues (dyspraxia), numeracy problems (dyscalculia), handwriting issues (dysgraphia), speech and language problems (Specific Language Impairment) and auditory processing difficulties (APD).

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3 ways to reduce unnecessary workload with standardised tests

Katie_Blainey_standardised_reduce_workloadPublishing Director, Katie Blainey, explores unnecessary workload and how using standardised tests can save you heaps of valuable time!

It may sound unintuitive that an increase in testing can ultimately reduce workload for teachers and increase pupils’ learning, but it is worth considering. Increasingly, primary schools, secondary schools and MATs are adopting standardised tests across the school to support informed teaching and save time. Here are just 3 reasons why…

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Improving Mathematics in Key Stages 2 and 3

Thanks to John Dabell for this article.

Improving Mathematics in Key Stages 2 and 3’ is the latest report from the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and presents sharp, intelligent and actionable guidance to support “great maths teaching” in primary and secondary schools.

The guidance is relevant to all pupils but in particular to those children who fall below their expected level of mathematics achievement. The report adopts the premise that it is essential to see maths as a pump rather than a filter in the pipeline of education but this can only be achieved through tapping into what works and is supported by research.

A vital enabler in the strengthening of teaching, learning and assessment is good access to relevant evidence; this report can help guide teachers towards this as its key focus is to promote a culture of evidence-led best practice.

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Applying for access arrangements for GCSE

What are access arrangements?

According to the Joint Council for Qualifications, ‘access arrangements are pre-examination adjustments for candidates based on evidence of need and normal way of working.’ Schools can apply for 25% extra time in GCSE exams by applying for access arrangements, and usually the SENCo and/or the specialist assessor working within the school will process the applications online.

How can you apply for extra time and who is eligible?

In order to award extra time the school must assess the needs of the pupil based on one of the following documents:

  • Statement of Special Educational Needs relating to secondary education, or an Education, Health and Care Plan, which confirms the candidate’s disability; or
  • Assessment carried out no earlier than the start of Year 9 by an assessor confirming a learning difficulty relating to secondary/further education.

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Changes to GCSEs

From August 2017 GCSE students in England will be examined using more challenging papers, designed to match the exams of their peers in high-performing education systems around the world.

Changes to the qualifications are designed to ensure that young people will leave school with the skills they need to succeed in the workplace or further study.  The new GCSEs will be awarded using a new number grading scale, rather than the traditional letter scale, running from 9 to 1 (with 9 as the highest grade) rather than from A* to G. Continue reading →

A level results day 2017

Pupils across England, Wales and Northern Ireland received their A level results today and overall, pass levels have fallen slightly but top A and A* grades are up. A-level entry numbers remained stable, whilst the number of AS-level entries dropped significantly. Find out more about trends in entry level numbers here.

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