MEASURING ENGAGEMENT IN PRE-FORMAL STAGE PUPILS – WHAT ARE THE OPTIONS?
Back in 2017, the Rochford Panel pronounced on the future of SEND pupil assessment and recommended that all children with EHCPs should have their performance targets based primarily on the outcomes required by the local authority in each individual EHCP.
This was generally accepted by the world of SEN education as a GOOD THING and, although it means more work for all SEN teachers, from TAs to Heads, this has now been implemented in one way or another by almost all special schools.
Fortunately for us, many special schools have decided to move to the Earwig Evidence and Assessment software package because of the way that it enables schools to do this in a structured and measurable format, which blends seamlessly into each child’s Annual Review Report.
One of the reasons why this was a good thing was because it aligned the requirements of the DfE (and therefore Ofsted) with what the Local Authority wanted, which was to measure progress against the EHCP targets set up annually by a team of professionals coordinated by the LA.
So far, so good.
But then the Rochford Panel decided to take things further and suggested that the performance of those children still at the Pre-formal development stage should be measured against the Carpenter ‘Engagement’ scale. This measures seven different forms of engagement, each with five different grade levels.
In 2018, they ran a pilot of this idea with 42 selected schools around the country. The feedback was generally negative, mainly based on the additional workload it would impose for a very marginal additional benefit.
So, the panel went away and thought some more – and decided to introduce it anyway!
The new rules – now called The Engagement Model – have legal force from September 2020. The guidance is as follows
- Engagement assessment is only required for pupils working at the pre-formal level (Below P5, in old money), although it is suggested for all pupils with EHCPs.
- The number of engagement measures is cut from seven to five, with no suggestions as to how many grades/levels to apply to each of these.
- All schools with pre-formal pupils are required to use this measure, from September, ‘in some way’ but it is up to them how they apply it.
- As for the additional workload that this would, inevitably mean, the only suggestion from the DfE was that schools ‘invest in software to mitigate this’. This is nice for Earwig (we were specifically mentioned) but still…
- Critically, the guidance did not indicate whether these measures are instead of measuring actual achievement or are required in addition to conventional progress measures.
So, while the first phase of Rochford recommendations aligned the reporting requirements of the DfE and the Local Authorities, the Engagement Model now causes a potential divergence. At the Annual Review for each child, the LA will want to see what actual progress has been made against their targets – but the DfE requires that you to measure their engagement (in five different ways).
So, this means that, in reality, you will have to be measuring (and evidencing) both. The question then is ‘How to do this without adding substantially to staff admin workloads?’.
Over the last year we have sat down with the heads of special schools around the country to try and come up with a software setup and process which will square this circle and allow you to do this as efficiently as possible and also to be able to produce both
- An achievement report for the Annual Review
- An Engagement Report for your next Ofsted.
Both of these, of course, would be based on the EHCP targets. So, individualised for each pupil.
The DfE is clear that they will not mandate how you implement the Engagement Model. So schools have adopted (at least) three different approaches.
APPROACH 1 – Add a simple engagement framework and carry on as before
Some have simply taken the list of five engagement ‘areas’ as if it was a separate framework. So, they measure the child’s engagement across all activities, once a week, and track this. At the same time, they continue to measure achievement using the same assessment frameworks as they did before. This is a good way to minimise workload and, for some schools, may be appropriate. But I don’t think it was quite what the DfE had in mind.
APPROACH 2 – Measure engagement, not achievement.
Others have said ‘If engagement is now the measure, we are only going to track that.’ So each target has the engagement measures under it. Staff grade each pupil for engagement in each task and track this. At the Annual Review they will then only be able to show engagement, rather than achievement. Heads at these schools tend to be in the ‘We don’t think that measuring progress at the pre-formal level n special needs is helpful’ camp. If you are of this mind, then this might be the right option for you.
APPROACH 3 – Use one EHCP-based, framework which can measure and track both.
After much head scratching and many discussions with Assessment Coordinators at client schools, we have come up with a ‘third way’. This is a structure which will allow staff to track both pupil performance and engagement (against the five point Engagement Model scale) without having to deal with two different frameworks.
The basis of this the normal Earwig editable, EHCP-based framework. So individual sets of targets and sub-targets can be drafted for each pupil, based on their EHCP, but each target is structured in a way that it allows staff to grade for both engagement and achievement at the same time and one piece of evidence is linked to both measures, without having to duplicate it.
The system then allows you to produce separate pupil reports tracking either achievement or engagement.
You can apply any one of these approaches using the Earwig package, but we think that Approach 3 is probably the best way to go for most schools. So here is a bit more on how that option works in practice.
If you use the Earwig EHCP framework, the structure and functionality will be familiar. This new version – called the EHCP + Engagement Framework – is essentially the original EHCP based facility, with the Engagement Model measures applied to each new target set by a teacher.
The difference is that the grades applied against the Engagement criteria don’t affect the child’s achievement score. At this stage, these ‘engagement’ grades are for information only. But they do enable schools to track changes in engagement over time.
So the teacher continues to grade for achievement also. The achievement grade then contributes the child’s overall achievement profile and the Annual Review Report, in the normal way.
In Earwig, this framework setup enables evidence to be tagged to specific target, if it is evidencing achievement and/or to any of the engagement measures at the same time. The Notes and other facilities apply equally to both types of performance measure.
One of the great advantages of the Earwig EHCP based framework is the facility to produce a report for the Annual Review with a few clicks (and a bit of commentary, of course). The OPTION 3 framework, with engagement added, will still produce the Annual Review Report in the usual way. But you can now also produce a ‘Engagement Report’ to supplement this.
The DfE Engagement Model paper suggests that the Engagement Report should be provided to parents to supplement any other reports normally provided.
With Earwig, this can be produced in a jiffy.