Last night, we ran our “Are you ready for the removal of P-Levels?” webinar. P-Levels have been used in schools since 1998 to assess the progress of pupils working below the national curriculum level. In May 2018, in response to the Rochford Review, the government released the new pre-key-stage standards for 2018-19, which will replace P-Levels.
The B Squared webinar covered the changes to the end-of-key-stage statutory assessment, the impact this will have, how schools will need to change and how to have meaningful communication with parents. If you missed the webinar, you can watch it below (click on the full-screen icon for the best viewing experience). The handouts referred to in the webinar can be accessed via the links below the video.
How Do Schools Feel about the Removal of P-Levels?
“Anxious” and “Daunted”
The webinar provided a great opportunity for teachers to voice their opinions about the removal of P-Levels and the introduction of the new pre-key-stage standards. Some teachers admitted to feeling “a little daunted” and “anxious”, while many felt unsure about how to assess pupil progress for individuals with SEND once the changes come into effect. Some gave an even less positive response to the planned changes.
More Guidance and Support Is Needed
The discussion in our webinar suggests that there has been insufficient support and guidance from the Department for Education (DfE) to help teachers manage the transition from P-Levels to the new system. Many professionals are still hoping for more guidance from the government: “I feel confused! I would like advice about what to use for the day-to-day assessment of pupils with SEND”. The autonomy the government is looking for has not been introduced productively. There is very little guidance, support and funding to help teachers make the transition from P-Levels. Asking schools to take on more responsibility for areas they are then judged on without providing support and funding is likely to have a negative impact, rather than the positive impact the government is hoping for.
The Changes Will Exacerbate Issues of Excessive Teacher Workload
One teacher commented, “It’s daunting going into the unknown and how it will look and how the school will progress and what they will expect from teachers and workload”. My favourite quote from the webinar follow-up was, “It feels a little bit like going back in time and giving rise to everyone recreating their own wheels!”. This, for me, sums up the situation schools are in. Not only is the government asking everyone to recreate their own wheel, but they’re asking them to do it on top of everything else they are already doing. Excessive workload is the top reason given by teachers leaving the profession and this pressure is exacerbating the national teacher shortage.
A Lack of Funding Will Mean Cuts in Provision and Pressure on Staff
A special school can pool their resources and work on this collectively, but without additional funding, cuts will need to be made elsewhere. What happens to a Special Educational Needs & Disability Coordinator (SENCO) in a mainstream setting? How is a mainstream SENCO with limited time and a minimal budget supposed to develop new ways of assessing pupil progress for individuals with SEND? Any SEN assessment tools and pupil progress tracking systems will need to be comprehensive and robust enough to be used across the school. They will also be called upon to evidence progress for pupils with SEND during Ofsted inspections and reviews by other stakeholders. This is a big responsibility for a mainstream SENCO to take on when there is minimal support, guidance and funding available to support them.
Some Teachers Welcome the Freedom Granted Under the New System
Some teachers are more positive. The new system allows schools the freedom to assess the progress of SEND pupils as they see fit. Teachers and Senior Leadership Teams (SLTs) can develop an approach that meets the particular needs of their school and its pupils. However, they acknowledge the associated costs of doing so. One teacher explained that they feel “worried and excited”. They said, “more flexibility for the school is good, but the limitations on having meaningful conversations between schools are not so good.”
Overall, More Guidance Is Needed
Overall, teachers are looking for more guidance and support from the DfE and other organisations. After watching the webinar, a number of respondents felt that they had a better understanding of the changes and were less concerned than they were at the start. Their biggest concern is how they will show progress within the key stage. 36% of respondents said they would be moving away from P-Levels, while 64% said they were not sure. It was interesting that no one said they would definitely stick with P-Levels. Schools currently use P-Levels to report annual progress and are now looking to replace them with something new for their ongoing assessment from September.
How Can we Provide More Support to Schools for Life After P-Levels?
As part of the follow-up to the webinar, we asked schools what topics they would like us to cover in future webinars. Webinars are a great way to share information with a large audience. Attendees are able to gain knowledge in manageable chunks, which they can then share later with other staff.
B Squared webinars run at 7 pm. This allows teachers to follow the event after their school day has ended to avoid interruptions. One participant remarked, “I LOVE that it was at 7 pm, so that I could be home and settled before logging in. Work is too hectic to really access these kinds of things (and you wouldn’t be able to get cover!), but webinars are so much more useful/efficient than courses.
“It’s brilliant that B Squared keeps up with all the changes and meets the DfE’s latest requirement. It is an enormous help for us as we are a very small special school. Thank you!”
We will always keep up to date with changes from the DfE and support schools in adapting to changes. Announcements for pupils with SEND are often made with minimal fanfare, as they affect only a small percentage of students. However, change can impact these students more than most, so it is vital that transitions are well-managed and supported.
Teachers who provided feedback in our webinar follow-up requested future sessions on the following topics:
- A practical guide on how to use Evisense, how it would be deployed in a school
- Meaningful Communication
- Connecting Steps Analysis Module (CSAM), our whole school analysis software
- Transitioning to the new frameworks
If you have any ideas for webinars or areas you need support in, please drop us an email. We also plan to provide webinars on wider topics in education so that we can support schools better.
Keeping in touch with our customers is really important. We are constantly improving our service, updating our software and releasing new products. Webinars are a great way for schools to keep up to date with our progress. You may have been using B Squared products for a long time, but are you aware of all the features Connecting Steps can offer? One teacher commented, “We run B Squared currently, but I learnt things tonight about our current package that I didn’t know. Something to try out tomorrow.”
We are always listening to our customers and your feedback helps us to keep improving our products. A few of the comments from our webinar feedback referred to even the smallest of steps towards progress that Connecting Steps can deliver. Connecting Steps uses levels of engagement to show progress as students achieve skills. There are seven steps of engagement before a student achieves a skill, and you don’t have to use all of them. You can choose which ones you want to use and remove the ones you don’t. This allows teachers to see the level of engagement for pupils in different areas and for different skills. Connecting Steps can clearly show the progress through the various levels of engagement.
In the webinar, I shared the pie chart that shows the level of engagement and each of the skills within a level. This can also be graphed over time with CSAM; you can show that although a pupil hasn’t achieved a skill independently, they are now engaging with the skill or demonstrating it with less support than they were before. For a child with complex needs, this can be a big improvement, even though it is not recognised by the government’s way of assessing progress.
If you have any questions about this webinar, you can contact me via email – firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also book a FREE online meeting to discuss anything from this webinar. Use the link below to find a time and date that suits you…