Published on: 12 Apr 2018

Assessment with the SEN Assessment Toolkit

by Michael Surr, Education Development Officer, nasen


The graduated approach, described in the 2015 SEND Code of Practice, has 4 stages: assess, plan, do, review.

The ‘assess’ stage informs planning which then results in action i.e. do, in the form of interventions and ongoing high-quality teaching. It is essential therefore that our assessment practice is robust as well as efficient.
It is also important that assessment is both formative and summative. The formative aspect tells us the strengths and areas of needs of individual pupils as well as what approaches seem to work best; this is assessment for learning. Without this information, it would be extremely difficult to identify suitable provision and intervention.

Summative assessment ‘sums up’ where the child is at. It enables the setting of realistic and appropriate goals and targets. When summative data is viewed overtime, we can identify what good progress looks like for the individual. Summative assessment needs to be carried out at the beginning of a period of intervention so that when carried out again afterwards, we get a clearer picture of not only progress but the effectiveness of the intervention too. This is valuable information which feeds into the schools tracking and monitoring processes including provision mapping and management.

Schools have continually developed their own approaches to assessment, both formative and summative, but in the case of SEN, where there might be particular barriers to learning, schools can sometimes need a ‘helping hand’ to accurately identify what these might be. Also, it is key that schools are able to report on and identify the small steps progress that is often evident for those children and young people working below age related expectations. There are also occasions when a standardised approach is needed as well as there being some areas that teachers may be unsure of how to assess using a summative approach, SEMH for example.

The SEN Assessment Toolkit from GL Assessment, was developed in order to support schools in their assessment of the needs and progress of children and young people with SEN. With two versions of the kit, one for primary and one for secondary, schools can be confident that their chosen kit contains assessments that are age appropriate. Both primary and secondary versions cover the following areas:

  • Dyslexia
  • Reading
  • Literacy
  • Numeracy
  • Working Memory
  • Mental health and Well Being

This means that for those children where there are barriers to learning that are proving difficult to overcome, despite the application of the graduated approach, the toolkit can be used to provide additional information. The comprehensive scope of the kit, means that it has the potential to save both time and money. Imagine for example having to make contact with an outside specialist to arrange a suitable time for them to come into school to carry out an assessment. Not only that, but this obviously comes at a cost too. With the SEN Assessment toolkit however, schools are able to delve deeper and show progress (or not) in a more definitive way by carrying out the assessments themselves. Of course, this does not mean that the knowledge and expertise of external professionals should not be utilised if this is what the child or young person needs.

The assessments contained in the toolkit are useful for developing a deeper and broader picture of a pupil’s strengths and areas of need. For example, in the case of a young person having difficulty with what appears to be a working memory issue, the British Picture Vocabulary Scale may provide an additional viewpoint. For example, if a young person achieves a particularly low score, this could indicate that the reason for not being able to remember instructions and so in. could be due to a difficulty with receptive language. This means that when planning provision, thought needs to be given to visual as well as written strategies. This may also prompt further investigation through the use of Recall, which includes assessment of working memory and processing speed.

As well as providing a score, the assessments also have a formative aspect to them. The York Assessment of Reading Comprehension (YARC) for example, gives a reading age and standardised score. If the test paper is annotated correctly however and then these annotations are used in the scoring process, they provide information about the type of errors that the individual makes when decoding e.g. mispronouncing, omissions, reversals and so on. This is extremely valuable information when moving from the assess to the planning stage as it can be used to make sure that provision is much more focused on the area(s) of need. This would not be possible with a reading age or standardised score alone.

As we have seen good assessment, both summative and formative, is key to identifying appropriate provision and measuring progress. The SEN Assessment Toolkit is a go to resource for the assessment of a wide range of needs.

This review first appeared in the March edition of nasen Connect magazine. Learn more about the SEN Assessment Toolkit