Case Study

The Village School: A transdisciplinary approach to building a bespoke curriculum

Brent, UK
Classroom Monitor Partnership
Since 2016
Life after p-scales

The Village School (TVS), Brent, has 277 pupils aged 3 to 19 catering for a wide range of complex needs; all levels of learning, communication, ASD, physical, medical and sensory impairment. They employ an inclusive philosophy and commitment that all their children are entitled to make progress. There are more than 200 highly trained and experienced staff at TVS, including teachers, teaching assistants, personal care staff, lunchtime supervisors, therapists, administration and technical staff, site management and family workers.

In this case study, Hermann Farrington, Deputy Headteacher at TVS, shares how through the creation of their bespoke curriculum, ‘Moving Forward’, the school has developed personalised pathways so each individual pupil’s needs and aspirations can be met. The Moving Forward assessment framework has allowed the school to show more holistic progress of their pupils across a wider range of measures, within a broader and more balanced curriculum. Through the effective use of Classroom Monitor alongside their curriculum, the school is able to observe patterns and trends, indicating interventions at whole school, cohort and individual pupil level.

Life after p-scales – bridging the gap
In 2016, following the publication of the Rochford Review and the probable removal of the statutory requirement to use performance scales (p-scales), TVS began reviewing their curriculum.

Hermann outlines the challenge they faced, “At the time, the school was using PIVATS and p-scales. This worked ok for the school, but we soon realised we had a gap between the final p-scale 8 to the now existing national curriculum. So as a school we decided we needed to bridge this gap. Once we started, it soon became clear that we needed to work backwards through the whole curriculum to accommodate our specific requirements.”

“Primarily we realised that PIVATS wasn’t meeting our needs – we couldn’t demonstrate the small steps of progress that some of our students make. We wanted to measure what really matters; to make assessment meaningful, analysing and acknowledging those small steps of progress and being able to show progress.”

“There were also levels not appropriate for some students. For example, for our visually and hearing-impaired students, certain scales weren’t meaningful. For other students, being able to hold a pencil in a tripod grip was unrealistic, so having 30 targets relating to the development of their handwriting provided no value. We needed to make it meaningful.”

To meet these needs, it was acknowledged that they needed to rewrite the whole curriculum and develop a bespoke assessment framework – Moving Forward.”

Moving Forward
Language & literacy: 5 strands
Maths: 3 strands
Science: 2 strands
Person Social Development: 3 strands
PE: split into 3 pathways
Rebound Therapy (trampoline-based physio)
Early Years Development Matters which came built into CM – for Reception

Once the decision had been made, it became clear that the assessment platform they were using wouldn’t accommodate a bespoke curriculum and they were unable to generate the reports they required.

Sean Jeffrey, Data Manager at TVS, explains the school’s choice to develop the Moving Forward curriculum in Classroom Monitor, “In 2016 we had a demonstration of Classroom Monitor; what got my attention was the introduction of the Teacher App. This solved the challenge of being able to record and manage evidence – particularly photo & video.”

“Built from the ground up; Moving Forward was a collaborative project. Subject leads worked with our local partners creating statements which we call V-Levels (Village School Levels). The curriculum was designed to be broken down, enabling the assessment to be appropriate to our specific pupil cohort with a scoring system of V1 to V14, each level containing 10 statements.”

“Adding Moving Forward to Classroom Monitor did take some time as we had a lot of statements to add as it’s a wide-ranging curriculum.Setting up the scoring and being able to add the objectives was straight forward. I’m not saying our curriculum is perfect, we’re constantly adapting and changing it. Classroom Monitor works well as it allows us to keep fine tuning the curriculum – with freedom to change the levels as and when we want.”

Enabling a transdisciplinary approach to the curriculum
Hermann Farrington, Deputy Headteacher outlines the school’s collaborative approach to supporting a student’s development, “At TVS we have a Transdisciplinary Department of Health & Wellbeing, this includes teams of speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, physical management strategists, visual and hearing impairment therapists, a behaviour team, a nursing team, a sports team and a social, emotional and mental health team (SEMH).”

“All of these specialist teams and individuals input into the class team’s planning, supporting the ongoing design of the curriculum. For example, the PE teacher has worked with the occupational therapist, speech and language and physiotherapists to adapt the curriculum to meet the children’s needs on a much wider level. Now we can include physio or occupational therapy routines, such as sensory integration in the PE lesson, further supporting the primary needs of those students that require it.”

“Similarly, the Personal, Social, Emotional Development (PSED) curriculum adds independence, sensory regulation, communication and life skills. It’s about making sure that those transdisciplinary aspects enhance the curriculum, the assessment system and the practice.”

“The journey we are on is making sure as a school, we view this as one system – with teachers being supported by therapists, feeding into the planning and assessment, ensuring we are all working to the same outcomes.”

“My aim is to cut down teacher workload. Teachers realise that because the targets are being developed and added to by the therapists, they don’t need to write the targets themselves and the therapists are providing evidence guidelines to help meet those targets. As well as cutting down workload the teachers are also getting another expert opinion that either challenges or reinforces their view, which is really powerful.”

“The biggest impact is having a more meaningful bespoke curriculum that really helps to assess what actually matters. It’s also very useful that judgements within the markbook are then visible to anyone supporting a student in a particular area”

Real time results
With Classroom Monitor facilitating the new curriculum, the Senior Leadership Team at TVS can observe patterns or trends that may indicate interventions for the future – either as whole school, cohorts or individual pupils. This supports the creation of relevant and timely interventions.

Hermann outlines how reporting within Classroom Monitor is supporting his role, “I can monitor who is on track, who is not and how much progress is being made – this feeds back to the Key Stage Leaders, Assistant Heads and the Subject Leads. It enables me to have important conversations around who is and isn’t making progress, why this may be the case and what interventions are required. I conduct progress meetings with all the teachers twice a year with Classroom Monitor on the screen live whilst we discuss how much progress has been made and why.”

“It’s also very useful to check if there is enough challenge in the curriculum – where students may be exceeding expected levels I can identify where the curriculum could be more challenging. I report to governors, have challenge partners and internal quality management reviews. I’m also able to provide up to date analysis to all the school stakeholders (including parents, school improvement partners and governors via email or in print) on where we are at and where to focus next.”

“When it comes to inspections and reviews we conduct a huge amount of monitoring in terms of classroom observations, learning walks, book scrutiny and this all plays into the reports we can provide for external agencies. This is our first full year of properly working with Classroom Monitor within the school, so we are looking forward to the summer when we will have a truer picture of the progress made across the school – but I’m very pleased that Challenge Partners have judged us as outstanding in all areas.”

“We are looking forward to the end of this school year when we will be able to print out the learning journeys to use as a student report – this will save a lot of time and effort for the teachers, as well as looking great for the parents.”

Next Steps
“We’re currently working on a pilot project to accommodate Education Health & Care Plans (EHCPs) within Classroom Monitor so that we can include the individual students’ annual, key stage and ability learning aims.”

“Training and onboarding our large cohort of teachers and therapeutic staff has been a challenge, so the introduction of CM Academy training pathways is really of interest. Starting with the 2018/19 academic year we will be introducing this to all the staff to ensure we have a consistent level of knowledge of using Classroom Monitor across the school. At the same time we will be moving to the new version of the Classroom Monitor markbook. We really like the way the information is presented and think this will go down very well with our staff, having information and evidence presented in a clear visual format.”

Advice and working with other schools
“My main advice is being able to create your own curriculum appropriate to your school and then being able to analyse individual student cohorts.”

“Working with other SEND schools and sharing is the key. We are trying to develop something meaningful and we can’t develop this in isolation – we need to keep being challenged by the right people otherwise we won’t develop the quality we need. With special schools moving towards bespoke curriculums, you must have a level of confidence and know you’re not on your own and are on the right track.

Following the success of the curriculum the school is now sharing its assessment insights and advice with local SEND schools in Brent, Harrow and Hertfordshire.

There were also levels not appropriate for some students. For example, for our visually and hearing-impaired students, certain scales weren’t meaningful. For other students, being able to hold a pencil in a tripod grip was unrealistic, so having 30 targets relating to the development of their handwriting provided no value. We needed to make it meaningful.”

Hermann Farrington, The Village School

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