Precise assessment and personalisation of provision is central to the way in which children’s learning pathways are determined at Fairfield School. A fit-for-purpose assessment for learners at the early stages of development must take a more holistic view of learners and focus on how they learn.
We are working closely with the Leeds West Specialist inclusive Learning Centre (SILC) to develop our own assessment system which ensures that we are able to accurately evaluate children’s progress and identify their next steps. This will inform our target setting which defines the priorities for each child.
Many linear or hierarchical assessments are unable to detect the very subtle changes in behaviour shown by our learners, regardless of how many ’small steps’ are provided. In real life, children’s development and learning is not compartmentalised. Each pupil has differing learning needs therefore each personalised learning plan will differ in terms of content and emphasis. These will be called Learning Journeys.
Wolf-Schein (1998) states: ‘It is important that individuals working with children who are severely disabled are given tools that enable them to address the relevant features of the child’s behaviour without trying to fit the behaviour into a pre-existing assessment tool that was not developed for, or related to the behaviour of someone with very special problems, i.e. unique abilities and patterns of growth.’
The system we intend to implement has a sound research base and provides teachers with relevant frameworks for assessing the learning of all of the children who attend Fairfield. It is broken down into four sections:
Footsteps is based on the Welsh Government’s highly regarded ‘Routes for Learning’, a tool for exploring the learning of children with complex needs. It covers the earliest processes and skills on which all future learning is built.
Stepping Out was developed by Willow Dene School, an Outstanding Special School in London, for assessing children working between P3ii and P4, when a huge amount of learning takes place which is not captured by these level descriptors.
Paces assesses the progress of children who are developing emergent concepts between P5 and P8.
Strides captures the progress of the small number of our children who achieve National Curriculum levels.
Footsteps and Stepping Out exist as one system, focusing on early learning of communication, cognitive and social interactions processes and skills, while Paces and Strides form a separate system which measures progress in each of the strands of English and Mathematics. We expect that several children will straddle both systems as their learning progresses from early development into concept based learning to ensure any gaps in their understanding or functioning are addressed before they move on. Each system assesses progress against clear statements which define aspects of learning at the appropriate level.
Learning Journeys lends themselves well to the spikey learning profiles that some of our children have, or where they may have significant areas of strength, such as in number, particular difficulties associated with a physical disability or communication disorder which impacts on their learning. The statements are written in such a way that they are not limiting to children because of a particular mode of communication, physical difficulty or sensory impairment. Learning Journeys places greater weighting on being able to generalise or use and apply a skill than achieving it within a fixed context, which acknowledges how difficult this is for some of our learners.
Learning Journeys also take account of many indicators of well-being which can inhibit or support learning. These include factors such as pain, sleep, significant medical events, attendance (often linked to the previous factors) and behaviour, which can considerably affect the learning of children with SEN. These factors will be RAG-rated against each termly data drop to reference progress against the other significant events in children’s lives. This will ensure not only that the progress is contextualised, but also that the school is doing everything that it can to support children and families to improve the situation when indicators are showing red or amber.
Collecting Evidence - Evidence for Learning
It is intended that assessments made within Learning Journeys will be far more robust than in previous systems as all progress is evidenced through videos, photos and observations which are hyperlinked into the document. This will allow the Senior Leadership Team to monitor progress more effectively. Evidence of pupil progress will be collected through the use of an application called ‘Evidence for Learning’.
The Evidence for Learning app allows staff to record small and subtle improvements through photo/video/audio evidence, notes and judgements all linked to targets. It automatically links evidence, and achievements, and can be highly to link to the outcomes detailed in Education, Health and Care Plans.
There is the ability to share with information parents via the secure parent portal. Parents can comment and these comments can be included in reports. This will allow us to be more fully engaged and involve parents in their child's learning and development.
Senior Leaders can also export the summative assessment data for whole school and cohort data analysis. The app works with any Assessment or Curriculum Framework and will replace our current methods of collecting evidence; BSquared, 2Simple and Pupil Progress Folders. Ongoing training and support for staff continues.
As may special schools move towards developing their own assessment and curriculum methods, working with The West SILC and another local outstanding special school, Oakfield Park in Wakefield, will allow us to ensure that moderation is consistent and reliable.