If you’re working either in a SEND school or a mainstream setting with even one pupil with SEND then, like us, you’ve probably been eagerly awaiting the Final Report of the Rochford Review. Led by Diane Rochford, it looks at assessment for pupils working below the standards of the national curriculum tests.

Well, it was finally released on Wednesday 19th October 2016. It’s worth mentioning, first of all, that we have yet to see a response from the DfE to the report. So none of the report is legally binding or constitutes statutory changes as yet. The DfE has, of course, reviewed it (for many months it seems!) before publishing the report, so we can assume that they are unlikely to be wildly in disagreement of the findings and recommendations.

I’m sure we’ll do some future blogs and will plan Classroom Monitor developments based around some of the recommendations. But this first blog is simply my initial response to the recommendations and contents of the report. Here’s my whistle-stop tour:

P Scales: What happens next?

The first most notable recommendation (and the most predictable) is: “The removal of the statutory requirement to assess pupils using P scales. Not a great surprise – we all know that the P Scales were inextricably linked with the old levels, which were already scrapped in 2014.

This leads me straight on to Recommendation 2 which concerns the replacement of P scales: “The Rochford Review recommends that the interim pre-key stage standards for pupils working below the standard of the national curriculum tests are made permanent, and extended to include all pupils engaged in subject-specific learning.

In light of this, there is a recommendation for two further pre key stage standards to sit below the current ones for the Interim Teacher Assessment Frameworks (likely, given Justine Greening’s speech this week, to be Interim for another 2 years at least):

  • Entry to the Expected Standard
  • Emerging to the Expected Standard

Within the recommended statements for each of these standards you will note, when reading the report in full, that there are very few standards for the end of key stage to work towards. Part of me feels quite pleased about that – there are lots of mentions throughout the report about schools needing to decide for themselves the best curriculum and approach for their children, as they know their children best.  But it also leaves me feeling that what’s now missing is an actual statutory curriculum of any kind for pupils working below the standard of the Year 1 Programme of Study of the new national curriculum.

It seems this is deliberate, as one key quote from the review states: “Members of the review group have also expressed serious concerns that many schools use P scales as a curriculum, instead of for their intended purpose as an assessment tool. They felt that where P levels define specific tasks or activities these are often being applied narrowly.

Clearly the review board would like SEND schools to be able to choose their own curriculum relevant to their pupils, and this is no doubt borne from the experience of the group. They admit themselves that there was nothing unanimous about many of the aspects of the discussions. This does not surprise me as, having worked with many of our schools over the last two years, I am confident that the perfect curriculum for one SEND school would be utterly wrong for another SEND school. There’s not much that can be achieved with a one-size-fits-all generic approach when it comes to pupils with SEND (I would also personally apply that to all children, but that’s another debate for another day!). So it’s always going to be impossible to dictate a very specific curriculum.

But it feels like there’s a total void which will be especially tricky for any less experienced staff and for any school without the time or resources to write their own curriculum. This is also alluded to with Recommendation 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.”

Sharing and accountability

Now on that note off to Recommendation 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.

Add to this though to Recommendation 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.

This is another grey area from my perspective. Again seemingly deliberately so. The review recommends that schools must have a duty to assess pupils not working on subject-specific learning on the 7 aspects (from the CLDD report areas of engagement) but does NOT wish this to be reportable to the DfE as end of key stage assessment. It does recommend, though, that the assessment should be part of accountability with regard inspections, etc. So this could be a worrying area for schools.

On the one hand I’m sure this is an area that professionals will feel confident in their own method of assessment. It’s likely to be done in schools day in and day out anyway. But if there’s a need to “prove” this in any way on an inspection then it’s likely schools will attempt to have set pro forma.  They may even start borrowing from any other school who has a successful inspection with their paperwork! This could lead to Local Authorities, or MATs, etc. starting to recommend certain ways, and the idea of this being an autonomous decision by each school may be lost.

Best Practice

On that note I’ll mention briefly that Recommendations 7 and 8 mention sharing best practice and schools working collaboratively. There doesn’t seem to be a big push for this to be set up by the DfE, but that schools should take this upon themselves. I feel this is one of the hardest aspects for SEND schools on a day to day practical basis as they are often so far apart geographically. So if any of our schools do want to link please do get in touch with us and we can try and link schools up virtually (if not in person) as required.

Recommendation 10 nods briefly towards pupils with English as an Additional Language but does not go much into this, other than to recommend that further research is carried out in this area specifically.

Summary: The key points so far

I’ve clearly not mentioned every recommendation here, but have whizzed briefly through most of them. I’ve just picked out, for now, the key things which stood out to me. As mentioned at the start, this report is not statutory, so there’s no clues yet as to whether P Scales will remain in place for 2017 or not. It’s also worth noting that this report centres purely on Statutory Assessment at the end of key stages 1 and 2. It does not concern itself with ongoing formative assessment which should, as for all mainstream pupils, be centred around your school curriculum and the smaller steps of progress a child makes against their own targets.

Using Classroom Monitor for SEND

From a Classroom Monitor point of view it’s worth noting that you have full edit rights to your curriculum within the system. We have many schools who have written not only their own whole school curricula, but also some SEND schools who are setting up individual markbooks for each pupil (where class sizes are small). These SEND schools also use the markbook to cover elements of the individual EHC plans, adding objectives on the way, and using the Assessment Summaries to output progress – particularly useful for pupils for whom looking for a linear progress graph will never be appropriate. Get in touch with us if you want to discuss how to best make Classroom Monitor work for your school and pupils.

Please also comment if you have any practice or thoughts to share – this is my first big read through of the report so if you have interpreted anything differently or have your own ideas on the recommendations do let us know! We’ll write some more focused blogs on individual recommendations as and when appropriate – and a response when we see the DfE report when that is released.

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