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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...


'Getting Started with Connecting Steps' Training Webinar

We have now been running our training webinars for over 6 months and have helped lots of new and existing users get more out of Connecting Steps.

 “I just wanted to say how useful the webinar was. I've been using B Squared within my school for a long time but there were areas that I didn't know existed. I didn’t know that you can write comments. So useful when students are changing classes. It’s really useful for my school to decide which yellow areas to use and what they mean to us all and I didn’t know that pie charts show yellow areas. Great for showing engagement in skills. I took notes from the webinar and have passed them to senior leadership. Great work you and your team are doing. I can't praise B Squared highly enough, especially engagement steps. I look forward to the next webinar.”

 

 

Last month we decided to make some changes around our training webinars. We had tried to cram everything into a 1 hour session each month, this meant we covered the majority of the software’s functionality but not in much detail. This month’s training webinar was the first of our new training webinar series. We will now be running 3 different training webinars:

  • Getting Started with Connecting Steps – This will give users an overview of all the basic features that they will use on an ongoing basis and the ever so important, how to baseline.
  • Moving on with Connecting Steps – This webinar is designed for those who have been using Connecting Steps for a while, it looks at the use of Connecting Steps within your school and ensures you are getting the most out of Connecting Steps.
  • Administering Connecting Steps and Evisense – How to use My B Squared to administer users, groups and students and the different settings for Evisense and Connecting Steps

We will run one of these webinars each month and they will be available on our blog for users to watch at a time that suits them. If the webinar system is blocked by your internet provider (LGFL for example) the you will be able to access the webinars on here afterwards. If you want to register for a future webinar, click here.

As part of the webinar I covered the different frameworks available in Connecting Steps and their differences. I focussed on the Primary Steps in the webinar, but the features are the same in all frameworks. I talked about the importance of using our 7 levels of engagement/achievement and how they can be used to show small steps of progress. For the majority of schools using 7 levels of engagement will be too much so we recommend reducing the number a school uses and turn the rest off. It is important to have a clear understanding on what each level of engagement means in your school.

Connecting Steps has lots of different ways to show progress and share information. As part of the webinar I went through a variety of different options that show progress and attainment in different ways. My favourites are the ‘Assessments to be Mastered’, ‘Assessments Mastered’ and the ‘Bar Graph’ in the Individual Reports. They show key information in an easy to understand format that can be used to engage parents.

As part of the webinar I covered baselining and also talked about how to complete levels. There are a number of options. The default is the ‘Use Best Fit’ this is a percentage that the school can set and when a pupil reaches this percentage the software will show that the level is complete. The majority of our schools use 80% or 85%. For most pupils this will work well, but there are times you may want another option. Teachers also have the option to mark a level as complete based on their professional judgement.

The training webinar will give users all the basic information they need to start using Connecting Steps, they will still need to know how Connecting Steps is used within their setting. What is the best fit percentage? What levels of engagement are we using? How often and when are they data drops? How do we share information with parents?

If you have any questions about this webinar you can contact me via email at dale@bsquared.co.uk


'An Introduction to Profiling Autism with Autism Progress' Webinar

This week’s webinar was an overview and history behind Autism Progress and the aims of the project, with our first guest presenter Jasmine Miller. Jasmine was involved with Autism Progress from the very beginning, over 5 years ago. She was involved with every stage of the project, including getting B Squared involved. Autism Progress started off as a project between 3 autism charities – Scottish Autism, Autism Wessex and the North East Autism Society. The charities wanted a way to better support pupils and adults with autism and part of this was a better understanding of how someone’s autism affected them. This involved building a detailed profile of a person’s autism. Autism Progress compliments SCERTS, but is designed to be more accessible by a wider range of professionals.

As part of the webinar we conducted a few polls. The first question was ‘How confident are you in working with an autistic individual and understanding levels of support and levels of engagement?’ Over half were very confident, another 35% were gaining in confidence and only 7% were not very confident. 

The second question was ‘Do you currently have a way of profiling Autism in your service or school?’ 56% of responses said they didn’t have a way of profiling autism in their school, 13% didn’t know and 31% had a way of profiling autism.

The third question was ‘How many times a day do you refer to an autistic person’s profile/assessment/support plan/all about me overview?’ 35% of responses indicated that they never referred to the plan/profile on a daily basis, 38% refer to the plan/profile once or twice a day, and 22% use it 3 or more times a day.

The final question was ‘How often do you create opportunities for an autistic individual to learn about creating strategies to address their feelings?’ Responses show that 50% constantly create opportunities, 43% create opportunities once or twice a day and only 7% do not create daily opportunities.

Overall the responses to the polls were positive around profiling, but in terms of how someone’s autism is supported on a daily basis, there is room for improvement. There could be many reasons for this including time, sufficient training, support, school ethos or access to tools to support the professional.

Autism Progress has 2 equally useful aspects. The first is the ability to profile someone’s autism in an easy to manage way. The profile is detailed, but Connecting Steps (B Squared’s assessment software) makes it manageable to create and also provides information to professionals in identifying next steps and celebrating progress. The second aspect is the strategies. Professionals can use tools to profile someone’s autism, but once you have built the profile, what is the next step? How do you help create learning opportunities? What resources are available? When I first got involved with the Autism Progress project I was focusing on the profiling and the benefits the profile gives. I hadn’t realised the importance of the strategies and how powerful/useful they would be to professionals using Autism Progress. Schools are now using these strategies as part of the EHCP process.

Handouts.

As part of the webinar we have provided a number of handouts you may find useful when evaluating  Autism Progress, these can be found below:

  • Autism Progress Guide28 page document giving you an overview of Autism Progress. It goes through the 4 different areas that are used as part of the profile, it explains how the Autism Progress tool can be used and it has the level descriptors which show the developmental range of the tool.
  • Sample from Autism Progress – a 2 page document which contains the profile for Communication Level 6 (neurotypical developmental age of 15 months approximately) and also the strategies for Communication Level 6.

We have also been asked to provide an approximate age to level conversion for Autism Progress, this can be found below.

Autism Progress level to age conversion

If you would like to get in contact with Jasmine, you can find her on twitter @CoachJasmine, by email at jasminemillercoaching@gmail.com or on LinkedIn

If you have any questions about Autism Progress or how it could be used in your school, please get in contact. You can email me at dale@bsquared.co.uk or call on 01252 870133 or arrange an online consultation by clicking here.


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

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 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) 


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 hear 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.


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