Reward for small steps
The system, which breaks curriculum levels into smaller steps, could also allow comparisons between special schools, and between the performance of children with similar needs in special and in mainstream schools.
Red Marsh school, in Thornton Cleveleys, Lancashire, which caters for children with severe, profound and multiple learning difficulties, has found that the new system works.
Headteacher Dayna Halpin said: "It's nice to see those smaller steps for children, because then their achievements are acknowledged. It's good for staff as well. They can get disheartened at times and now they can see what the children have achieved."
PIVATS - performance indicators for value-added target setting - developed by Lancashire County Council in conjunction with local schools, has already been praised as ground-breaking by Office for Standards in Education inspectors. t was launched this month with the backing of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.
It aims to plug the gap in performance indicators for special-needs children who might spend years "working towards" level 1 of the national curriculum. They risk becoming demoralised by the lack of progress they make against conventional assessment tools, such as key stage tests .
The Lancashire scheme builds on the QCA's "p-scales," which set out a series of additional steps up to level 1 and between levels 1 and 3 of the national curriculum. Now each p-scale can be divided into a further five smaller stepping stones.
Dave Parkes, head of Calder View special school in Burnley, said: "Children could be 'working towards' level 1 for three years. They get despondent because they don't see the progress they are making. With PIVATS, pupils and parents see progress.
"It's allowed staff - particularly in mainstream - to focus on the small steps approach, building up to the skills needed at level 1 ."