Navigating the SEND Assessment jungle – some expert help

Special needs Heads and Deputies have a lot to contend with, every day. One of the many things with which they are all wrestling, at the moment, is how best to record, assess and analyse the progress of their pupils, both to inform teaching and learning and to keep Governors and Ofsted happy.


Right now, they are dealing with three interrelated currents in the SEN zeitgeist  –  the first is the move away from measurement based on fixed points like P-Levels, the second is the recent sequence of instructions and guidance from the DfE (under successive Ministers and Parliamentary sub-committees) including summative strategy, with Pre-KS Standards and the ongoing work on measuring engagement at low ability levels.  The third is insistence from above that schools should not copy any one strategy model but should find their own way forward.


Then, of course, there is the increasing prominence of technology in the SEND classroom and the pressure on school SLTs to reduce teacher workloads.  Difficult.


Last week, at the TES SEN show, we held a seminar for Heads and Deputies to discuss these questions and help schools find their way through this morass towards a strategy that works on all these fronts.  The presenters were two major figures in the UK special needs environment – Peter Imray and Penny Barratt.

Peter Imray
Penny Barratt













Over the next few weeks I will be putting out occasional blogs based on some of the suggestions and conclusions from this meeting.  This one is just about setting the scene.  Earwig consultants have Assessment Framework Review Meetings with several special schools each week.  What is clear from this is that different schools are adopting very different approaches to both curricula and assessment strategy.


One of the advantages of P-levels was that they gave us a common language when discussing the development stages of individual pupils. As that slowly dissolves, we need other measures.  The first (very broad) categorisation is now into Pre-formal, Semi-formal and Formal strands.  This is becoming increasing used and this is how Peter Imray defines them.

The question then becomes ‘Which are the best assessment vehicles for each of these categories?’ Peter’s approach, which is now being adopted by almost all school is the ‘basket of assessment tools’ strategy.  But this begs the question ‘ What goes into the basket?’


One of the features that endears Earwig to special schools is that they can load as many different frameworks as they need and use these all in the one package.  As a result, we have accumulated more than 100 different schemes and variations, which sit in the Earwig SEND Assessment Framework Library.  We are currently working on separating these using these new definitions, to make it easier for schools to decide which ones they need.

If you would like to see a copy of the Earwig SEND Assessment Framework Menu click here.


In subsequent blogs, we will look at each of these segments in more detail.  But first we will look at the very interesting things that Dr Penny Barratt (who is also an Ofsted Lead Inspector) had to say about the implications of the new Ofsted Inspection Framework which came into force in September.


Yours, Peter Gelardi


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Earwig Academic

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