Progression Steps, Primary Steps or Pre-Key Stage Standards?

Progression Steps and Primary Steps are two assessment frameworks covering a similar ability range created by B Squared. There are several differences between them which make them suit different settings. The pre-key stage standards are used to assess pupils at the end of a key stage working below the level of the end of key stage assessment. There is a huge difference between our frameworks and the pre-key stage standards.

Primary Steps

We created Primary Steps for primary schools to use with pupils with SEND, working two years behind or more. It is based on the primary national curriculum and covers all subjects in the primary national curriculum. There are three levels below Year 1, followed by the end of year outcomes broken down into smaller steps.

The Science content uses the 16 topic areas, differentiated down to Primary Step 1. This is great for supporting planning and showing progress for pupils working out of their year group to access the topic based on their year group. The PSHE content incorporates the Relationship Education guidance released in 2019.

We created Primary Steps so that all pupils in the setting are using the same scale/ladder. It is easy to make direct comparisons between pupils working at different stages. Primary schools already refer to pupils’ ability in terms of years. They will refer to a child as ‘Year 6, but working at Year 4’. It makes sense that the assessment system uses the same language, making accessing and using the framework easier. Using the same scale for all pupils also makes whole school progress easier.

When we release our updated analysis platform in 2022, we will have the ability to combine data from our Primary Steps framework (pupils with SEND) and our  Primary Curriculum framework (pupils working at or near ARE) instantly. If you use our Progression Steps framework for pupils with SEND, you will not be able to do this.

Progression Steps

We designed the Progression Steps for use in specialist settings. It can also be used for pupils with SEND in secondary settings where they do not want to refer to a year group when discussing attainment. A lot of the content in Progression Steps uses the primary national curriculum due to ability level. We have incorporated the curriculum guidance for secondary schools in several areas within the framework.

The Science assessment content has two different ways that schools can use it. Schools can choose to use a combined science profile; this looks only at skills and can be used with any topic. The alternative is to assess progress in Biology, Chemistry and Physics. These areas contain skills that are linked to particular topics. There are two versions of our PSHE content, one for primary based on the relationship education guidance and one for secondary based on the sex and relationships guidance for secondary schools. There is a lot of overlap between primary and secondary, so pupils can transition to the secondary version when entering year 7.

Pre-key Stage Standards

The pre-key stage standards focus on key aspects of English reading, English writing and mathematics for the specific purpose of statutory end-of-key stage assessment. The statements are used to judge progress towards the end of key stage assessments. The pre-key stage standards are constrained by the skills pupils working at age-related expectations (ARE) are assessed against. These constraints mean the pre-key stage standards are not designed to support the pupils they are used to assess. They are used to show where these pupils are compared to pupils working at ARE. This is the same as the reception baseline assessment, designed to identify the starting point for a pupil working towards the end of key stage 2 assessment. Neither assessment identifies or assesses areas relevant to the pupil. Neither supports the pupil or the school.

There are no standards around Speaking and Listening (Spoken Language as it is currently called). We previously had P levels for Speaking/Expressive and Listening/Receptive, ensuring schools did focus on these areas. By aligning the pre-key stage standards with the end of key stage assessments and removing Spoken Language, some schools may no longer focus on these key areas. Schools may not realise the link between a pupil’s poor literacy skills and poor language skills.

The pre-key stage standards use a secure fit judgement. A pupil needs to achieve all statements to achieve that level. Schools can use some reasonable adjustment.

“for example, reducing anxiety by providing a quiet study space, or allowing more time to process instructions”

Pre-key stage standards page 6

If a pupil’s needs prevent them from achieving a pre-key stage standard statement in the way described, they can adapt the skill to suit the pupil, but the standard cannot be lowered.

Teachers should ensure that all pupils have the opportunity to demonstrate attainment with reasonable adjustments in place, but the standards of the assessment must not be compromised and must be met in an equivalent way.”

Pre-key stage standards page 6

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Should Schools Break Down the Pre-Key Stage Standards?

No. The pre-key stage standards are designed for accountability and nothing more. They are designed to show progress towards meeting the end of key stage assessments. They are very narrow and focus on only a few key areas. Breaking down the pre-key stage standards and using these as an ongoing assessment system will give schools a very narrow framework and if this informs their curriculum, a very limited curriculum.

“The standards are not a formative assessment tool: they should not be used to track progress throughout the key stage or to guide individual programmes of study, classroom practice or methodology. Teachers should assess individual pieces of pupils’ work in line with their school’s own, more detailed, assessment policy and not against these standards.”

Pre-key stage standards page 5

Pre-key stage standard 6 and the end of Year 2 outcomes are equivalent in terms of level of ability. You will see they share some common skills. However, Year 2 has a lot more breadth that is not reflected in pre-key stage standard 6.

Breaking down the statements in pre-key stage standard 3 will not prepare a pupil to move on to the Year 1 end of year outcomes. They will not have the foundations ready for learning new skills.

We used the pre-key stage standards, the primary national curriculum and the P levels to help guide us as we developed our Primary Steps and Progression Steps frameworks. Our frameworks give pupils the full breadth of skills needed. They have all the small steps a pupil needs to help them progress through the primary national curriculum.

Using our Frameworks with the Pre-Key Stage Standards

Primary Steps and Progression Steps are designed to be used throughout the key stage, to show a pupil’s progress across a term, year or key stage. They cover the full breadth of the primary national curriculum. The first three levels of the Primary Steps are designed to assess pupils in all the skills they will need to progress and work towards the Year 1 end of year outcomes. The pre-key stage standards are intended only to be used at the end of a key stage. They indicate attainment based on a small number of statements the Government feels essential. There is a lack of breadth in the pre-key stage standards. A child who can achieve pre-key stage standard 3 may not have all the skills required to move on to the Year 1 curriculum.

There is no direct correlation between a pupil’s attainment level in Progression Steps or Primary Steps and their pre-key stage standard score

The pre-key stage standard statements are embedded in Primary Steps, in Step 1 to Year 2 and in Progression Steps, in Step 1 to 6. When you assess a pupil on these levels, you will automatically be assessing the pupils against the pre-key stage standards. The linked assessment points are identified with (PKSS) at the end.

Primary Steps and Progression Steps use a best-fit approach. Schools can set a best-fit percentage that a pupil must achieve. Pupils will move on to the next level when they reach this percentage. Schools typically use 80% or 85%. Teachers also can mark a level as complete using their professional judgment at a lower level, based on a pupil’s needs. This is very different to the secure fit of the pre-key stage standards.

Due to the best-fit approach of the Primary Steps and Progression Steps, a pupil can progress through the levels without achieving all the pre-key stage standard statements at that level. A pupil may struggle on a skill in pre-key stage standard 3 in writing, this accounts for only a small percentage of Progression Step 3/Primary Step 3. The pupil can move on to the next level by reaching the best-fit percentage. A pupil could be working at Year 2 in Primary Steps, but only working at pre-key stage standard 3.

The best-fit approach is designed to be flexible and adapt to a pupil’s needs. The pupil, parents and school can decide what skills are important to them, what skills can be missed and what skills a pupil may achieve over a longer time period. This is the best approach as it is pupil-centred.

The secure fit approach is there for the Government. A standard set of skills to measure all pupils against and to judge progress over a key stage. They don’t fit all students. A large part of the writing pre-key stage standards involves pencil control and forming letters correctly.

We will always recommend primary schools use our Primary Steps framework. It was created specifically for primary schools to make the assessment more inclusive. All pupils are measured on the same scale, with a few differences. Pupils with SEND have a lower starting point, and they have the steps broken down into smaller steps to show progress.

Are the Progression Steps and the Pre-key Stage Standards Similar?

Some schools like the idea of using the Progression Steps over Primary Steps as the first six levels match up with the pre-key stage standards in terms of ability. It is important to remember that the Progression Steps and Primary Steps have a different purpose to the pre-key stage standards.

A pupil’s attainment score will not be consistent between the Progression Steps and the pre-key stage standards.

A pupil may excel at the areas within the pre-key stage standards, but struggle with some of the skills within the Progression Steps. They may not reach the best-fit percentage within Progression Steps, but have achieved all of the statements within the pre-key stage standard.

Another pupil may struggle with skills the Government’s deemed necessary in the pre-key stage standards. However, they can achieve all the other skills at that level within the Progression Steps.

The pre-key stage standards can only be used at the end of the key stage. They should not be used by a school or local authority to judge progress and attainment at the end of a year or other term. Since the removal of p levels, some authorities have been trying to use the pre-key stage standards as a tool to look at progress annually. This should be discouraged. The pre-key stage standards are not designed for this purpose. They will NOT give any useful insight into pupil progress or attainment.

“Those reviewing school performance, including Ofsted inspectors, would not expect them to be used for anything other than summative assessment at the end of the key stage.”

Pre-key stage standards page 5

Ongoing assessment and end of key stage assessment need to be kept separate and should not be combined:

  • A pupil should NOT be held back in the Progression Steps due to not achieving all of the pre-key stage standard statements.
  • A pupil should NOT be pushed forward in the Progression Steps due to achieving all of the pre-key stage standards on the previous level.
  • Pre-key stage standards and Progression Steps attainment scores CANNOT be used interchangeably. They are not equal.

The pre-key stage standards and the Progression Steps/Primary Steps are designed for two very different purposes. The pre-key stage standards are about accountability. The Progression Steps and Primary Steps are part of a child-centred approach. They allow schools to show progress, target next steps and talk about challenges and progress with parents in a meaningful way. Parents of pupils with SEND do not care about pre-key stage standards. The majority of these parents will not be aware of the pre-key stage standards or what they are for. Parents will focus on skills that are important to their child. These will often be more practical or functional and aren’t reflected in pre-key stage standard statements.

Which Framework for my School?

If you are a primary school looking to track progress for pupils working 2 years or more behind, we recommend you use our Primary Steps framework. It is more inclusive in a primary setting as it uses the same language to describe progress and attainment for pupils with SEND and those working at or near ARE. The levelling structure is easier to use as it is familiar to staff. They are already using that language to discuss progress and attainment.

If you are a specialist setting with more complex pupils where attainment is typically lower, we recommend using the Progression Steps. As you will be assessing all or the majority of pupils on the same system, it will become a common language all staff use when discussing progress and attainment.

If you are a secondary mainstream school looking to track progress for pupils with SEND working significantly below their peers, we recommend using our Progression Steps framework. Secondary settings often use their own language around assessment, often linked to GCSE grades. The Progression Steps uses a scoring system of levels instead of age.

If you have any questions about our frameworks or the pre-key stage standards, feel free to send me an email – dale@bsquared.co.uk

Want an easy way to show pupil progress?

Click on the button to arrange a FREE online meeting to find out how we can help make assessment easier for pupils working below Age Related Expectations.

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