Attainment targets and levels were introduced with the national curriculum in 1988. Too often levels became viewed as thresholds and teaching became focused on getting pupils across the next threshold instead of ensuring they were secure in the knowledge and understanding defined in the programmes of study. Depth and breadth of understanding were sometimes sacrificed in favour of pace.
With the new national curriculum introduced in 2014, schools are expected to develop new forms of assessment aligned with its content and principles. From September 2015, national curriculum levels have been removed from statutory assessments. Assessment without levels allows schools the opportunity to develop their own approaches to assessment that focus on teaching and learning and are tailored to the curriculum followed by the school.
Assessment at Meadow Wood School is inclusive of all abilities. Assessment considers the long-term wider outcome, preparing pupils for the next steps in education. We consider meaningful ways of measuring all aspects of progress including communication, cognitive skills, social skills, physical development and independence. Assessment methods are adapted for our pupils for example by using alternative means of communication or assistive technology.
The P Scales
While we will to continue to use the P scales, we are developing new ways to collect qualitative information about how our pupils progress. This way, P scales will not define the progress of pupils but instead become part of the larger picture of progress.
The P scales have been used to measure both end of key stage achievement and lesson-by-lesson on-going progress, but they had not been designed to fulfil the latter purpose, with the result that formative assessment was often distorted.
The P scales are designed as a ‘best fit’ model, which means that a pupil could have significant gaps in their knowledge and understanding, but still be placed within the next level. There are additional challenges in using a best-fit model to appropriately assess pupils with uneven or “spiky” profiles of abilities, such as children with physical impairments. Progress is often synonymous with moving pupils to the next level, but at Meadow Wood School we see progress as involving a deeper or wider understanding. Sometimes progress is simply about generalisation and consolidation.
It is not possible to generate a single standardised assessment solution in special education. There are a number of sophisticated assessments that can successfully measure outcomes for children with special educational needs. In the context of curriculum freedoms and increasing autonomy for schools, it makes no sense to prescribe any one model for assessment and we do not intend to do so at Meadow Wood School. Our curriculum and assessment are inextricably linked. We are currently re-designing our assessment framework, which will be aligned to our new curriculum. This approach will work for our pupils and staff. P-scales will be retained for reporting teachers' judgements to parents.
Pupils at Meadow Wood School do not have attainment comparable to National Curriculum age-related expectations. However, our pupils demonstrate good achievement not only in linear areas measured by P scales but also in terms of lateral progression and functional skills development. Our new assessment system will use a range of evidence and we will carefully monitor how pupils are progressing throughout the year in their achievements.
(Guidance taken from “Commission on Assessing Without Levels” September 2015)