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Saturday, 22 October 2016

Testing for pupils with SEND

One of the joys (ahem) of being a parent of a child with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) is visiting a Government Minister at Westminster and then getting an email through like the one I have tonight.



I am going to reproduce it here; for those in the know it'll probably make sense, for those not it may seem like double dutch. Which is kind of my point. It's not a short one, I'm sorry. Please just scroll on down to the bottom if you want the short version. Anyhow, here goes:



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Information on government announcements over primary assessment, including the Rochford Review

The Secretary of State made an announcement about primary assessment yesterday that will be of interest to all those whose work affects pupils with SEND in primary schools. We set out details below, and would be grateful if you could forward this email please to anyone in your organisation with a particular interest in SEND. We have included further detail about the recommendations to the Government of the independent Rochford Review, including on the future of P Scales, on which we will consult early next year.

The full announcement can be accessed here: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/primary-education. It includes the following text:
I am setting out steps to improve and simplify assessment arrangements. First, we have worked closely with the profession to improve the guidance for the moderation of teacher assessment. It is important that we have a consistent and reliable approach across England. This new guidance will be accompanied by mandatory training for local authority moderators. Second, the key stage 1 grammar, punctuation and spelling test will remain non-statutory for schools this year, with tests available for teachers to use if they choose. Third, we will not introduce statutory mathematics and reading resits on children’s arrival in year 7. Rather, we will focus on the steps needed to ensure a child catches up lost ground. High-quality resit papers will be made available for teachers to use if they wish, as part of their ongoing assessments. In addition, we will introduce a targeted package of support to make sure that struggling pupils are supported by teachers to catch up in year 7.
Whilst the steps set out above will make improvements in the current academic year, we also need to now set out a longer term, sustainable approach. Early in the new year we will launch a consultation on primary assessment and the implications for accountability. This will cover key issues, including the best starting point to measure the progress that children make in primary school, and the role and operation of teacher assessment. Whilst we take time to consult on assessment arrangements, the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile will remain in place for the 2017 to 2018 academic year.
Last year, the Government commissioned Diane Rochford to lead an expert review into the assessment of pupils working below the standard of the national curriculum tests and to make recommendations that ensure they have the opportunity to demonstrate attainment and progress at primary school. I am grateful for the work of Diane Rochford and her team and we are publishing their report today. Its recommendations will also form part of the consultation.
I look forward to engaging with parents, teachers and unions on these issues in the coming months.
Amongst the developments here that will be of particular relevance to pupils with SEND is the publication of the Rochford Review’s report. Further details of this are set out at the bottom of this e-mail.

The group’s recommendations to Government will be of interest to anyone involved in the use of P scales, so please do draw the issuing of the report and the Government’s intention to consult on the recommendations in it to the attention of relevant colleagues.

Please note that currently schools should continue to use the pre-key stage standards and P scales for the statutory assessment of pupils working below the standard of the national curriculum tests, pending decisions to be taken following the consultation early in the new year.


With thanks

0-25 SEND Unit
Department for Education



Publication of the report of the independent Rochford Review

In July 2015 the Minister for Schools established an independent review of statutory assessment arrangements for pupils working below the standard of national curriculum tests at key stages 1 and 2. The review group was chaired by Diane Rochford. The Rochford Review’s final report has now been published, and sets out the group’s recommendations to the Government. This follows the publication of the Rochford Review’s interim recommendations in December 2015.
The final report’s recommendations to Government include:
  • the removal of the statutory requirement to use P scales to assess pupils with SEND who are working below the standard
  • that the interim pre-key stage standards for pupils working below the standard of national curriculum tests are made permanent and extended to include all pupils engaged in subject-specific learning
  • that schools assess pupils’ development in all four areas of need outlined in the SEND Code of Practice, but statutory assessment for pupils who are not engaged in subject-specific learning should be limited to the area of cognition and learning
The recommendations are reproduced in full below.
We will consult on the report’s recommendations in early 2017, as part of a wider consultation on primary assessment. Final decisions will be made following that consultation. In the meantime schools should continue to use the pre-key stage standards and P scales for the statutory assessment of pupils working below the standard of the national curriculum tests.


The full recommendations contained in the report are as follows:

The review makes the following recommendations to government for the statutory assessment of pupils working below the standard of national curriculum tests at the end of key stages 1 and 2:
1.     The removal of the statutory requirement to assess pupils using P scales.
2.     The interim pre-key stage standards for pupils working below the standard of national curriculum tests are made permanent and extended to include all pupils engaged in subject-specific learning.
3.     Schools assess pupils’ development in all 4 areas of need outlined in the SEND Code of Practice, but statutory assessment for pupils who are not engaged in subject-specific learning should be limited to the area of cognition and learning.
4.     A statutory duty to assess pupils not engaged in subject-specific learning against the following 7 aspects of cognition and learning and report this to parents and carers:
·        responsiveness
·        curiosity
·        discovery
·        anticipation
·        persistence
·        initiation
·        investigation

5.     Following recommendation 4, schools should decide their own approach to making these assessments according to the curriculum they use and the needs of their pupils.
6.     Initial teacher training (ITT) and Continuing professional development (CPD) for staff in educational settings should reflect the need for teachers to have a greater understanding of assessing pupils working below the standard of national curriculum tests, including those pupils with SEND who are not engaged in subject-specific learning.
7.     Where there is demonstrable good practice in schools, those schools should actively share their expertise and practice with others. Schools in need of support should actively seek out and create links with those that can help to support them.
8.     Schools should work collaboratively to develop an understanding of good practice in assessing pupils working below the standard of national curriculum tests, particularly across different educational settings. Schools should support this by actively engaging in quality assurance, such as through school governance and peer review.
9.     There should be no requirement to submit assessment data on the 7 areas of cognition and learning to the DfE, but schools must be able to provide evidence to support a dialogue with parents and carers, inspectors, regional schools commissioners, local authorities, school governors and those engaged in peer review to ensure robust and effective accountability.
10.Further work should be done to consider the best way to support schools with assessing pupils with EAL.




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See what I mean? It's a lot, isn't it? Especially at this time on a Friday night, right before half-term. I'm not altogether sure the wine is helping me decipher it. If you've got as far as reading this bit again, give yourself a pat on the back. And then sleep well and never think on it again - if it doesn't affect you, of course.

The thing is, it all sounds like good news, but I can't really be sure. Key stage 1 tests removed, and no resits in Year 7. There's a fair bit of that Edu-speak which I am just starting to get to grips with (I swore I'd never want to study again after my degree... I still don't want to).

Most of my readers would probably agree that the English school system seems to be in a total mess right now; too much testing at too young an age, of children in general. So when you add children with additional needs into the mix (and please, let's not forget about them, even though a recent Green paper tried to) the whole system appears unfit for purpose.

What I think I understand from the email above, is that there has been a realisation that these plans don't work for children with SEND. It sounds like they are putting the process on hold until further discussions have been had. Am I right? Someone please tell me I'm right.

When you have a child like ours, who is academically very able, but who has a spiky profile (seen commonly in autistic children) and who struggles with various areas of communication, processing and executive functions, testing is almost the last thing you want them to go through. Although on the other hand, testing would be good, to prove to those who don't see it that the mind is full of answers and imagination and all those other things which are under-estimated as a rule. Chance of getting our girl to sit any sort of test under same conditions as her peers (if at all) has been pretty much non-existent so far, so I'm not sure any of this will actually make a huge difference anyway....

Sasha is not, and is never likely to be, one of the masses. The school system should not be a 'one size fits all' type of place - children are individuals and everyone is unique. We should be building on strengths, not moulding sausages.

Of course testing is fine for the majority, and measuring progress is desirable for everybody, but it's how we go about it which matters. Sasha is a Year 5 pupil who is coming up to a major transition point in her life next year; it's so important we get this right for her. It doesn't help us or her when the goalposts are constantly moving. Any advice warmly welcomed.


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