'How do we use graphs and statistics to reflect the depth of progress our pupils make?'

29th September 2016 at 15:01
Hard data graphs and charts only provide one piece of the progress puzzle, says the head of a special school

As our leadership team prepares the previous year’s "progress and outcomes" presentation for our governing body and local authority, the data sparks plenty of debate. While we recognise the purpose and value of the hard data graphs and progress charts, we know that these only provide one piece of the progress puzzle.

This is why our datasets also include a vast tranche of soft data which demonstrates the "value added". We have innovated our assessment systems to bring the hard and soft data together to provide a holistic progress picture. It was a must, because our curriculum is trying to achieve much more than just subject-specific developments. 

At our complex needs school our curriculum pathways are informed by one fundamental question: what do we want our students to leave school with? 

Wider recognition

Our student population is hugely diverse, yet there is one common thread - their parents and carers want them to be recognised in the wider community. They do not want a sympathetic welcome, but rather an empathetic recognition of who this remarkable individual is.

They want the wider community to understand why their child’s functional communication may be through augmentative and alternative communication; that the child's behaviours may not be negative, but rather a reflection of them problem solving as they manage changing environments and develop their flexibility of thought.

They do not want a wheelchair to define their child as passive, and instead want that child to be recognised as having a voice through the responses they are able to extend through patience and prompts.

Holistic development

The desire for our pupils to be active citizens drives our focus on developing their behaviours for learning - behaviours that can both advocate for their needs and allow them to contribute to society.

The twin pillars of our curricula - communication and cognition - promote personalised learning that integrates the core priorities: academic, emotional, social, behavioural, sensory, and physical. That holistic development is what we are demonstrating. The challenge is: how do we use graphs and statistics to reflect the depth of progress captured through our formative assessment systems?

We accept that benchmarking and end-of-key-stage progress will need to be provided. How we present that is down to us; there are no parameters to work within and we must take advantage of this opportunity. 

Most importantly, we want to contextualise how we are working towards those fundamental priorities by integrating a range of case studies with the data analysis. Those case studies provide a rich tapestry and should be shared with our most important audience: our parents, carers, and families. 

Vijita Patel is principal at Swiss Cottage School in London. Find her on twitter @PatelVijita @SwissCottageSch​

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