Andy Walters, headteacher at The Sheiling Ringwood School, explains the reasons behind creating his own SEND assessment framework, and how he’s sharing it with other local schools.
Set in a stunning sustainable and eco-friendly 40-acre site close to the New Forest and Dorset coastline, the natural surroundings of our school and college provide a rich, enabling and therapeutic learning environment for students. The pace of development across the school, which also offers residential provision, has been very exciting.
A key developments recently has been creating my own assessment framework. SEND assessment has been subject to change of late, and the Rochford Review gave rise to the recommendation to remove the need for statutory assessment using the P Levels. This accentuated the need for a tailored approach to assessment to reflect the wide range of learning needs here (70% of students are autistic), and be in line with our curriculum, based on the Steiner Waldorf principle, a broad and balanced developmental curriculum grounded in the stages and milestones of child development.
Over the years our school has implemented a number of proprietary assessment tools, yet reporting data needed to be quicker, along with a reduction in manual number crunching. It was imperative to show the true progress of students, and celebrate everything our school does; allowing assessment to link better to the curriculum we teach, and provide better tracking of how students acquire and master skills.
Today, our systems for managing and analysing student progress are very well evolved, enabling more time to look at adaptations to the curriculum and interventions rather than spending hours on the provision of ‘data’.
The project commenced with abundant research such as attending conferences on assessment and looking at the work of other schools. Visits from the School Improvement Partner were utilised to discuss assessment and gather evidence on what was needed. Whilst different assessment tools on the market are available, Classroom Monitor is a successful system which I introduced in a previous setting, and it came out as top for our school; particularly in terms of being able to design the curriculum from scratch, set levels, thresholds and points scores/weightings to fit with our own brief.
The ability to show small-step progress and assess each of our students to their own personal needs is invaluable, and the application of Classroom Monitor facilitates this very well; focusing on positive outcomes, rather than under-achievement. We track a wide range of abilities and behaviors, and developing my own framework has also made it much easier to record judgements and plan next steps.
Assessment in practice
Each class has a tablet device dedicated to assessment and both teachers and teaching assistants now upload evidence ongoing, rather than retrospectively collating.
The system covers all core and foundation subjects levels P1-P8. Each subject also contains two ‘bridging’ levels, P9 and P10, to cover the gap between the existing P Levels and the National Curriculum 2014.
The system also includes separate assessment strands called PSDI (Personal, Social, Independence areas). Significantly, these are ‘non-levelled’ outcome areas to target set, assess and measure progress in: social communication and interaction; transitions and play skills; sensory processing; independence, careers and community participation; and skills for learning.
Students work on the outcomes in many different ways, within our residential houses, classrooms, through work experience and community activities and through therapies. The Classroom Monitor system captures the contributions of all these activities, and indeed the range of professionals supporting the child, in one place.
Many of these outcomes are incorporated directly into the students’ EHCP as short term or long term outcomes. The ability to upload evidence of learning against each objective and show the child’s journey towards achieving the outcome, some of which may be worked towards over many months and years, is highly beneficial.
Formative assessment reporting formats are to be developed too; showing the learning journey using photographs to highlight students’ progress, rather than reliance on graphs and charts.
From our teachers viewpoint, staff were extensively involved in changes to assessment re ‘Life After Levels,’ and included in the ‘how and why’ of developing something better than our existing systems. Once underway, staff were coming in with evidence and reports that they had generated, and were solving any issues themselves; a reflection of their attitudes and practice, as well as the user friendliness of the system.
Similarly students have greater awareness of their progress, as staff share learning journeys better. They also like the interactive nature and colours of the online markbooks, and get a sense of enjoyment and pride as they move through the assessment criteria.
The system is also being piloted with one of our residential houses, and this is going well, so the next step will be further training for the therapy and residential aspects of the school.
Our system can even be utilised by schools that wish to measure progress in slightly different ways, and we have already shared the assessment framework with other local schools. Of course the assessment framework itself must evolve over time, so feedback and learning from how other schools are using the system is appreciated. Our school certainly has adopted a culture of assessment, and sharing achievements and what we’ve learnt along the way helps other schools with their own approaches to assessment; collaborating with other schools further is my next step.
To view the Sheiling Ringwood article in Nasen Connect – click here