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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.
Page 7, Piloting the 7 aspects of engagementfor 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.
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?
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.
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?
Page 21, Piloting the 7 aspects of engagement forsummative 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.
Page 21, Piloting the 7 aspects of engagement forsummative assessment: qualitative evaluation
This is what caused a lot of discussion and confusion within the pilot:
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 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.
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?
Feedback from a school involved in the pilot
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.
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.
Page 48, Piloting the 7 aspects of engagement forsummative 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 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?
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
Last night we ran our ‘Are you ready for the removal of P Levels?’ Webinar. The webinar covered the changes to the end of key stage statutory assessment, the impact this will have, how schools will need to change and how to have meaningful communication with parents.If you missed the webinar you can watch it below (you can make it full screen to make it easier to view). You will also find the handouts mentioned in the webinar in the links below the video.
The webinar was also a chance for us to hear from teachers and find out how they felt about the removal of P Levels and the introduction of the new pre-key stage standards. The answers included ‘A little daunted’ and ‘Anxious!’, from those who were still at the beginning of the journey, not sure what way to go or what to do. Others in a similar place gave a less positive response. It is obvious there has not been enough support or guidance from the DfE on the changes and the impact the changes will have.
There are many professionals who are still hoping for more guidance from the government. ‘I feel confused! I would like advice about what to use for the day-to-day assessment for pupils with SEND’. The autonomy the government is looking for has not been introduced in a productive way. There is very little guidance, very little support and no money. Asking schools to take on more responsibility for areas which they are then judged on without providing support and funding is likely to have a negative impact, not the positive impact the government is hoping for.
One teacher commented ‘Daunting going into the unknown and how it will look and how the school will progress and what they will expect from teachers and workload’ and my favourite quote from the webinar follow up was ‘It feels a little bit like going back in time and giving rise to everyone recreating their own wheels!’. This for me sums up the situation schools are in. Not only is the government asking everyone to recreate their own wheel, but asking them to do it on top of everything else they are doing. A special school can pool all their resources and work on this collectively, but without additional funding something else will lose out. What happens to a SENDCo in a mainstream setting? How is a mainstream SENDCo with very limited time and close to no budget supposed to develop ways to show progress for pupils with SEND? It will then be used across the school and used to evidence progress for pupils with SEND to Ofsted and other stakeholders. A big responsibility with minimal support/guidance/funding.
Some teachers are more positive, they recognise the positive aspect of the freedom, but they acknowledge the associated costs - ‘Worried and excited. More flexibility for school is good, the ability to have meaningful conversation between schools is not so good’
Overall teachers are looking for more guidance and support from the DfE and other organisations. After watching the webinar a number of respondents felt that they had a better understanding of the changes and were less concerned than they were at the start. Their biggest concern is how they will show progress within the key stage. 36% of respondents said they would be moving away from P Levels, 64% said they were not sure. It was interesting that no one said they would definitely stick with P Levels. Schools currently use the P Levels to report annual progress and are now looking to replace the P Levels with something new for their ongoing assessment from September.
As part of the follow up we asked schools what webinars schools would like us to run. Webinars are a great way to share information with a large audience. Attendees are able to gain knowledge in manageable chunks which they can then share later with other staff. We run our webinars at 7pm in the evening, this makes a lot of sense to us as we know how hectic the school day is and it is not often you can sit down for an hour uninterrupted. ‘LOVE that it was at 7pm, so that I could be home and settled before logging in. Work is too hectic to really access these kind of things (and you wouldn’t be able to get cover!) but webinars are so much more useful/efficient than courses’.
‘It's brilliant that B Squared keeps up with the all the changes and meets the DfE's latest requirement. It is enormous help for us as we are a very small special school. Thank you!’ We will always keep up to date with changes from the DfE and support schools in adapting to changes. Announcements for pupils with SEND are often made with minimal fanfare as they only effect a small percentage of students, but for these students, the teachers and the schools these changes can have a significant impact.
We’ve been asked to run webinars on:
If you have any ideas for webinars, or areas you need support on, please drop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will see what we can do. We are also looking to provide webinars on wider topics so we can support schools better.
Keeping in touch with our customers is really important. We are constantly updating what we do, improving our software, adding new areas in and releasing new products. Webinars are great for schools to keep in touch with what we have been up to. You may have been using us for a long time, but do you know all the things Connecting Steps can do, one teacher commented ‘We run B Squared currently but I learnt things tonight about our current package that I didn't know. Something to try out tomorrow. Thank-you’.
We are always listening and the feedback goes into our products. A few of the comments in the feedback were linked to showing the really small steps of progress Connecting Steps can show. Connecting Steps uses levels of engagement to show progress as students achieve skills. There are 7 steps of engagement before a student achieves a skill. You don’t have to use all of them, you can choose which ones you want to use and remove the others. This allows teachers to see the level of engagement for pupils on the different skills and Connecting Steps can show the progress through the different levels of engagement. In the webinar I shared the pie chart which shows the level of engagement with all the skills within a level. This can also be graphed over time with CSAM, you can show that although a pupil hasn’t achieved a skill independently they are now engaging with the skill or they are doing it with less support than they were before. For a child with complex needs this can be a really big improvement even though it is not recognised in the government's way of looking at progress.
If you would like to know more about how we are changing with the removal of P Levels, how our assessment software works and how it can be used in your school, you can arrange a FREE online meeting by going to www.connectingsteps.com/meetings
Why not get in contact by giving us a call on 01252 870133 or sending an email to email@example.com
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*.
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.
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:
Pre-Key Stage Standards (2018–19), p.2
So once again, we have been given mixed messages!
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:
Pre-Key Stage Standards (2018–19), p.6
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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:
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)
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 2 (2018–19)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone on 01252 870133
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