The days are probably now numbered for ‘P’ levels, however they will stay for the time-being as they provide a framework of measurement for those working below the national standards. Over time and with the introduction of the new national curriculum, it was felt that the gap between P8 and the beginning of the national standard was too wide. Interim ‘pre-key stage standards were introduced to try and fill that gap: Foundations for…, Early development of….. and Growing development of … the expected standard.
Lorraine Peterson, a vastly experienced educationalist and CEO of Nasen has scoped the application of the interim key-stages and finds that they are not at all widely used; pupils who fall into the gap were usually assessed as ‘working towards the expected standard’.
Peterson very clearly describes two groups of children affected: those undertaking subject-specific learning (those at, broadly speaking P5-8) and those who are not - (P4 and below).
For the first group Rochford recommends adding two additional pre-key stage standards to the original 3 - Entry to the expected standard & Emerging to the expected standard. Peterson’s concern here is that there are ‘significant gaps in development’ not recognised by these new standards.
For the second group Rochford recommends assessment using the seven areas of engagement for learning (responsiveness, curiosity, discovery, anticipation, persistence, initiation and investigation).
To specialist speech and language therapists these descriptors are familiar territory and are the domains under which therapists begin to determine a child’s emergent cognition and learning across a range of skills. Those in the second group would generally be educated within special schools and/or specialist provision.
That said, however, more and more children are in mainstream schools with increasingly complex needs. Moving from the current P4 to P5 and beyond could be viewed as crossing a somewhat arbitrary divide. Peterson finds that it is highly likely that all schools will require ‘training, support and guidance’ on how to implement the seven areas.
How will the curriculum be developed for these children? What will it contain? What activities will be appropriate and how might engagement be evidenced, particularly for children whose communication skills are poorly developed or reliant on alternative and/or augmentative methods? Skills in recognising and assessing any child working below expected levels are essential if schools are going to get this right.
So….. do speech and language therapists have a role here to support schools?
They do without a doubt. Consider commissioning a specialist introductory training session so that particular staff can begin to familiarise themselves with the seven descriptors and what they mean, using practical examples of what to look for and ideas to try.
To read the full report click this link
For the primary assessment review click this link
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