One size fits all? It doesn’t have to

Over the last academic year, there has been a huge increase in the number of schools moving away from a levels or linear model of assessment in favour of a non-linear, Point in Time Assessment (PITA) approach.

This is particularly apparent in our Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs), with many of them keen to reduce teacher workload and the unnecessary burden on their Heads of Schools to spend days each term analysing and presenting meaningless, numeric data.

It is a welcome move – for Heads and MAT leaders, knowing what percentage of different cohorts are on track to meet end of year expectations or what percentage are meeting agreed standards in each school is often all that is required.

However, at school level, some leaders, especially SENCOs, are concerned that teachers are not able to demonstrate progress for individual students using such basic models of assessment.

Some schools have opted to extend their PITA models to show how far behind students are, to try to demonstrate closing the gap if large amounts of progress are made; however, this still doesn’t show the smaller steps of progress that particularly vulnerable students are making.

So, is it major flaw in the PITA model, meaning that it is not fit for purpose?

Not at all – it simply depends what you use the data for. In most cases, PITA data is collected on a termly basis, for whole school or year group analysis – to determine which students are on track and which are not. In this case, it suits its purpose very well at both school and MAT level.

In many ways, a PITA model isn’t really used to show ‘progress’ – not in a sense whereby the difference between Point A and Point B is considered as ‘progress’. Rather, progress is considered ‘good or expected’ if students continue to keep up with increasing demands of the curriculum and understand what is being taught. It is a periodic measure of attainment from which those that are falling behind can be quickly identified.

This leaves teachers and SENCOs to find other ways of showing progress for students with SEN which many deem to be problematic. However, is it really a problem?

Neither the DfE nor Ofsted require pupil-tracking information to be presented in any particular format and nowhere does it state that all pupils must be tracked the same way.

The SEN Code of Practice also states that educational provision that is additional to or different from that normally available to pupils of the same age is a right for pupils with SEN in which case, if a student’s needs are such that their progress needs to be tracked in a different way, why is this not just considered part of their provision?

Here are a few ideas to support schools with showing progress for pupils with SEN:

  • Increased reading age
  • Increased spelling age
  • Increased maths age
  • Improved vocabulary
  • Improved attendance
  • Reduction in negative behaviours
  • Reduction in playground incidents
  • Increased participation in group work
  • Better engagement
  • Contributing more in class
  • Acquisition of new skills
  • Mastering of existing skills
  • Increased scores on *infinite* tests
  • Improved handwriting
  • Increased independence
  • Less reliant on adult support
  • Better co-ordination
  • Improved organisational skills
  • Increased volume of independent work
  • Improved social skills
  • Increased regularity of homework
  • Improved punctuality
  • Improved self-esteem
  • Improved resilience
  • Engagement with extra-curricular activities
  • Increased pride in work
  • More positive attitude

OK, so using bullet points is not as familiar as previous ways of reporting progress, but I am sure many parents and students would prefer to see a list of achievements, as opposed to a big red box that says ‘Below ARE’ each term – I know I would, anyway.

Written by Steph Reddington