This story begins back in 2013, when the government of the time decided that ‘levels’ were no longer the best way to assess pupils progress. Schools up and down the country then spent a period of time in a state of flux, as many different theories were tried, sometimes succeeding, sometimes not. Of course, just in case anyone was finding things too easy, Teachers and Leaders had the new National Curriculum (2014) thrown in the mix.
This presented a significant challenge to the Special Education sector, who very often couldn’t rely on the GCSE grades from Year 7 onwards, with much of their curriculum and assessment dependent on the old ‘P’ scales for those lower levels of performance.
In Norfolk however, a group of SEN school Deputy Headteachers came up with a plan – to write their own curriculum. On the face of it, not up there with the greatest inventions of the last generation, but the thinking behind it was simple – a curriculum devised by special schools, for use in Special Schools. The schools were all members of the Trust-Norfolk SEN group, the group that supports many students in Norfolk with Special Educational Needs, and regularly worked together on projects with the aim of bringing about the best possible outcomes for SEND pupils in the county. This is one project where that cohesion and cooperation has really benefitted pupils across many of the schools.
The Norfolk Assessment Pathway (NAP) is the result of 2 years of work by staff from across the Trust of Special Schools in Norfolk, and a further year in various sub-groups and planning meetings. What started as an answer to the ‘life without levels’ for the core subjects, has grown, and teachers have planned, created, used, and developed the NAP for use across all areas of the curriculum. And that is the most impressive thing about the NAP, it is a resource that has been designed entirely by teachers, for use by teachers.
The curriculum covers many aspects that teachers were familiar already with, encompassing the old ‘P’ scales and ensuring the new National Curriculum descriptors were also met. Probably the best feature of the NAP (or certainly the most well-received) has been the closing of ‘the gap’ between what was P8, and the start of the National Curriculum. The NAP provides a smooth progression across all levels from the very lowest, up to Year 6 (and sometimes beyond) of the new National Curriculum.
But the success of the NAP didn’t stop there. As it became more widely used within the Trust-SEN schools in Norfolk, it was also being mentioned within the mainstream sector as a possible answer to some of the challenges Primary Colleagues were facing, in showing progress of their own SEND pupils, for parents, Ofsted or other interested parties. As SEN staff carried out their support work with mainstream colleagues, there became more and more interest in taking on the NAP in mainstream settings. Mainstream schools really appreciated the NAP curriculum, and the way in which the levels are broken down into small, more manageable steps, which show even the smallest rates of progress.
The NAP is now more widely used in mainstream infant and primary settings than it is in SEN schools. The first year has been about getting schools used to the system, ironing out a few technicalities, and getting it used as widely as possible. Up to 60 ‘partner’ schools are now part of the scheme, and things just keep growing. And that’s the beauty of the NAP. It’s not a money making venture with customers, it’s a piece of work that is a collaboration between all ‘partners’ involved. There is a financial cost, but this is a small annual subscription, which covers the cost of running the project, materials, training, and website support. Now run as a private venture by CLASSNorfolk, there is also a commitment from the NAP that the annual subscription will never rise, only reduce as more schools come on board.
Moving forward, the content of the NAP will be streamlined, as teachers decide what the best model is for the students and schools involved, and more and more resources will be created for use in schools. Schools will get guidance on more accurate target setting as data from the pilot scheme becomes available, and they will continue to take part in moderation events across the County, and beyond, to ensure outcomes are consistent across all schools. It is unlikely ever to be the finished article, as it will be a constantly evolving model. It is hoped the NAP will grow to allow more and more schools, currently struggling to show progress for SEND pupils, to demonstrate just that. There has already been interest from outside of Norfolk, and who knows where the ‘Norfolk’ Assessment Pathway may end up.
We are really pleased to have teamed up with Pupil Asset, and schools can now get access to the NAP through this assessment platform. The support from the Pupil Asset team has been incredible, and hopefully all parties will benefit from the venture.