About the school
Pembroke Additional Learning Centre (ALC) is a specialist provision for Monmouthshire LEA with school placements for children in the South of the county. We support individuals aged 4-11 years with Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties (PMLD), Severe Learning Difficulties and Autistic Spectrum Disorders.
My name is Simon Carnell and for the past 4 years I have had the pleasure of being Head of Centre. I have worked in Additional Educational Needs settings for over 15 years, teaching children aged 3-19 with Severe and Profound learning difficulties and spending many of those years in a Senior Management role. Over my career I have had a particular interest in developing ways to assess children in a meaningful, accurate and informative way, and the current system we have created at Pembroke allows us to monitor progress and inform future learning without being tokenistic, vague or simply ticking a government box.
At Pembroke ALC we believe each child is unique and should be nurtured using the principles of 'Person Centred Planning' in order for their potential to be reached. Our system uses Individual Education Plans to focus on barriers to learning and specific issues the child is facing in their development. Children are given a profile with targets focusing on their Key Skill areas. This helps them develop into independent, secure learners whilst raising self-esteem and developing peer relationships. Importantly, for the past 8 years, Pembroke ALC has tracked academic progress using B Squared assessments, recently moving to their online software. These assessments provide extremely accurate tracking of individual pupil's achievements, and help guide target setting.
Why B Squared?
Over the years, I have explored many different assessment tools but I have found B Squared to be the most user-friendly and meaningful, while offering a variety of ways to present and use the data. The system we use at Pembroke is complemented perfectly by the B Squared assessments and we continue to find additional ways it can be used to support us.
We also use B Squared to host our data, reducing pressures on our own networks and technical support staff. As the software is also available as an app on the iPad, support staff can easily record an achievement or indicate emerging understanding without the need to find a computer with the software installed. By having more frequent access to the descriptors my team are more familiar with the levels and are making more accurate judgements on pupil progress.
The benefits of using B Squared assessments
In our setting, the best aspect of B Squared is the small steps of progress each level is broken down into. This allows us to track tiny increases in development that we would miss in other systems. When preparing Annual Reviews and reports for Inspectors, this is vital especially when working with PMLD learners as they may only move 1 P-Level in a Key Stage (KS). This breakdown of the levels allows us to seamlessly tie-in with Progression Guidance, a document produced by the Department for Education. At Pembroke, pupils leaving a KS are set targets using Progression Guidance's upper quartile targets. We are then able to accurately calculate the percentage increase of academic levels they should make each year in order to meet these challenging targets. B Squared gives a percentage of level completion so by cross-referencing our targets with our assessments we are able to see if pupils are on track. The small steps are also useful for teachers in planning how they will move a child forward, as they can be used as lesson objectives or weekly targets for pupils.
When working with children on a daily basis it is quite easy to underestimate quite how much progress they have made over a 6-month period; very often it is a visiting therapist who notices a significant change in a pupil's development. The same is true for the parents of our pupils and using B Squared we are able to show them the small steps and progress their child is making. Sometimes parents feel that this isn't enough but by linking to the Progression Guidance we are able to show that their child is in fact making exceptional progress.
As teachers, we are continually expected to have our data and assessments at our fingertips whilst showing how it is integrated into our lessons. We are asked for level summaries, targets, pupil progress, the list goes on. With the many features of B Squared we are able to have most of these answers by simply logging in.