How to implement engagement measures for pre-formal pupils without tears
Six months ago schools teaching pre-formal children had a reprieve. The implementation date for the new Engagement Model was moved back a year, to September 2021. But now even that date is looming. Assuming you want to be ready by the end of the summer term, you have about six months to get something in place and have staff trained.
The Engagement Model from the Standards and Testing Agency of the DfE, is defined in this document. The bad news is that it will be compulsory for all special schools and that it has the potential to add yet another layer of administration and reporting onto staff who are still getting to grips with setting (and reporting against) individualised targets for each child, based on their required EHCP Outcomes.
On the face of it, those teaching at the pre-formal level are now required to measure each pupil ‘regularly’ against five different engagement ‘lenses’ and be able to report to parents on progress against these criteria. This has been a contentious decision, implemented in spite of feedback from the school that piloted it in 2019 concluding that the benefits were small and the potential extra workload, unnecessary. But there it is. Now it is law. So, what should schools do to minimise the impact and optimise any benefit?
The good news is that the DfE has taken pains not to prescribe how this directive should be implemented. Also, the only report that schools are required to produce is one for parents. So, no impact on Annual Review or other reports (unless you want to include it).
In the absence of clear direction, most of the special schools that we talk to about this ask ‘What are other schools doing?’ Earwig is a new software platform designed for SEN pupil assessment and used in about 200 schools in England. So we are in a good position to provide the answer to this question.
The answer is that there are several different ways to skin this cat and these are explained in more depth in this earlier blog article. But our recent discussions have led us to come up with a process and report facility that will enable schools to fulfil their Engagement Model obligations with minimal additional effort.
The key question is whether you choose to adopt a quantitative or a qualitative approach to measuring and reporting on engagement. Because a report is required, most schools instinctively go for a quantitative approach – measuring engagement at specific intervals and producing graphs of engagement levels for specific targets or tasks. This is fine, and many schools use Earwig to do this. But it does, inevitably, mean extra work.
We have concluded that the Engagement measures lend themselves more readily to a qualitative approach. With the right software it will be possible to reduce your teaching evidence and pupil grading time commitment and improve your reporting of pupil progress, including engagement, across the school.
You may be able to do this with your existing software. If you can’t, go to www.earwigacademic.com further information.