The P-levels or scales were introduced in 2001 to measure the progress of children working at or below level 1 of the national curriculum. "P" stands for performance descriptor. Each descriptor provides an indication of the achievement of children with moderate, severe, or profound and multiple learning difficulties, or those with autistic spectrum disorder. There are eight levels, leading to level 1 of the national curriculum.
For example, the general descriptor for P-level 4 in science is: "Pupils explore objects and materials provided, changing some materials by physical means and observing the outcomes, for example, when mixing flour and water.
Pupils communicate their awareness of changes in light, sound or movement.
They imitate actions involving main body parts, for example, clapping or stamping. They make sounds using their own bodies, for example, tapping, singing or vocalising, and imitate or copy sounds. They cause movement by a pushing or pulling action."
The Strata scheme helps teachers interpret the performance descriptors for a range of science units and supports lesson planning.
Key Stage 3 National Strategy: Accessing National Curriculum Science for Pupils with Special Educational Needs is now accompanied by a set of A3 sheets exemplifying indicators of P-level performance across all five key themes in the KS3 strategy for science (DfES 0725-2003).
The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority is also developing exemplification materials to assess children's progress using best-fit approaches for each P-level and a DVD should be available this spring. The QCA is inviting schools to contribute work in English, maths, science and ICT by children aged five and over between P-levels 4 to 8.