26 Jan

Graham
I’ve spent a significant amount of time this week preparing for a conference I am speaking at in a couple of weeks. Fortunately the key theme of the conference is assessment, so not only have I been able to prepare the powerpoint but I’ve also been able to refer to the research to ensure our ‘Dashboard’ system is fit for purpose.

It is interesting to reflect on why we assess children and young people. It could be argued that for many years schools used assessments and progress measures to appease inspectors and other outside agencies. At times there was little thought given to families and many educationalists made up their own technical language and acronyms – end of key stage targets, progression guidance, P levels, PIVATS, B Squared, AFL…the list could go on and on!! When preparing the presentation it struck me that the real purpose of assessment is in danger of being lost. I’ve summarised it as follows:

  • children and young people must understand their next steps of learning
  • families must also understand this so that they can play a part in supporting their child
  • staff and leaders of schools and organisations should be informed so that the evidence can improve their planning

…but most importantly…

  • for assessment to be effective, it has to improve the outcomes for all the young people

We believe that if young people make progress in three key areas – Academic, Living Skills and Learning for Life – they will reach their preferred destination. To ensure our young people have the best chance of achieving in all these areas, they need to attend on a regular basis and engage positively with the school/organisation. We, in turn, need to ensure we support their individual needs and intervene appropriately when required.

Wednesday evening will illustrate this perfectly; I have been asked to attend the British Education Awards at the Hilton in Manchester where Jack Bayley, last year’s Head Boy at New Bridge, is one of just four Special Achievement Finalists. Jack and I will attend appropriately suited and booted!!

Jack made excellent progress in his subjects – he learnt at his own pace and he used our Sports pathway, Activ8, as a vehicle to learn. Jack really benefitted from the supportive ethos within the group. He didn’t have a lot of time off school. Jack learnt to communicate with a wide range of staff and youngsters and built excellent relationships. He tolerated without judging and advocated with a huge degree of humility and maturity. He managed his own behaviour and quickly realised that staff were there to support him. He even cut his hair!!

Interestingly, Jack’s engagement with school was wonderful – he attended residentials, he played for school sports teams, he visited sporting events, he attended Scouts, he joined after school clubs, he worked his way through the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme…it goes on and on. Jack has achieved his preferred destination (he’s presently at college) and I hope he will continue to succeed in the future. Good luck on Wednesday night, Jack!

For assessment to be effective it has to improve the outcomes for young people. There is no point in it being an administrative or paper exercise.

On Tuesday I chaired a meeting of Special Schools’ Voice in Birmingham. A number of people from around the country discussed the challenges and successes within our sector at present. There is some amazing work being done up and down the country. There has been a tremendous growth across many geographical areas in relation to ‘post school developments’, be it supported work internships, improved community placements or better college courses – all improving outcomes for young people!

We have arranged a meeting in London with the Department for Education to signpost them (and politicians) to see this work. Interestingly, I still haven’t had a reply from the Chancellor of the Exchequer to my invitation to visit Oldham to see firsthand the contribution that people with additional needs make to their communities and to the economy!! Colleagues from across the country also mentioned that they face a growing challenge in the numbers of pupils and students wanting places in our schools. Dr Adam Boddison, CEO of Nasen, commented in his blog (available here) that from 2007 to 2017, the proportion of children with statements or EHC plans attending maintained or non-maintained special schools rose from 38% to 45%. Adam will be alongside us in London trying to work with officials and politicians to tackle this challenge.

All in all a productive week – it sometimes helps to try and sit back and reflect (or prepare a presentation!).

Have a great weekend,

Graham

You can find all Graham’s previous blog entries here