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Seven aspects of engagement: A new approach to assessing pupils with complex disabilities

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The DfE have announced that a new approach to enable primary schools to better assess pupils with the most complex needs will be rolled out across the country from 2020.

The statutory assessment will replace P scales 1 to 4 and will be based on the 'seven aspects of engagement'. This is an assessment approach that focuses on pupils abilities in specific areas like awareness, curiosity and anticipation.

This assessment approach aims to enable every kind of progress made by these pupils to be identified. The '7 aspects of engagement' approach aims to allow teachers to best tailor their teaching and provision to meet the pupils' specific needs and to allow them to achieve the best possible outcomes.

An evaluation report has now been published on the pilot that the DfE ran earlier this year on the 7 aspects of engagement approach. The report looks at the use of this approach as a summative assessment tool at the end of KS1 and KS2 for pupils who are working below the level of the national curriculum and not involved in subject-specific study. The pilot ran from January to July 2018 and involved 55 primary schools.

The report finds that many schools found the workload associated with implementing the 7 aspects approach to be challenging and reported a very high number of staff hours spent implementing the approach. Overall, many schools found the 7 aspects approach extremely useful for formative assessment but they were uncertain about its usefulness for summative assessment. This was due to additional workload, the amount of variability observed amongst these pupils, knowing that some pupils will not be able to make much or any observable progress due to the nature of their disability or condition, and lack of clarity around what observed 'progress' showed them.

An expert group, led by Diane Rochford, will now refine the approach based on the findings of the pilot, ready for it to be introduced in all state-funded schools which have pupils not in subject-specific study from 2020.

A detailed guidance and training package will be developed and provided for stakeholders, including schools, local authorities, Ofsted and parents. This aims to equip them with the skills and confidence to conduct the assessment in a way that will minimise additional workload burdens, building upon the best practice of schools who are doing it well.

First published 26 November 2018
A new approach to enable primary schools to better assess pupils with the most complex needs will be rolled out across the country from 2020.