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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

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.


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