‘Engagement for Learning: Opportunities for SENCOs’

Background

The Rochford Review was established in July 2015 to review statutory assessment arrangements for pupils working below the standard of national curriculum tests. The interim report, published in December 2015 provided an interim solution for reporting outcomes in 2016. It published the interim pre-key stage standards for those pupils working below the expected standard at the end of key stage 1 and key stage 2. The review team then continued discussions, looking at a longer term solution especially about the future of P Scales.

The final report published in October 2016 outlines 10 recommendations for those pupils who cannot access statutory assessments as they have not completed the relevant programmes of study when they reach the appropriate chronological age. These recommendations were part of a wider consultation on Primary Assessment that closed on 22nd June 2017.

Pupils undertaking subject specific learning

The recommendation of extending the pre-key stage standards by a further two at both KS1 and KS2 will ensure that teachers are able to assess in finer detail the “can do” aspects of reading, writing and mathematics at the end of each key stage. It will also ensure that progress can be measured across key stages for those pupils who are always going to be working below or working towards expected standard.

The additional standards recommended by the Rochford Review at both KS1 and KS2 are Emerging at the expected standard and Entry to the expected standard.

Pupils not undertaking subject specific learning

The recommendation for this group of pupils is that they are assessed using the 7 areas of engagement for learning. These 7 areas are responsiveness, curiosity, discovery, anticipation, persistence, initiation and investigation. It is proposed that these interrelated indicators can be used to inform the assessment of pupils with complex, severe or profound and multiple learning difficulties and disabilities.

This recommendation offered by the Rochford Review builds on the Complex Learning Difficulties and Disabilities (CLDD) research project commissioned by the DfE in 2011. The review believed that early development in cognition and learning centres on a range of skills that enable pupils to engage in learning situations. Assessing engagement allows teachers to monitor the amount of attention, interest and involvement in learning situations.

Engagement for Learning: Opportunities for SENCOs

The majority of pupils who are not undertaking subject specific learning will be in special schools or specialist provision although the rise of pupils with complex needs in mainstream schools will mean that all schools will need training, support and guidance on implementing the 7 areas of engagement for these pupils. The assessment process will be formative and based on observation, very similar to current assessment in EYFS.

There are a growing number of pupils in mainstream schools who are currently unable to access the national curriculum for their chronological age as they are working well below age expected standards for their year group. These are pupils that are currently working at lower P Scales and teachers are trying, with difficulty, to differentiate the curriculum to meet their individual needs. The national curriculum expected standards and the pre-key stage standards are a measure to be used at the end of a key stage and schools are struggling to show progress at the end of a year especially when a significant number of pupils are working well below the national expectation and making very small steps of progress.

If P Scales are removed and pre-key stage standards are extended there will still be an expectation that pupils will still have to engage in subject specific learning but for some pupils they are not only working below the national standard for their year group but they are also working below the pre-key stage standards.

The introduction of the 7 areas of engagement will give schools an alternative measure that they can use for those complex pupils who need learning opportunities prior to more formalised subject- specific learning.

What is the Engagement Profile and Scale?

The Engagement Profile and Scale is a classroom tool developed through the CLDD research project into effective teaching and learning for children with complex learning difficulties and disabilities. It allows teachers to focus on the child’s engagement as a learner and create personalised learning pathways. It prompts student-centred reflection on how to increase the learner’s engagement leading to deep learning.

Engagement is multi-dimensional, and encompasses responsiveness, curiosity, investigation, discovery, anticipation, persistence and initiation. By focusing on these seven indicators of engagement, teachers can ask themselves questions such as: ‘How can I change the learning activity to stimulate Robert’s curiosity?’ ‘What can I change about this experience to encourage Shannon to persist?’

The adaptations made and the effect on the student’s level of engagement can be recorded, together with a score on the engagement scale. Over time, it is possible to chart the success of interventions and adjustments, and the effect this has had on the student’s levels of engagement.

This will give SENCOs and teaching staff a tool to be used to show progress for those pupils with complex needs who are not engaged in subject specific learning. For more information about the profile and scale visit:  www.engagement4learning.com.

Challenges for SENCOs

The biggest challenge for SENCOs in mainstream schools will be their ability to offer a non-subject alternative curriculum that does not conform to the subject-specific curriculum currently offered. The current system is failing a significant number of pupils in mainstream schools because pupils with complex needs are not having their needs met – Many SENCOs have said to me “We are child-minding them” or “we are managing them” but they are not being educated because the belief is they must follow national curriculum for all pupils and yet some pupils are not accessing the curriculum at all.

Ofsted is often quoted as being the reason why schools are doing what they are doing. We should not be doing it for Ofsted we should be offering an education that meets the needs of the pupils we are educating.

The Ofsted handbook states that in making a judgement on the effectiveness of leadership and management inspectors will consider: The design, implementation and evaluation of the curriculum, ensuring breadth and balance and its impact on pupils’ outcomes and their personal development, behaviour and welfare.

This means that school leaders have the power to adapt what they are currently offering to ensure that all pupils learn and make progress no matter what their starting point. The 7 areas of engagement, the profile and the scale will give an alternative methodology to supporting this very vulnerable group of pupils.

Lorraine Petersen OBE