B Squared Blog

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Keeping schools updated on the latest news and ideas. Read about our approach to assessment, what we are doing and why...


Did you miss our ‘Are You Ready for the Removal of P Levels?’ Webinar?

Last night we ran our ‘Are you ready for the removal of P Levels?’ Webinar. The 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 (you can make it full screen to make it easier to view). You will also find the handouts mentioned in the webinar in the links below the video.

 

 

How do Schools Feel About the Changes?

The webinar was also a chance for us to hear from teachers and find out how they felt about the removal of P Levels and the introduction of the new pre-key stage standards. The answers included ‘A little daunted’ and ‘Anxious!’, from those who were still at the beginning of the journey, not sure what way to go or what to do. Others in a similar place gave a less positive response. It is obvious there has not been enough support or guidance from the DfE on the changes and the impact the changes will have.

There are many professionals who 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 for pupils with SEND’. The autonomy the government is looking for has not been introduced in a productive way. There is very little guidance, very little support and no money. Asking schools to take on more responsibility for areas which they are then judged on without providing support and funding is likely to have a negative impact, not the positive impact the government is hoping for.

One teacher commented ‘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’ and 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 asking them to do it on top of everything else they are doing. A special school can pool all their resources and work on this collectively, but without additional funding something else will lose out. What happens to a SENDCo in a mainstream setting? How is a mainstream SENDCo with very limited time and close to no budget supposed to develop ways to show progress for pupils with SEND? It will then be used across the school and used to evidence progress for pupils with SEND to Ofsted and other stakeholders. A big responsibility with minimal support/guidance/funding.

Some teachers are more positive, they recognise the positive aspect of the freedom, but they acknowledge the associated costs - ‘Worried and excited. More flexibility for school is good, the ability to have meaningful conversation between schools is not so good’

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, 64% said they were not sure. It was interesting that no one said they would definitely stick with P Levels. Schools currently use the P Levels to report annual progress and are now looking to replace the P Levels with something new for their ongoing assessment from September.

 

How Can we Provide More Support to Schools?

As part of the follow up we asked schools what webinars schools would like us to run. 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. We run our webinars at 7pm in the evening, this makes a lot of sense to us as we know how hectic the school day is and it is not often you can sit down for an hour uninterrupted. ‘LOVE that it was at 7pm, so that I could be home and settled before logging in. Work is too hectic to really access these kind 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 the all the changes and meets the DfE's latest requirement. It is 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 only effect a small percentage of students, but for these students, the teachers and the schools these changes can have a significant impact. 

We’ve been asked to run webinars on:

  • 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 - This webinar is on Tuesday 10th of July at 7pm. Click here to register for the webinar.

If you have any ideas for webinars, or areas you need support on, please drop us an email to hello@bsquared.co.uk and we will see what we can do. We are also looking to provide webinars on wider topics so we can support schools better.

Other Feedback

Keeping in touch with our customers is really important. We are constantly updating what we do, improving our software, adding new areas in and releasing new products. Webinars are great for schools to keep in touch with what we have been up to. You may have been using us for a long time, but do you know all the things Connecting Steps can do, 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. Thank-you’.

We are always listening and the feedback goes into our products. A few of the comments in the feedback were linked to showing the really small steps of progress Connecting Steps can show. Connecting Steps uses levels of engagement to show progress as students achieve skills. There are 7 steps of engagement before a student achieves a skill. You don’t have to use all of them, you can choose which ones you want to use and remove the others. This allows teachers to see the level of engagement for pupils on the different skills and Connecting Steps can show the progress through the different levels of engagement. In the webinar I shared the pie chart which shows the level of engagement with all 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 they are doing it with less support than they were before. For a child with complex needs this can be a really big improvement even though it is not recognised in the government's way of looking at progress.

If you would like to know more about how we are changing with the removal of P Levels, how our assessment software works and how it can be used in your school, you can arrange a FREE online meeting by going to www.connectingsteps.com/meetings 

Why not get in contact by giving us a call on 01252 870133 or sending an email to hello@bsquared.co.uk


Life Without Levels - Four Years On

The levels are dead…

In 2014, we were told that the National Curriculum level descriptors were bad. Possibly because teacher assessment was not as ‘accurate’ as testing. Possibly because the old level descriptor content didn’t match Gove’s new National Curriculum attainment targets. Possibly because a best-fit approach to assessment left ‘gaps’ in children’s learning. Possibly because parents and children didn’t understand them.

Four years on and The STA have finally published the ‘permanent and extended ’ pre-key stage standards; and at first glance they look very different to the last edition. What is particularly interesting is that they also look very different to the recommended standards that were published in the appendices of The Rochford Review: final report.

And yet, they still somehow look quite familiar: *cough* levels *cough*.

Review and revolution

Following the long-delayed final report of The Rochford Review and the subsequent open consultations, The STA sought advice and guidance from classroom staff and educational practitioners regarding the content of these suggested pre-key stage standards.

The pre-key standards are almost unrecognisable from the Rochford-recommended standards. I’m glad to see that the ‘experts’ hard work was worth the wait. And, whilst I have no real idea how much attention was paid to the responses garnered, the extent of the changes seem to indicate that a lot more thought and effort went in to the production of these new assessment standards. It makes me question why the STA didn’t go straight to the experienced grass-roots professionals in the first place.

But I still have a problem with the name! The pupils who will be assessed against these standards are not ‘pre-key stage’ learners.

Clear as mud

The STA state that the standards are provided for the statutory assessment of pupils who are in Year 2/6 and are engaged in subject-specific learning but who have not completed the programme of study, and are therefore working below the level of SATs.

They make it incredibly clear that: “The standards are not a formative assessment tool” and then immediately contradict this simple instruction by suggesting that:

 

The pre-key stage standards may also be useful for teachers to refer to for pupils of all ages, including those attending secondary school 

Pre-Key Stage Standards (2018–19), p.2

 

So once again, we have been given mixed messages!

The useful bits

The STA spell out what it meant by their qualifiers and examples. This aspect of the guidance is actually quite useful. According to the document ‘most’ indicates that the statement is generally met with only occasional errors; ‘many’ indicates that the statement is met frequently but not yet consistently; and ‘some’ indicates that the skill/knowledge is starting to be acquired and is demonstrated correctly on occasion, but is not yet consistent or frequent.

The STA also state that reasonable adjustments should be made for pupils with disabilities and that the pupil’s individual method of communication or study can constitute as an acceptable substitution. Additionally, and in line with the recent adaptions to the English writing aspect of the teacher assessment framework, The STA points out that statements can be disapplied on the basis of a pupil’s physical disability.

However, this seems to be contradicted later in the notes on English writing, whereby The STA state that:

 

This approach applies to English writing only. 

Pre-Key Stage Standards (2018–19), p.6

 What’s changed?

Most noticeably, there is an extra standard in both the Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 frameworks. I believe that The STA have raised the skill-level required by pupils to achieve some of the lowest standards. This means that the pupils who may have just achieved an aspect of the proposed ‘entry to the expected standard’ descriptor (recommended in the Rochford Review) will now be assessed against P levels 1–4 currently, and whichever non-subject-specific criteria is decided upon after the Engagement Scale pilot. However, the ‘entry to the expected standard’ descriptor was huge—by our reckoning, it covered aspects of P levels 4–7. By raising the entry requirements in some areas, and introducing this extra standard, I believe The STA have balanced the new pre-key stage standards to create more evenly spaced attainment brackets.

For a more in-depth analysis of the changes click here.

Reading—a greater focus on understanding

The teacher assessment descriptors for pupils working at the level of the test have been removed in Key Stage two and there is a greater level of emphasis put on language comprehension.

Writing—creativity makes a comeback

There is a greater level of emphasis placed on the content and style of the pupil’s writing, not just the handwriting, spelling, punctuation, and grammar. This, alongside the fact that certain statements can be discounted for pupils with disabilities, means that there is less of a focus on the physical aspects of writing which previously seemed to discriminate against pupils with physical impairments or co-ordination issues.

Mathematics—less is more

The teacher assessment descriptors for pupils working at the level of the test have been removed in Key Stage two, much of the content has been removed from the higher levels and there is a greater emphasis is placed on arithmetic recall and mathematically reasoning.

Science—what science?

Despite the increased national focus on ‘STEM’ subjects, both the assessment frameworks for KS1 and KS2 science are almost entirely the identical to the previous iteration of the teacher assessment frameworks. They still only have a ‘working at the expected standard’ descriptor for each key stage and this means that the statutory assessment of science for pupils with working below these standards is not required.

Technically, a few sentences have been rearranged and The STA have helpfully identified in which school the content should be taught; but other than that, no big changes. 

 


…long live the levels!

Despite having it rammed down our throats that levels were bad and stifling children’s progress, it looks an awful lot like we’ve got them back.

The removal of the Key Stage 2 teacher assessment frameworks for English reading and mathematics, and the impending move away from end-of-KS1 assessments towards a reception baseline assessment may have alleviated the government’s distrust in teacher assessment, and allowed examinations to play a more solitary role in the assessment of mainstream pupils. However, they are still aware that this format will not work for around 20% of the school-age population, many of whom have SEND. I’m sure they’re not happy about that!

In the creation of the new pre-key stage standards, they have successfully updated the language of these new (not level) descriptors to match that of Gove’s National Curriculum. If you ask me, it seems like a lot of chaos, stress, and extra effort for very little reward, but at least Pob gets to put his name down in the history books.

The best-fit approach of recording pupil performance as and where it is demonstrated has all but gone. With such broad areas as English reading, this is a loss to all those pupils with spikey attainment profiles. I always remember two pupils I once taught. One child was had severe dyslexic tendencies, she could barely distinguish the letters on the page, let alone recognise many words. However, when read to, she was able to use inference and deduction to explain how characters were feeling and predict upcoming events. The other student was statemented with autism. He could read words of inordinate complexity but very rarely comprehended their meaning. Because of the amalgamated nature English reading assessments, they were both recorded as operating at the same level but their capabilities couldn’t have been more different.

If we thought that parents didn’t understand levels, we’ve got another thing coming. How is Standard 3 any clearer than P8? It was reported that pupils felt bad because they had only progressed from a 2c in Year 2 to a level 4 in Year 6. Think how bad they’re going to feel when they are reported as working toward the standard in both key stages (or not achieving the standard as is the case in science).

However, I do think that these new frameworks are more balanced than the Rochford-recommended descriptors and the 2017–18 frameworks. With the English reading framework, I am happy that The STA have increased the focus on comprehension; and in writing, I am very pleased that there has been a move away from just the physical skills required to transcribe. Both of these elements open the framework up to children with a broader range of special educational needs and disabilities. However, with the government still fixated on the idea of a secure-fit approach (albeit slightly softened in English writing), many pupils will still be reported as working at a lower ability level than accurately reflects their individual assessment profile.

But the real questions are:

  1. Will this new framework allow schools to show accurate and meaningful progress over a key stage for those students operating within the pre-key stage standards?
  2. With the impending move away from end-of-KS1 assessments towards a reception baseline assessment, will pupils with SEND sit a test at the age of 4 too? And what will their results look like?

Current documents:

Pre-Key Stage 1 Standards (2018–19)

Pre-Key Stage 2 Standards (2018–19)

PreTeacher Assessment Framework for Key Stage 1 (2018–19)

PreTeacher Assessment Framework for Key Stage 2 (2018–19)

 

Previous documents:

The Rochford Review: Final Report (2016)

PreInterim Pre-Key Stage 1 Standards (2017–18)

PreInterim Pre-Key Stage 2 Standards (2017–18)

PreTeacher Assessment Framework for Key Stage 1 (2018–19)

PreTeacher Assessment Framework for Key Stage 2 (2018–19) 


FREE online Connecting Steps training – What’s the catch?

It’s true, it’s FREE and in all honesty, there is no catch! Apart from maybe the challenge of finding a quiet place at school to join in one of our online sessions. Find out for yourself - just ask any of the teachers who attended our first FREE Connecting Steps online training webinar which took place LIVE online earlier this week (Tuesday 5 June at 4pm).

Experimenting with webinars

I was bowled over by the great feedback we received from teachers who took part in our very first webinar ‘Introduction to Engagement Steps’, held just a few just weeks ago. The aim of this first session was to introduce our newest assessment frameworks, developed in response to the Rochford Review. This webinar, scheduled outside of school hours on a topic of interest for our teacher customers, proved a big hit! So what next?

Listening to our customers

I spend most of my working week visiting schools, to introduce them to B Squared or train staff on how to use our Connecting Steps assessment software. I have listened to feedback from a number of our customer schools who have identified a training need for their new staff, but due to tight budgets it is not financially viable to pay for someone from B Squared to come and deliver training in-person for a small number of staff. In response to this need, we have decided to offer a FREE Connecting Steps training webinar on a monthly basis (4pm on the first Tuesday of the month). Open to all our Connecting Steps V4 hosted customers, this session is ideal as a refresher for existing users or a starting point for new staff, who can then talk to colleagues at their school about how the software is used within their setting. These webinars have been designed to complement, not replace, whole school face-to-face training which enables us to customise the delivery to meet each school's individual needs.

Learning from experience

This week’s first training webinar has shown me that a basic overview of the software and all its functionality is a bit too much of a squeeze to fit into 30 minutes! So, we plan to extend the next session to 45 minutes (plus 15 minutes questions). We are also considering breaking out some specific areas, such as ‘student baselining’ or ‘CSAM: Connecting Steps Analysis Module’ for more in-depth training (dates/times TBC). If there’s a particular element you would like to see covered in more detail, please do let me know via the comments section below.

Sound good? 

It’s not too late to access your FREE training. Don’t worry if you missed this first training webinar, you can watch the recording here: 

 

Prefer to take part in a LIVE session?

Register now for our next Connecting Steps training webinar taking place on Tuesday 3 July at 4pm.

Our next webinar: Are you ready for the removal of P-Levels? - 7pm Tuesday 12th June

This FREE online webinar has been designed to inform teachers on the implications of the Rochford Review and how our assessment frameworks are changing in response to the removal of P Levels.

To register for any of our webinars, simply visit our Webinars page www.bsquared.co.uk/more/webinars


Yes, yet another blog about GDPR

It seems that the whole country has gone GDPR crazy. It was the dominating topic at BETT at the beginning of the year with new companies popping up to help schools comply with what is a complex and sometimes “open to interpretation” document. Let’s face it though, it is not the first-time schools have had to muddle their way through a document that can be read in different ways. There is a whole host of information out there on the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), with guidance on what companies should and should not be doing, mainly focusing on single aspects of this new regulation, but rarely covering the entire document and its implications. Some of this information has been contradictory or just plain wrong! If you haven’t already found it, the ICO website has some excellent guidance on what schools and companies should be doing to prepare for the GDPR.

What was B Squared’s approach to GDPR?

When I first made a start on our GDPR compliance work internally, it was really tempting to look at all the information that was out there. I realised pretty quickly that the infancy of the document (we looked at it early on) was creating confusion. In my experience, sometimes it is better to go to the source document itself and give it a good read through before seeking additional support. That is exactly what I did, I downloaded the document and spent some considerable time converting it into a usable word document with properly formatted headings, to ease navigation, as each section sent me careering backwards and forwards through the document. Whilst it is certainly not Tolstoy, it is actually a very interesting read. It seeks to deal with some of the most common issues that exist in the 21st century that ever-increasing storage capabilities and technologies brings. We can all sit and roll our eyes when we here the dreaded GDPR acronym, but it comes from a good place and successful implementation will make our data far safer.

So how has the GDPR affected us you may ask? 

Well, as I read through it, overall, I found myself nodding along, thinking “excellent, good idea, that’s what we do”, and only occasionally making notes about things that we need to change, which are mainly around the fact that as a small company, we do not have the level of auditing and documentation that larger companies rely on because of the inherent complexities that arise when the number of staff increases. But the GDPR is fair in its expectations, the requirements relate to the size of the business rather than pressing for a “one size fits all” approach when it comes to these auditing processes.

So how do we fare in light of the GDPR in relation to the processing services we offer? 

The answer is, quite well. As an already security conscious company, I found that our own paranoia around security has fared well against these new requirements. What also helps tremendously is that our Managing Director Dale Pickles, who is also a techie at heart, understands very well the risks, which makes my job a lot easier as I don’t have to do the hard sell to him on the benefits of any particular strategy. In fact, Dale is always looking for safer and more secure ways of working with the products we sell. As a team, we work well in identifying risks early on and mitigating them before they become an issue, because our backgrounds, professional training and qualifications are all around provisioning networks and domains with the “path of least access” as a core principal.

What should schools be doing around the GDPR?

At this point, schools should be nearly done embedding the GDPR into all their practices, preparing for the May 25th deadline. Probably the most important document you need is your data flow map. The action of writing this document forces you to research, define and check every piece of data that goes in and out of your school and from this you can then assign the risk to the data involved. It is during this process that we should have popped up on your radar. Because we do some of the work for you and we hold and process your data, you need to check that we do things as well as you expect them to be done in your own school. The same can be said for every external system that you use.

What questions should you be asking of us?

We have put together a section on our support site which lists some commonly asked questions around our service to help schools ascertain our compliance. Being that there is no formal qualification or certification of GDPR compliance (yet), it is up to you to decide. Therefore transparency is important to us, and we are happy to give as much detail as is required as long as it doesn’t make our own security vulnerable (a key aspect of online security is obscuring your system as far as possible to deter attackers from launching system specific attacks). You can find information surrounding our GDPR compliance here https://support.connectingsteps.com/category/361-gdpr-information

What have we changed to be GDPR compliant?

We have distributed a contract addendum to all our customers for them to sign and return to ensure GDPR compliance for us and our schools. This brings the contract into line with the requirements under Article 28 specifically. From now on, we shall also include the relevant Article 6 clause within our email communications to help people understand how each communication is lawful and to generally be transparent in our approach.

Any questions?

I trust your school is well on the way to GDPR compliance. But if you have further questions for B Squared that are not answered there, please do email me at jon@bsquared.co.uk and I would be happy to respond.


Do you need to write your own assessment framework?
First, let’s talk about the difference between a curriculum and an assessment framework?

When people talk at a conference or in the news about the importance of an “individualised curriculum”, they are talking about the curriculum in your school. When you talk about the curriculum in your school, how often are you referring to the curriculum and how often are you referring to the assessment framework? Some of the schools we visit do not have a strong grasp on their curriculum, instead they refer to their assessment framework. People often use curriculum when referring to both their curriculum and their assessment framework. ‘Curriculum’ and ‘assessment framework’ are not interchangeable. It is important to understand the difference. When choosing an assessment system, it is important to already know what your curriculum is and what you want it to become. Your assessment framework should support this, not replace this.

 

Let’s put that in a different context…. The L Plate Analogy

When you passed your driving test, you learnt a set of skills to enable you to drive a car safely. These are the same skills that everyone who wants to drive a car has to learn. Your driving instructor would not necessarily have taught you in the same way as they taught me or everyone else. We all had to learn clutch control first, or we would have been unable to start to move forwards. But at the end of our learning we all sat the same driving test and were judged against the same criteria.

In a similar way, children learn the same alphabet, the same number bonds and develop appropriate skills based on the same agreed communication principles. This is the same in all schools. How we teach, the order we teach skills, what we use to teach and how we adapt the curriculum to our pupils is what makes up each school’s own curriculum. The identified educational outcomes however, are often similar across a range of schools. It is how they teach the skills that differ. This means that a standardised assessment framework can be used to assess pupil progress across a range of settings.

 

Why do schools feel the need to write their own assessment frameworks? 

This is often down to the belief that an individualised curriculum requires its own assessment framework. Not realising there is a difference or misunderstanding the difference between a curriculum and an assessment framework. The word curriculum is often used instead of assessment framework without thinking of the difference. When you create an individualised curriculum, are you differentiating your teaching or are you changing the outcomes to better suit your students? Differentiating the delivery of your lessons does not require you to write your own assessment framework. If you are changing the outcomes to better suit your children then you may need a new assessment framework, but there are likely to be assessment frameworks already out there for you to use. So why write your own?

 

So, here’s 5 reasons why schools shouldn’t write their own assessment frameworks!

1. Time
Writing an assessment framework is a big job, often bigger than people realise. As a teacher, how much time do you have available in order to identify the definitive set of assessment statements across a the breadth of your school’s curriculum? Our customers have told us they have previously spent hours and hours devising progress paths or learning ladders. We have a whole team at B Squared writing our content, so we know how long this takes! We also know that teachers’ workloads are particularly heavy right now. We have put in the hours, so you don’t have to.

2. Useability
After a bespoke assessment framework is written, how do teachers use it? Where can they access it? How easy is it to pull data out of it? How easy is it to turn into a graphical representation for further analysis?  Often, data is inputted into a large Excel spreadsheet which has a number of limitations; it can only be used by one teacher at a time and only when they are in school. It is often not backed up. This makes it hard to roll-back and difficult to modify when something changes. The system often requires a large amount of work when pupils arrive and leave. What happens when the curriculum changes or new staff are employed?

3. Quality
If all teachers are writing the assessment framework for their field of expertise, how do you ensure a consistent approach throughout the school? Standardisation is at the heart of good assessment. The quality of an assessment framework is dependent on the knowledge and experience of the teachers. Writing assessment statements may seem easy, but teachers can interpret statements differently. You may have teachers who can write brilliant assessment frameworks for their area of expertise, but can every teacher do this for every subject?

4. Cost
Time is money to schools. We have found talking to schools that when they thought about creating their own assessment framework, a number only thought about the writing of the content. This was already a big investment and they hadn’t thought about how it would be used after it had been written. Some schools invested in expensive assessment systems that allow them to add their own content. This worked for a while, but what happens when the government makes changes to how they want schools to assess? Will the assessment system allow you to transition your existing data? In the future, will you still have the same expertise in school to update your assessment framework? How much time will it take?

5. Why reinvent the wheel?
We have already written a range of assessment frameworks to track pupil progress easily and efficiently for a wide range of ages and abilities. All of our assessment products are designed by teachers, for teachers. B Squared has over 20 years’ experience in education assessment and Connecting Steps, our assessment software, is already used by over 3,000 schools across the UK and internationally.

 

Connecting Steps offers a web based, always available, multi-user platform for a wide range of assessment frameworks. It has simple management tools and powerful analysis tools. These powerful features turn an assessment framework from being a burden into an asset.

 

Can you write/use your own curriculum and use B Squared’s Connecting Steps assessment software?

Yes! B Squared’s assessment frameworks detail fundamental skills which do not differ. For example at lower ability levels - “Follows one-step instructions containing two key words” The instruction can be given with words, signs or symbols. The task could be familiar or unfamiliar. The activity could be academic or play based. We have not specified the detail, it is up to the teacher to use their own professional judgement when recording a child’s achievements against this statement. Teachers can easily use the Comments tab in Connecting Steps to add detail and explain how the skill was individualised. Other teachers can then view these comments in order to enhance their understanding of the child and their needs.

A well written, considered assessment framework won’t change what you teach or how you deliver lessons. It will allow you to adapt your curriculum to meet the needs of your children, while supporting a standardised approach and a shared level ambition across the school. To find out how B Squared supports the individualised curriculum in your school please click here to arrange an online meeting. Or get in contact by calling 01252 870133.


Where are we with the Rochford Review?

 

In 2017 the government launched a public consultation on the Rochford Review: Final Report and in September 2017 published ‘Primary school pupil assessment: Rochford Review recommendations - government response’. This finally gave us guidance on the government’s plans for the future of statutory assessment for pupils with SEND, 5 years after the removal of levels. The response agreed with most of the Review's recommendations. The government said that the P levels will not be used to report attainment to the DfE for students engaged in subject-specific learning from September 2018. For students not yet engaged in subject specific learning P levels will be removed from September 2019.

6 months on and we are still waiting for this intention to turn into statutory guidance. We are at the end of the spring term with only one term left before the P Levels are going to be removed, but it has not been confirmed.

We started development of our new assessment frameworks back in 2016, as soon as the Rochford Review: Final Report was released. We felt it was important that the schools were able to access our new frameworks as early as possible, we can then help schools prepare for the changes so the transition can be managed as smoothly as possible.

We completed development of our Engagement Steps assessment framework for students not yet engaged in subject specific learning early in 2017. We trialled the framework with over 200 schools who gave us extremely positive feedback, they felt the new extra breadth and depth allowed teachers to show the progress pupils working at these levels were making.

Our development of Progression Steps was completed early in 2018. This new framework is for pupils engaged in subject-specific learning. The Rochford Review: Final Report did not attempt to tell schools what or how they should teach their pupils. Schools will still deliver the National Curriculum to the majority of their pupils, differentiating content according to their pupils’ needs. We are basing the Cognition and Learning aspect of Progression Steps on the primary National Curriculum using the same subjects and breadth.

We are now finalising our documents to help schools transition from our current P Level and National Curriculum frameworks to the new Engagement Steps and Progression Steps frameworks. Once this is complete the only thing left to do is wait for the Government's legislation. We are hoping this will happen in the next few weeks so that schools have time to prepare for the new frameworks and approaches before September. The image below is a graphical representation of our new assessment frameworks.

Once the statutory guidance is in place we will be running a series of webinars  to support schools in the transition. Look out for the webinar invitations on Twitter and Facebook.  Follow us at @BSquaredLtd  and like us @bsquareduk 

For more information on our new frameworks, book a personal online presentation or read our ‘B Squared’s New SEND Assessment Frameworks' document. Contact me via email at dale@bsquared.co.uk or by phone on 01252 870133


Our first webinar - Intro to Engagement Steps

Two short weeks ago, we were sat in a meeting discussing how best to show teachers what our new Engagement Steps assessment framework is all about. We have been working hard to improve our communications over the past few months,  in order to share details on all the exciting new things we are doing in a way that best suits our teacher customers. Whilst we can make all the changes in the world, unfortunately we can't change the lack of 'free' time that teachers have during their working day (boo!) and the restrictions in place on school networks (quite rightly so), both of which hamper many of the ways in which we can communicate. 

Being married to a teacher, the usual evening drill is finish work, pick the kids up from nursery, get home, deal with the incessant "I'm hungry" cries (despite them having already eaten a very hearty and nutritionally balanced meal), put the kids to bed, cook dinner, wash up and then... watch as my wife opens her laptop to plan lessons and finish up all the things that didn't get done in the day, around 8:00pm in the evening! During the aforementioned meeting, I suggested that it would probably be a good idea to hold a short webinar about Engagement Steps around that time to allow teachers to join in online. And so at that moment, I volunteered myself for the task!

The response we had to the webinar was impressive. Far more people opted to join us than we had anticipated and the turn out was excellent. It gave us the chance to try out this new format on a topic that is very important to us and our customers (the post-Rochford Review era). Whilst the webinar went well, I learnt a lot from it and have some great ideas on how we can 'do better next time'. We will also be working on the technical issues that affected us during the session.

You can view a recording below in case you missed it. Some great questions were asked and we think the answers would also be of interest for many of our teacher customers, so I've also included the questions and our answers below.

Thank you once again to all the teachers that participated, hopefully you will join us again in future as we cover more topics.

 

 

 

Will I be able to get a recording of this meeting to share with staff back at school?

Yes, this meeting is being recorded and will be made available afterwards for you to use and share as you need

Are the P1-P4 current targets going to disappear or is Engagement Steps going to work alongside them?

Our current P1 to P4 offering is still going to exist, however it is our expectation that schools will choose to use this (Engagement Steps) approach over P Scales. Engagement Steps should provide a far better approach to assessment and make it easier to show progress. Under the subject-specific areas, the P Scales have always struggled to support students working at these levels, something which has been reported to us over the years and has been taken into consideration in the development of Engagement Steps.

When will Progression Steps be available?

The Progression Steps Cognition & Learning section covering all the subject areas is available to purchase NOW! The sections Communication & Interaction, Social, Emotional & Mental Health and Sensory & Physical for Progression Steps are being worked on as we speak and we expect these to take 2 years to develop in full. We shall make these available to release when they become ready and there will be a 'review period' taking place where schools can opt for early access to review the content and suggest changes. 

Is there an additional cost for Engagement Steps if our school is already using B Squared's Connecting Steps software? 

Engagement Steps is a completely new assessment framework and approach so there is no upgrade pricing available for this. Schools will need to buy into the framework in order to access it.

Are you having any involvement with the New Welsh curriculum following Donaldson's recommendations?

Yes, we will be doing a breakdown for the Welsh Curriculum. We had already started this project, however as there are changes being made at the moment, this is on hold until they are finalised.

What is the difference between B Squared’s current National Curriculum and P Scale assessment frameworks and the new Progression Steps framework? 

Progression Steps has been designed to be used as an observation-based, formative assessment framework for pupils who are engaged in subject-specific learning. This framework helps teachers to identify and record the ongoing achievements of pupils who are working moderately or severely beneath age-related expectations, in some or all areas of their development. It can be used with pupils who are either studying elements from the formal curriculum or those who are still engaged with a semi-formal approach to learning. The Progression Steps assessment framework helps schools and teachers to monitor their provision for Cognition & Learning by enabling staff to record the academic knowledge and abilities achieved by their pupils. 

The structure of Progression Steps covers the ability range of pupils who would have previously been assessed as operating between P4 and the end of Key Stage 3 expectations. Skills that are deemed similarly challenging have been grouped together in steps. The organisation of these skill steps reflects the performance descriptor structure used by the Standards and Testing Agency (STA) in the following documents: ‘Teacher Assessment Frameworks at the End of Key Stage 1’ (STA, 2017), ‘Interim Pre-Key Stage 1: Pupils Working Below the Test Standard’ (STA, 2017), ‘Teacher Assessment Frameworks at the End of Key Stage 2’ (STA, 2017), ‘Interim Pre-Key Stage 2: Pupils Working Below the Test Standard’ (STA, 2017), and ‘The Rochford Review: Final Report’ (STA, 2016). The Progression Steps framework breaks down the 2014 National Curriculum into smaller, more manageable, assessment points against which pupils (that make atypical rates of progress in some or all aspects of their academic development) can be evaluated. Progression Steps will be sold in three packs. These are: 

  •  Core—this pack breaks down and covers the English, Maths and Science programmes of study for Key Stage 1, Key Stage 2, and Key Stage 3. As there are no specified programmes of study for pupils working beneath the level of the National Curriculum, we have identified prerequisite skills for entry to the programmes of study.
  • Core+—this pack covers Personal, Social, Health & Economic Education; Citizenship; Sex & Relationships Education; Computing; and Physical Education.
  • Foundation—this pack covers Art & Design; Design & Technology; Geography; History; Languages; Music; and Religious Education. 

Many of the assessment points in these Progression Steps packs link with assessment points in our 2014 P Scales and 2014 National Curriculum frameworks, and so a great deal of your pupils' achievement data will carry across. However, we have spent a long time analysing and refining the content of Progression Steps and we believe that we have reduced the workload for teachers whilst ensuring that pupil progress milestones are still recognised.

How does B Squared’s Engagement Steps assessment framework compare with the Rochford Review’s recommended approach to assessing pupils not engaged in subject-specific learning? 

The Rochford Review recommends a statutory duty to assess pupils not engaged in subject-specific learning against the following seven aspects of Cognition & Learning: Responsiveness, Curiosity, Discovery, Anticipation, Persistence, Initiation, and Investigation. The Review’s recommendations build upon a research project commissioned by the DfE, The Complex Learning Difficulties and Disabilities (CLDD) research project (Carpenter 2011). The Engagement Profile and Scale detailed in this project encourage members of school staff to provide an activity for a pupil and then define the pupil’s engagement with the activity by describing how each of the seven aspects were demonstrated with a paragraph of text and providing a score between 0 and 4 for each these. These seven scores are then added together to provide a score out of 28. Following this assessment, the member of staff must then reflect on their interaction and identify potential changes that they could make to the activity in order to increase the pupil’s engagement. 

In the Government’s response to the “Primary school pupil assessment: Rochford Review recommendations” consultation, they agreed with the Rochford Review’s position that the statutory assessment of these pupils should focus on Cognition & Learning but should not undermine provision in any of the other three broad areas of need. But when it came to assessing the seven aspects of engagement, the Government stated that: 

“a number of individual respondents and representative organisations have expressed concerns about the introduction of a statutory requirement to assess pupils against the 7 areas of engagement, given that it was not originally designed as a statutory assessment tool, and it is relatively untested in its proposed form. Concerns have also been raised by some respondents about whether the model assesses the appropriate aspects of cognition and learning.” 

(DfE, 2017, p14) 

With B Squared’s Engagement Steps assessment framework, we have taken the subjectivity out of the process. We have defined criterion-based assessment frameworks for each of the seven aspects of engagement alongside frameworks for expressive and receptive communication, social and emotional affection and sensory and physical operation. We have also extended the ability range of this framework to include pupils who would previously have been assessed at P6. We took this decision to allow Engagement Steps (non-subject-specific) and Progression Steps (subject-specific) to overlap which helps pupils with spikey profiles to transition slowly into a subject-specific curriculum at a time that is appropriate to them. Given the ambiguous nature of the Government’s position on The Engagement Profile and Scale, we have promised to adapt the Cognition & Learning aspect of Engagement Steps for free if the Government decides to go a different way following their pilot scheme.


How to spend school budgets but save money (over £800/year!)

School budgets are being squeezed relentlessly. The National Education Union showed 94% of 1,800 school staff surveyed have spent their own money on classroom resources! How do senior leaders decide where to spend the budget? Where is the smart money being spent?

Instead of cutting back on everything, take a look at what you can do to become more efficient. For example, have you ever added up the cost of dealing with paper-based evidence of learning?

Based on 1 photo per week per pupil in a single form entry primary school, we estimate this costs £2074.55 per year! Including cost of glue sticks £63.84 + cost of printing £532.35 + cost of time £1478.36.

Invest in time saving technology. Go digital for your pupil observations and reduce the time and costs involved in printing, cutting and sticking.  It can save your school over £800/year*

Going digital also has several advantages over paper. Digital cloud-based evidence can’t get lost. Digital evidence can be used to show a student’s progress over time for example from Year R through to Year 6. It can be used to support teacher judgements and to moderate work. End of year reports can be created quickly and easily.

One digital solution, shortlisted for 2 Bett Awards in 2018, is Evisense from B Squared. Using the Evisense app on a mobile device, teachers can instantly capture evidence of a child’s achievements and upload it to their profile. If you don’t have time to document your observations immediately you can add comments later. The data can also be used to identify skill gaps. Evidence can be viewed by student, class, subject, attainment level or skill. All staff can have access to see each pupil’s achievements and they can even be shared securely with parents, enabling greater parental engagement. Evisense boasts 99.8% uptime and outstanding security measures, including audit trails for users, access restrictions and the use of child protection lists. 

Schools can sign up for a FREE 90 day trial from the Evisense website.

*Annual saving based on 1 photo per week per pupil in a single form entry primary school. Savings calculations available on request. 


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