The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Simon Yates

SEND assessment: facing the firing line

At Chailey Heritage Foundation the staff assess their own progress in achieving pupil outcomes. Now they’re asking parents to rate them too.

As described in my previous post, SEND assessment: measuring our progress, not the pupil’seach learner at my school has their own curriculum –in the form of their own long-term outcomes and ‘my next steps’, arrived at by in-depth profiling by teachers, therapists and parents.

There are no set banks of targets to be chosen from, all are set individually. There are no set expectations of paths of progress related to any of the targets, and no arbitrary timescales. Given this (and my loathing of benchmarking progress against national datasets) we’ve needed to develop ideas for summative assessment, for both management and inspection purposes.

So, what are we doing?

It’s turned out that what we are really assessing is ourselves. We are openly and honestly looking at our input and rating how well we have enabled the learners to progress.

Now of course, I know my teachers and the therapy team extremely well and I trust them all professionally. I know that they will give honest ratings (and indeed they are sometimes quite hard on themselves). But as far as a visiting inspector inspector goes, we could be making it all up. So we were wondering, how can we get an objective opinion to back up what we are saying about how well we are doing?

Facing the firing line

In fact, what we have come up with isn’t an objective opinion at all, it’s an extremely subjective opinion and as far from impartial as you can imagine.

We ask the parents to rate us on how well we’ve enabled their child to progress.

Following the panel meeting (teachers, therapists, care staff etc) the teacher meets with the parents. At this meeting all the profiles are gone through, and all the ‘next steps’ examined. Parents amend or add to our profiles, sometimes wanting more stretching targets (usually, but not always, realistic) and often coming up with ideas to try which we might not have thought of – activity ideas, or ‘motivators’ which work at home. Even where the parents simply accept everything the team has come up with, it’s still a productive time talking it all through with them.

Now we’ve added a ‘rating’ system in:

Please ask parents to give a rating regarding how well they think their child has progressed in the last 12 months:

It’s still early days yet but we are now getting a broad view of what this is going to give us. There has been a wild range in responses. We’ve had fairly brutal feedback in some instances, but we have found this to be more related to dissatisfaction with other aspects of school life – for example a change of key worker. So we’ve added a box for the teacher to note what exactly the issues were. We’ve also had some wonderful feedback, notably from parents of learners who haven’t been with us for long and who are seeing what a difference real expertise can bring.

Read Simon's original article and delve deeper into SEND assessment options by downloading our free toolkit.

What we’re learning from this information

What this gives us (we hope) is management information that can be viewed in some sort of chart/easy reference document. We will have the panel rating, and we will have the parent rating. The first thing this will tell me, as headteacher, is where there is disparity of opinion. This, of course, would lead me to some investigatory work, which governors and inspectors would want to see evidence of. What it doesn’t do is compare any child’s progress against anyone else’s!

I want (and need) to be completely rigorous in terms of checking out levels of expectation and challenge for every pupil. We have many different mechanisms for making sure that teaching and learning is outstanding; a mainstay for as long as I’ve been in senior management, has been lesson observations. But the time has come to move away from these – or at least use them differently (more on this in the next blog post).

The Learner Progress Interview

Last year I introduced the Learner Progress Interview (LPI) into teachers’ performance management. Up until then, P scale data had been used as part of performance management, even though we knew it was useless. We had a print-out of teachers’ targets for each pupil, CASPA’s ‘expectations’ of progress, and we filled in where we thought they had got to. Then, basically, we ignored it. The LPI is actually a meaningful tool.

Teachers prepare for an interview with me and/or our external consultant. They will have evidence ready of learner progress for each of the pupils in their class/tutor group. The interviewer/s go through each learner’s evidence in turn and compare their judgements of progress with the teacher’s judgement. This is now the major part of teacher appraisal and is meant to be developmental as well as a means of quality assurance.

So, over the course of a year, we have a professional panel judgement on how well we have enabled each child to progress. We also have the parents’ rating for how well we have done, and we have my own scrutiny of this, backed up by an independent (Ofsted trained) consultant.

Of course, the real data, or 'information' as Ofsted now talk of it, is in each child’s evidence folder and progress reports. I hope that this is what will be scrutinised when Ofsted arrive. They can take any child across the school and clearly see what that individual’s abilities were in the past, what their abilities are now, and how they have been enabled to move on. That’s what really counts. But I know my governors will feel more at ease if I have some sort of ‘dashboard’ of management data too.Effectuv

Next, read the final part of Simon's series on SEN assessment: giving up control of lesson observations.


What's next?

As we head into the final year of implementation of the reforms, it's time for SENCOs to reflect on current success, set clear action plans for next steps and leave with a renewed focus on your provision.

Join us for the 15th annual SENCO Update, Thursday 25th May 2017 in London. Register now to secure your place! 



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