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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...


Where are we with the ‘Aspects of Engagement’?

On the 22nd November 2018 the School Standards Minister, Nick Gibb announced ‘Pioneering new approach to assessing pupils with complex disabilities to be introduced in schools’. What is this new approach you ask? That would be the approach recommended by the Rochford Review 25 months ago. The reason for the announcement? The Government has published ‘Piloting the 7 aspects of engagement for summative assessment: qualitative evaluation’. This report summarises the feedback from the trial using this new approach which took place between January and July of this year. We might be making slow progress towards the final guidance from the DfE, but it is progress and that should be celebrated.

The approach the minister is referring to was designed as an ongoing formative assessment process to evaluate engagement, higher levels of engagement should improve educational outcomes. During the pilot schools used the Engagement Scale, a process of scoring each of the 7 areas between 0 and 4, to give a total score between 0 and 28. The higher the score, the more engaged the pupil is and this should lead to improved educational outcomes. There have been suggestions that this score would be used for reporting progress/attainment. I hope not.

 

 “The Rochford Review recommended the adoption of the 7 aspects of engagement as a basis for statutory assessment. As it has never been used before as a summative assessment tool, DfE confirmed it would pilot the approach during 2018 before deciding on whether to introduce it on a statutory basis.”

Page 7, Piloting the 7 aspects of engagement
for summative assessment: qualitative evaluation

 

Instead of simply accepting the Rochford Review’s recommendation, the DfE sensibly decided to pilot the approach first. We can now find out how the 56 schools who took part in the trial felt about the new approach.

Not Enough Guidance

Overall it seems that the schools felt there was not enough guidance. Moving from assessing pupil progress in academic subjects using P Levels to the 7 areas of engagement is a complex process. The P Levels have been around for almost 20 years, they are well understood with lots of support and guidance available. The schools are now piloting a new system, looking at new areas of assessment with minimal guidance. Schools had to first identify and fully understand what the 7 aspects are and then what that would look like for their pupils. Once they had identified this, they then had to think about measuring and assessing engagement. Would they use the Engagement Scale? Scoring the engagement between 0 and 4 in each of the 7 areas. Is this a score individualised or is this a standard score across the school? What does the score mean? A lot of schools identified that the engagement scale had to be used alongside something else, it wouldn’t be their primary assessment system for these pupils. But what will they use if P Levels are being removed?

Another Burden on Time and Money

The pilot required schools to support each other, there was time involved in meetings as well as writing, reading and reviewing documents used to share information between schools. Schools spent time going back to the drawing board, thinking about the changes involved and then implementing these changes. If you are changing how you are assessing your pupils in such a drastic way, you are likely to look at your curriculum to ensure you are having learning activities that will help demonstrate the 7 aspects of engagement. The majority of the schools only trialled the system with a few pupils and it still took a considerable amount of time. To reduce workload one school reduced the number of pupils involved in the pilot, obviously not a suitable long-term solution.

Engage Pupils

The feedback in the report was very positive about how professionals should be looking at engagement as part of assessment. If a child isn’t engaging in an activity, will there be any learning?

 

 “In these cases, schools reported that the 7 aspects allowed them to identify how well the pupils were engaged in their learning activities. Some teachers used the 7 aspects data to modify the environment to enhance pupil engagement and progress towards their learning outcomes”

Page 21, Piloting the 7 aspects of engagement for
summative assessment: qualitative evaluation

 

I think this is crucial and should be happening in every classroom. If children aren’t engaged, teachers should be adapting the approach to increase engagement. This is where the engagement profile works, it helps you think about engagement within a lesson and adapt future learning opportunities.

 

 “Related to this, schools commented that the 7 aspects did not provide a learning outcome or aim for the pupil to work towards, but it did allow them to identify how well the pupils were working towards targets “

Page 21, Piloting the 7 aspects of engagement for
summative assessment: qualitative evaluation

 

How do I Implement the 7 Aspects and Does Engagement Mean Progress?

This is what caused a lot of discussion and confusion within the pilot:

  • What does the Engagement Scale (28 point scale) mean?
  • How do I use it?
  • What do I do if a child reaches 28 points? Does this mean I move them on to subject specific learning?
  • Do I use the 7 aspects of engagement with the other areas of need?
  • What are the learning outcomes?
  • Is this reliable?

I think the 7 areas of engagement are a good idea, especially when compared to using the P Levels for pupils with complex needs. At B Squared we had already identified that for pupils working below P4 assessing progress against academic areas was not best practice and we wanted to move away from this. We had already started our own project before the Rochford Review released their Final Report. The Engagement Scale (28 point scale) never made any sense to us as a summative end of key stage assessment or as the main assessment tool. It can be used to monitor engagement and help you modify learning opportunities to better suit pupils, but you need something else to help inform learning and to set learning outcomes.

The Engagement Scale Doesn’t Work

The 28 point scale simple doesn’t work as a summative assessment tool. It was obvious 2 years ago it wouldn’t work and lots of schools and LAs have shared with us their concerns about the scale and that it is not fit for purpose for summative assessment. The good news is that unanimously the feedback in the report is the scale doesn’t work.

 

 "There's variables of the time of day, whether the child's hungry or not, whether the child's not feeling well. All of those factors contribute to that [engagement] score, so it doesn't mean to say if they get a higher [engagement] score that they've actually learnt anything.”

Feedback from a school involved in the pilot

The engagement scale needs to be used alongside something else, something that looks at learning outcomes. Professionals can then use their judgement on engagement when looking at progress and look at ways of increasing engagement to increase progress. Once you understand the scale, do teachers need to keep using it or can it be something teachers do in their head as an ongoing process and forget about the scoring?

 "We've used it [28-point scale] as a way to give us some data, because we knew we needed to report on it. But actually, it doesn't really tell us anything."

Feedback from a school involved in the pilot


 

Neither did the Engagement Profile

The Engagement Profile is a paper template from Engagement 4 Learning with a circle for each of the 7 aspects. Teachers would then use this to write down their observations on how the pupil demonstrated the different aspects within an activity.

 

 “What we kind of thought was that you were writing things down for the sake of it and I’m not sure who the target audience is, because it’s certainly not the teacher, because any teacher who is worth their metal, they’re doing that in their head, all day, every day”

Feedback from a school involved in the pilot

It might be a good starting exercise to help you think about the 7 areas, but what would the purpose be long term? It just adds additional work. Teachers should be doing this in their head and adapting as they go, let's reduce the workload.

 

Does this Approach Provide Any Useful Summative Information?

 

 “Several schools drew the conclusion that the only way that they could use the 7 aspects for summative assessments was in combination with other tools, for example tools such as B Squared, that record a wider range of achievement steps, including social and physical characteristics, as well as engagement. They felt this way because in their opinion the 7 aspects approach did not cover all areas of pupil development, and because of their perception that assessments only reflected a ‘snapshot’.”

Page 48, Piloting the 7 aspects of engagement for
summative assessment: qualitative evaluation

 

This is what we identified 2 years ago. We started work on our Engagement Steps shortly after the 'Rochford Review: Final Report' was released. We agreed with Rochford Review’s recommendations to assess against the 7 aspects of engagement as an improvement over using P Levels, but we didn’t agree with the scoring system. It didn’t provide learning outcomes and it didn’t support teachers in identifying learning outcomes within the 7 aspects. Our Engagement Steps assessment framework took us over a year to develop, building on previous development work we had already completed. Engagement Steps contains a range of skills across the 7 aspects of engagement, split across 6 levels covering from P1 to P6 in terms of developmental level. It is designed so that teachers can record pupil progress across multiple levels to build up an individualised profile, to help schools develop pupil centred curriculums. Schools started using Engagement Steps in September 2017. Several of our schools were involved in the trial and as you can see from the above quote, they found the Engagement Steps incredibly useful as part of the assessment process. Teachers used our Engagement Steps to support them in identifying learning outcomes for pupils, they would then use their professional judgement to look at engagement and to adapt learning experiences to suit. Engagement Steps also covers the other 3 areas of need, supporting teachers to look at the whole child, not just cognition and learning.

 

 "I think it is good as a method to help planning and development of new teachers as well as looking at these aspects of how a child engages and the importance of engagement of the child as opposed to going straight to what they are learning academically. In terms of assessing the child, I personally don’t think that would work because it is more of an assessment of how the teacher is teaching as opposed to how the child is learning."

Feedback from a school involved in the pilot

 

I have highlighted the last sentence as I think this is what engagement really measures. It is about the ability of the teacher to engage with their pupils. A teacher needs to be aware that pupils are not engaged and that they may need to adapt their approach, look at the relevance of the learning outcome and ensure that the level of challenge is appropriate. When a child isn’t engaged, do you change what the child is doing or do you change your approach?

 

 “If it comes out that 7 aspects are the way forward, it's okay for outstanding schools. They will use it as a teaching tool, and probably continue to use other forms of assessment, but schools that only use the 7 aspects, it could be 'a retrograde step.' If we go back 30 years, these children who were working at P1 to 4, there used to be a feeling, 'As long as they're happy.' There wasn't a focus on learning. With this, there is risk that it could lead to 'As long as they're engaged’.”

Feedback from an LA involved in the pilot

 

Schools will need to use something else as their main assessment tool, they will use the 7 aspects of engagement to look at teaching and engagement. What should the main assessment tool look like? What should pupils be working towards? Hopefully the DfE will provide some additional guidance around this. Schools will need to ensure they provide a balance between providing a broad but suitable curriculum, supporting the pupil to prepare for adulthood and supporting development towards their EHCP outcomes.

 

 “If schools do not have to report there is a risk that schools may not be sufficiently challenging them or giving them the right learning opportunities."

Feedback from LA involved in the pilot


I disagree with this point of view, I don’t think there is a need for schools to report attainment information for pupils not engaged in subject specific learning back to the DfE. It would sadly be used as a judgement by someone. Pupils working at these levels will have very individual profiles and any simplified number used for reporting would not reflect the pupil. Ofsted have already recognised this would not be an effective way of judging progress:

 “(200) For groups of pupils whose cognitive ability is such that their attainment is unlikely ever to rise above ‘low’, the judgement on outcomes will be based on an evaluation of the pupils’ learning and progress relative to their starting points at particular ages and any assessment measures the school holds. Evaluations should not take account of their attainment compared with that of all other pupils.”

Ofsted Inspection Framework

 

I think it should be that schools are required to be aspirational, but they should monitor and report progress to stakeholders in a format that suits their needs.

When piloting this new approach, I think the pilot is really looking at these 4 things:

  • How important is it we look at engagement?
  • Do the 7 aspects of engagement provide a more relevant way of assessing pupil progress?
  • Can we use engagement as a way of judging progress/attainment at the end of a key stage?
  • Do the tools provided by Engagement for Learning support professionals?

I think it is vital schools look at engagement, but this is part of the wider assessment process and cannot be used as the only assessment process. The 7 aspects are a much better approach than the old P Levels, professionals had already recognised that the P Levels were not relevant for pupils with complex needs. However, should we only be looking at the question ‘are the 7 aspects more suitable than the P Levels?’ or should we be looking at what is the most suitable way of assessing pupils with complex needs? Are there more suitable areas we should be assessing?

Engagement is too variable to use as a measure of progress or attainment. There are also many factors that can affect a pupil’s engagement that cannot be overcome easily. There are also questions around should the scale be adapted and used within the context of an individual or is a score of 4 for initiation the same for every pupil? How is this defined? It is too individualised, too open for interpretation to be quantified in a consistent, meaningful, useful way, so let’s not.

The tools provided by Engagement for Learning are great for when a school is starting to look at engagement and using the 7 aspects of engagement. However, on their own they are very limited and provide no real long-term benefit. What is the benefit of recording the information on the templates or digitally over a period of time? It is adding to the teacher’s workload and unless the information is used, should it be collected? Once the teacher understands the concept of looking at and assessing engagement, this is something they can do in their head on an ongoing basis. They can use the language they have developed around engagement when assessing pupils' progress towards outcomes e.g. Jack showed curiosity when Mrs Jones brought a large cardboard box into the classroom.

Getting Closer

The pilot is finished, the schools have responded and now we have to wait for the DfE to finalise their plans. I think the 7 aspects will stay as schools found them useful on an ongoing basis and they are helping schools change how they communicate pupil progress. The DfE may however reduce the emphasis on the aspects and advise schools to use the aspects as one of their basket of indicators when judging pupil progress. I don’t think the Engagement Scale or Profile will be widely used, it is too inconsistent. LAs prefer information around progress and attainment. I do think more guidance needs to be given to LAs around suitable outcomes for pupils with complex needs so that they focus less on numeracy and literacy and think more about pupil centred outcomes. The information schools provide to LAs around pupil progress and attainment could be quantitative or qualitative, provided it contained enough information. The DfE could (but I really hope they don’t) provide pre-pre-key stage standards for the 7 aspects of engagement. If they did, the focus would be too narrow and they wouldn’t be able to take into account all the different learning profiles for pupils with complex needs. Hopefully they will allow schools to choose an assessment system that suits their needs and their pupils.

What Have B Squared Developed?

Our Engagement Steps framework covers the 7 aspects of engagement and the other three areas of need. It is designed to support pupil development across all four areas of need, not just cognition and learning. It is a quantitative system, but it is designed to be used in a non-linear fashion, pupils can achieve skills on any level at any time. The system is not designed to generate a score, it is designed to use teacher observations to develop an individual profile and to celebrate what a child can do. The system will help identify skills the pupil hasn’t achieved, but this won’t stop a pupil progressing. We released Engagement Steps in 2017 and have received a huge amount of positive feedback from our schools. We are still waiting on the DfE’s final guidance on assessment for pupils not yet engaged in subject specific learning. If this requires any updates to Engagement Steps, these will be carried out free of charge for all customers who have purchased Engagement Steps.

Our evidence platform, Evisense is a great way of capturing, recording and sharing evidence of learning. Schools can use the evidence to show progress, engagement and achievements. The evidence can be shared with parents easily, our feedback has shown that parents have found the evidence to be more meaningful than a score or a percentage increase.

You can find the 'Piloting the 7 aspects of engagement for summative assessment: qualitative evaluation report' by clicking here.

If you have any questions about our products or approach to assessment for pupils not yet engaged in subject specific learning, please contact me via email – dale@bsquared.co.uk or you can arrange a FREE online meeting where we can discuss your requirements and how we can support your school to show the progress your pupils are making. FREE ONLINE MEETING

'What is Good Progress?' Webinar

This is a question we have been asked a lot over recent years. The removal of Levels and now also P Levels has left schools unsure on the progress pupils with SEND should make. Our webinar below is designed to help schools answer that question. It would be great if I could pull out a number or a formula that you could use to judge progress, but it is not that simple. Progress needs to be judged by those who work with the pupil. There are lots of questions that need to be asked and schools need to use their assessment data to make decisions and make changes within their school.

The webinar doesn’t give the answer to what is good progress but gives schools things to discuss, ideas to reflect on within their school. Our products can help support schools in making decisions and evidencing progress, but the teachers need to use this data to make their own decisions and be confident in these decisions. In the webinar I covered a range of advice from Ofsted, I also covered some of the Ofsted Myths and talked about some of the changes planned for the 2019 Ofsted Inspection Framework.

As part of the webinar there were a number of handouts, these can be found in the links below:

  • Primary Steps – Progress Guidance – This document is designed to support teachers working towards End of Year outcomes to judge progress. The document gives simplified progress values for pupils that teachers can use as guidance when judging progress, teachers will need to take into account previous progress, the pupil’s needs, how effective provision has been and have there been external factors to judge if progress is good enough.
  • Progression Steps – Progress Guidance – This document is designed for schools using our Progression Steps. The document contains a range of progress values for pupils working at different levels in different key stages. It gives 3 progress values for each level. These are not ‘below’, ‘at’ or ‘exceeded’ judgements, they are bands of progress, professionals will need to have conversations about progress taking into account previous progress, the pupil’s needs, how effective provision has been and have there been external factors to judge if progress is good enough. A pupil could be in the lower quartile, but still have made good enough progress.
  • Making Data Work - Workload Advisory Group Report– This report was released on the 5th of November and is designed to help leaders think about the workload and impact their assessment and data process has. It has a number of recommendations to reduce teacher workload by reducing unnecessary work - “Attainment information should only be compiled centrally as frequently as it is possible for others to act on it. Without actions, it is not possible for collation of student attainment information to play any part in the work of a school.”
  • Government Response to the Workload Advisory Group Report - This response shows that the government agrees with the recommendations of the Workload Advisory Group
  • Ofsted Inspection Framework 2019 – Ofsted has started talking about the changes that are coming in the 2019 Ofsted Inspection Framework. It appears to be really good news for pupils with SEND as it moves away from the heavy focus on outcomes to focussing on curriculum, pupil development and preparing pupils for their future.

The initial feedback from this webinar has helped us understand where schools are on the journey around the removal of P Levels. We can also find out about changes schools are implementing now they have more flexibility around the assessment process, how they judge progress and how they communicate with parents.

If you have any questions on this webinar, please contact me via email – dale@bsquared.co.uk


Introduction to CSAM Webinar

Last week we ran a training webinar on how to use our Connecting Steps Analysis Module (CSAM). It was nice to see so many people eager to learn how to use this tool to its full potential and to find out how to gain insights into students' progress across their school. It was unfortunate that just before the webinar started, I burnt my finger on a microwave meal and had to spend the entire meeting with my hand in water! Hopefully that didn't affect my presentation.

Don't worry if you missed it, you can watch the recording here:

 

 

Handouts

As part of the webinar we included a number of handouts, these can be downloaded by clicking on the links below:

If you wish to upgrade to CSAM please contact us on 01252 870133 or by emailing sales@connectingsteps.com for a quotation. The cost is based on the number of users, so will need to be priced individually for each school.

If you have any further questions about CSAM please contact our support team by calling 01252 870133 or by emailing support@connectingsteps.com.


Transitioning to Our New Frameworks Webinar

Earlier this week we ran our ‘Transitioning to B Squared's New Frameworks’ webinar. The webinar not only helped customers understand how easy it is to transition to the new frameworks with Connecting Steps, but answered a number of questions we have already been asked as well as others we believe we will be asked in the coming weeks.

Don't worry if you missed it, you can watch the recording here:

 

 

What has changed?

Our new assessment frameworks are similar to our old frameworks in approach, they break down the Primary National Curriculum into smaller steps. Our break downs have been designed to be age-neutral so can be used by pupils from key stage 1 to key stage 4 - the highest levels contain content from the secondary curriculum.

The biggest difference is the levelling structure the frameworks are based on. Another difference is the order the government feels skills should be achieved; a number of skills have been moved around in Maths compared to the P Levels, which schools need to be aware of.

We also released our framework comparison chart in the webinar. Schools will find this chart extremely useful as they move away from P Levels and change the language used in school. The conversion chart shows how Engagement Steps, Progression Steps and Primary Steps compare to the P Levels and National Curriculum Levels.

How to transition?

Transitioning to the new frameworks is nice and easy and is completed in 6 simple steps:

  1. Contact our Support Team, let them know you want to transition
  2. We will recalculate all your data (may take 24 hours), we will let you know when this is complete
  3. Run ‘Confirm Levels Complete’
    ***You must remain logged in for 10 minutes after you start this process for the process to complete***
  4. When this is complete let our support team know (reply to your ticket)
  5. We will transfer your completed level data and let you know once this has been done
  6. Turn off old frameworks

The important thing to remember before you transition is to make sure both you and your data are ready. As part of the webinar we included a number of handouts, these can be downloaded by clicking on the links below:

If you wish to upgrade to our new frameworks please contact us on 01252 870133 or by emailing sales@connectingsteps.com for a quotation. The cost is based on the number of users, the number of subjects and when you purchased Connecting Steps, so will need to be priced individually for each school.

If you have any questions about transitioning please contact our support team by calling 01252 870133 or by emailing support@connectingsteps.com.


FREE online Connecting Steps training - Don’t miss out!

The second of our new monthly FREE Connecting Steps training webinars took place yesterday.

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

 

Listening to our customers

We know the pressures schools are under and we want to support schools as best we can. Schools are under increasing pressure to show progress for pupils with SEND and although they use Connecting Steps, we have found they don’t know all the different ways they can show progress. Our training webinars allow us to show how easy and simple it is to show progress in different ways and how you can use this to increase engagement with parents.

Learning from experience

This month we focused more on the basics of Connecting Steps, navigating around and the different screens within Connecting Steps. We also covered how to start off, making sure pupils are baselined correctly and using the different levels of experiences and how you can use these to show progress. We have found that schools who have used Connecting Steps for years are unaware of some of the features we have introduced in the last few years and the difference this can make. Teachers who have used us for years often benefit hugely as we may show them a screen they haven’t seen or we explain one of the screens they didn’t understand. Come and join the next webinar to make sure you are getting the most out of Connecting Steps.

Prefer to take part in a LIVE session?

Register now for our next Connecting Steps training webinar taking place at 4pm Tuesday 11 September (we are not running a session in August).

Next webinar - Transitioning to B Squared's new assessment frameworks, 7pm Tuesday 10 July

B Squared has 3 new frameworks that have been developed in response to the Rochford Review: Final Report recommendations and the release of the new pre-key stage standards. This FREE online webinar is designed to inform our existing customers about how our assessment frameworks are changing, how to transition and the effects this will have on your data. This webinar will cover:

  • Introduction to our new assessment frameworks: Engagement Steps; Progressions Steps; Primary Steps
  • How the new levelling structure looks
  • An overview of getting started with Engagement Steps
  • An overview of the differences between the old P Levels and National Curriculum and the new Progression Steps
  • An overview of Primary Steps
  • How to transition from P Levels and National Curriculum to Progression Steps or Primary Steps

Register now by clicking here


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