Published on: 10 Oct 2015

Schools need to ensure the terminology and the language they use to both pupils and parents celebrates progress even if they are not working at the expected standard.

Assessment without Levels for pupils with SEN

Lorraine Peterson, SEN Consultant and former Chief Executive of nasen

The report from the Commission on Assessment without Levels gave a clear indication of how schools should proceed with their assessment processes post national curriculum levels. 

It is pleasing to note that the Commission did highlight children with SEN and gave a recommendation that the government should establish an expert group to look at assessment for pupils who are working below the level of national curriculum tests; a recommendation that has already been actioned by the DfE in their responsewith the establishment of such a group chaired by Diane Rochford, Executive Head Teacher of the John F. Kennedy School in East London. This group is due to report in December.

So, what should schools be doing now to ensure their assessment processes are inclusive and supporting all pupils?

  • Be clear and transparent about what you are assessing and what you are assessing for. Our schools are very data rich – spreadsheets full of impressive figures – the question we need to ensure we are asking is what difference does it make to our teaching and learning?
  • Use of both summative and formative assessment is a vital part of teaching and learning. Schools should ensure they are using a balanced mix of internal formative assessment, internal summative assessment as well as the statutory national standardised summative assessment. For pupils working below national curriculum expectations it is vital that day-to–day teacher assessment is informing the next stage of teaching – if an individual pupil has not got the knowledge, skills and understanding to move onto the next stage of their learning then this needs to be addressed immediately.
  • Assessment should also be a very focused element of how we effectively feedback to pupils to ensure they understand where they are on their learning journey, where they need to go next and what will help them get there. For pupils with SEN this feedback may have to be given in a variety of different ways, not just a series of comments in their books. This may take time and effort but will benefit the pupil’s learning in the future. Not all evidence of work will be in books; pupils with SEN may have photo, video and/or audio evidence. This needs to be annotated to ensure a record of how feedback was given is captured.
  • Although national curriculum levels have gone – P Levels remain. It will be interesting to see what the expert group recommend about their use in the future. Currently schools need to be aware that the gap between P8 and NC Year 1 is much wider than was the gap between P8 and L1C. Many schools are devising a bridging element to support those pupils moving from the P Levels to national curriculum. Schools who have not used P levels before may want to refer to them for some pupils who are not working at new national curriculum expectation.
  • The interim teacher assessment frameworks at the end of KS1 and KS2 have now been published and I think we have to be very careful with our use of terminology for those pupils working towards the national standard. We saw the removal of working-towards in the old national curriculum because of its negative connotations and here we are again labelling a significant group if pupils in the same way. Many pupils with SEN will spend their entire educational life working-towards but will make exceptional progress. Schools need to ensure the terminology and the language they use to both pupils and parents celebrates progress even if they are not working at the expected standard.

Levels have gone, schools need to move forward and establish an assessment system that works for them - one which celebrates achievement and attainment but more importantly flags up when pupils have not made progress and informs the next stages of teaching and learning. 

Follow Lorraine on Twitter @lorrainep1957

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