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B Squared Blog


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

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 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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