EQUALS has published a ‘Brand New’ Semi-Formal Curriculum, specifically designed and written for learners of all ages with SLD.

The aims of the Schemes of Work project have been

  • to build on the collaborative work of Penny Lacey and Swiss Cottage School;
  • to write outstanding practice schemes of work for non National Curriculum ‘areas of learning’;
  • to involve outstanding teachers in good and outstanding schools throughout England and Wales;
  • to produce schemes of work that are available to all schools on a cost recovery (not for profit) basis through the Equals website;
  • to share best practice within a broad band of stakeholders, including both the DfE and Ofsted.

The general principles governing the schemes of work are that they

  • are developmental in nature and open to personalisation – they start at the beginning of the individual pupil’s learning journey and aim for the highest level of independence possible;
  • cover all stages of education from 2 to 25 (and beyond) but are not directly related to either age or key stage. Learners fit into them where they will according to their individual abilities, interests and learning journey;
  • are not related to the National Curriculum, though the common language of the P scales is occasionally used for ease of understanding.

Below is a short video of just over 11 mins by Peter Imray; our Director of Developments. Peter Imray talks about our brand new Semi-Formal (SLD) Curriculum.


To place an order, you can Download an Order Form or Order in Web Shop

 All of the Semi-formal Curriculums are priced at £49.00 + VAT each for Members and £149.00 + VAT for non-members. 

My Citizenship and My Forest School will be available later this academic year.


EQUALS Members benefit from significant discounts on EQUALS publications.
The members price for the above publications is only £49 + VAT each.
This involves a saving of £100 + VAT each, compared to Non-members prices

If you would like to become a member of
EQUALS at £120 + VAT for 12 months please click here

To view a preview, please click on a link below


Hi all

I am forwarding on a message from Christopher Robertson (Birmingham University) which contains a link to a summary report of Monday 13th July’s Upper Tribunal judgement ruling relating to autism, behaviour and exclusion.

The judge took the view that the Equality Act does not offer sufficient protection against exclusion for children with autism, but I think we can also take this to cover CYP with SLD and PMLD since they can be equally discriminated against when it comes to the view that the behaviour which leads to the exclusion is ‘not a matter of choice’. I am not going to underestimate the significance of this ruling for all schools!!

All the best



High Quality Local Training from only £19
Semi-Formal (SLD/MLD) Curriculum
by Peter Imray


Course Profile

With the Rochford Review confirming that ‘schools already have the freedom to use any curriculum they feel is appropriate for the needs and requirements of…… pupils’ who are not engaged in ‘subject specific learning’, we seek to explore

  • What does subject specific learning mean?
  • Who might be involved in subject specific learning and who might not?
  • What kind of curriculum makes sense for learners with SLD who will only ever be able to succeed (at the very best) up to the very beginnings of the National Curriculum?
  • What kind of curriculum model can enable those with SLD to be the very best that they can be and to do the very best that they can do, irrespective of their level of learning difficulty?

We seem to be in a position of much greater flexibility than we have been for a very long time which makes for extremely exciting and interesting times in curriculum development!

Below is a short video of just over 11 mins by Peter Imray; our Director of Developments.
Peter Imray talks about our brand new Semi-Formal (SLD) Curriculum.

To learn more please click here
Or contact Paul Buskin at the EQUALS office on 0191 272 1222
or email paul@equalsoffice.co.uk


Cost: Only £19+VAT for members and £59+VAT for non-members.

Courses start at 4pm and finish 6:30 pm.

If your school is interested in attending a twilight training workshop and want further information
please contact paul@equalsoffice.co.uk
or ring the EQUALS office on 0191 272 1222

During 2018 EQUALS successfully delivered twilight workshops at

  • Hadrian School in Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Priory Woods School in Middlesbrough
  • Bennerley Fields School in Derbyshire
  • John F Kennedy School in London
  • Swiss Cottage School in London
  • Threeeways School in Bath
  • Wilson Stuart School in Birmingham
  • Oak Grove College in Worthing
  • St Ann’s School in London
  • Melland High School in Manchester


Written by Mike Sissons
and originally developed at The Dales School (North Yorkshire)

MAPP (Semi-Formal) is a suite of materials developed to facilitate the planning, assessment and recording of progress in relation to personal learning intentions.

Whats New in this ‘Semi-Formal’ edition of MAPP?

    • MAPP (Semi-Formal) spreadsheets now generate longitudinal data which provide a graphic presentation of individual progress over time. This process is automated so that no additional administrative burden is placed on teachers
    • Longitudinal data can be transferred from each individual record to a cohort sheet to facilitate reporting and whole school analysis of progress.
    • The MAPP Milestone Statements have been comprehensively rewritten and expanded.
    • A completely new section provides guidance on the implementation of MAPP and addresses the key issue of how to demonstrate that progress is good or better within a framework of personalised assessment.

Below is a short video of almost 11 mins by Mike Sissons; the author of MAPP – Semi-Formal.

Mike Sissons talks about the new MAPP – Semi-Formal.

MAPP (Semi-Formal) at a glance

Section 1 contains the MAPP Milestones. These are not strictly hierarchical and, though they increase in complexity within each section, there is no assumption that learners will work through all of them or approach them in a fixed order. They are intended to guide thinking when writing personal learning intentions; they are not intended to be exclusive and teachers should refer to other relevant resources.

Section 2 contains the Assessment of Lateral Progress (ALP). This is the core instrument in MAPP for assessing progress in relation to learning intentions, whatever their source. It has been used to assess progress in physical development, for example, an area not covered by the Milestone statements but an area which is of vital importance to many pupils with LDD.

In this revised edition of MAPP, the aspect of ‘prompting’ has been renamed ‘independence’.

This is simply a change in language which has been made to provide consistency, and to avoid the confusion that has sometimes arisen over the notion of progress being linked to a reduction in prompting, rather than an increase in independence.

Section 3 offers guidelines on the completion of the MAPP (Semi-Formal) spreadsheets. These spreadsheets generate more information than the spreadsheets in the first edition of MAPP but have been designed in such a way that they do not require teachers to input any additional data.

Section 4 discusses key concepts in MAPP (Semi-Formal) and recommends systems and processes concerning its implementation. This section contains answers to the questions that have most frequently ben raised in training sessions and presentations since the publication of the first edition of MAPP in 2010.

£100.00 + VAT for members and £149.00 for non-members.

* Discounts are available for schools, that previously purchased the first version of MAPP.
Please email paul@equalsoffice.co.uk for further details.

To place an order please click on the ‘Download Order Link’ button below or you can also order through our Webshop.

EQUALS Members benefit from significant discounts on EQUALS publications.
The members price for the above publication is only £100 + VAT each.
This involves a saving of £49 + VAT each compared to Non-members prices

If you would like to become a member of
EQUALS at £120 + VAT for 12 months please click here


by Peter Imray

Organisations that train staff in physical intervention (restraint) techniques such as Team Teach, PRICE, CALM etc generally advise on training needs (including retraining needs) in relation to the level of risk in the school. Traditionally this has meant the special schools, which naturally have a higher level of challenging behaviour (CB) than mainstream schools, potentially classify as a higher level of risk. In turn this has attracted advice to the effect that all staff need an initial two days training with a further one day at regular (either annual or bi-annual) intervals.

I believe however, that schools who are on top of CB operate on certain key principles which, when executed well, significantly reduces the risk of physical intervention. That is, such schools (i) have a proactive rather than a reactive policy to CB (ii) regard any physical intervention as a ‘failure’ and therefore a cause for concern (iii) do not use static holds such as holding to chairs or wrapping holds for smaller children, and will NEVER take any children or young people to the floor. Let’s look at these in turn.

(i) Operating a proactive rather than a reactive policy implies that the school will seek to resolve serious and habitual behaviours before they happen rather than afterwards. This involves not waiting for the behaviour to occur but listening to the behaviours, and crucially ACTING on such communications, because these behaviours are telling us something, usually involving ‘I don’t want to do this or to be here’ and/or ‘I need attention’. This is I accept, a fairly simplistic interpretation, and if you want more depth I have put a reading list at the bottom of this post. The principle is however, sound. If we merely follow the physical intervention training, whoever it is from, we are in real danger of waiting for the behaviour to happen in order to distract or defuse or guide away or hold, because naturally, that’s what the training is about.

(ii) Regarding any physical intervention as a ‘failure’ naturally springs from the proactive policy. If schools are regularly holding and/or restraining, and particularly if they are regularly holding and/or restraining specific (named) children/young people, their proactive policy is clearly not working. Holding and/or restraining is not good for anyone, the child, the staff, the parents, society at large. Two recent BBC programmes (one on the radio, one on TV) highlighted the potentially catastrophic and illegal consequences of regular restraint. Of course things will occasionally go wrong, and schools therefore need training in guiding children to a safe place, but even this must not become the norm, and if it is, this must be a serious cause for concern.
(iii) Not using static holds, forces schools to think inventively about enabling learners to take control of their own behaviour. That is, static holds are about overpowering, forcing children to be still, and give the message that if you can’t control your own behaviour, I will control it for you. This is however, an extraordinarily negative message. We should be teaching learners to take responsibility for their own behaviour, and they’ll never be able to do that when they’re pinned to a chair or to the floor. Using guiding holds such as a two person single elbow, or a single person double elbow or (as the least intrusive) a caring C guide above the elbow (these are all Team Teach names, but I believe that other organisations use similar holds) enables staff to guide the learner to a safe space where they can come down in their own time. I fully accept that such a policy needs careful planning and thought and of course space, but if the proactive policy – listening to the behaviours and acting on the learners’ communications – are done well, there will be no need for static holds and a considerably reduced need for guiding holds.

The point about this is that the rejection of static holds significantly reduces the need for two day initial training and one day follow up training and schools do perhaps need to be much more insistent about devising a policy that suits them. I would suggest that the initial training should revolve around simple ‘escapes’, safe spaces, and the guiding holds noted above, which would take one day at the most. I personally would be much more concerned with ensuring that all staff have understood and agreed on a proactive policy, because that will ensure that reactive strategies, such as escapes and guiding holds are kept to an absolute minimum. I am certainly not accusing physical handling training organisations of operating a cash cow, but there is not a legal minimum standards training requirement, and these organisations have a moral responsibility to try and keep schools’ costs to a minimum by advising them on ‘appropriate’ levels of training. BILD (the British Institute of Learning Disabilities) currently accredits some 40 physical intervention training organisations, but there is no legal sanction to this and it is not an Ofsted or DfE requirement that organisations who train schools are on this list. It should be noted for example that Team Teach, one of the biggest organisations currently working in special schools, are no longer on BILD’s list.

Finally, and crucially, the rejection of static holds also leads to a realignment of risk. If schools are only using guiding holds to enable learners to get to a safe space as quickly as possible, the ‘risk’ factor, that is, the risk of using invasive and potentially dangerous restrictive holds, becomes significantly reduced. Special schools who regard challenging behaviour as normal (Hewett, 1998) are usually much less likely to make a crisis out of an everyday event, and are actually, probably significantly better at the whole issue of working with CB than the traditionally low risk mainstream school. This low risk assessment also has a knock on effect on retraining, so that schools might think of an additional hour or so after school just to ensure that that standard guiding holds noted above are understood and remembered. This training can of course, be done by the school’s own trainers.

In conclusion therefore, I would suggest that special schools invest much more time in ensuring a proactive behaviour philosophy, and much less time on learning holds and strategies they probably shouldn’t be using in the first place. This would make for a considerably reduced training and re-training obligation, save time and money, and lead schools towards a safer, more positive practice which is better for learners, staff, parents/carers and society in general.

Peter Imray

Hewett D (1998b). Challenging Behaviour is Normal in P Lacey and C Ouvry (eds) People with Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties. London. David Fulton.

Reading List

Amid the plethora of books on challenging behaviour there are (still!) very few books relating to CB and PMLD/SLD. In which case the old ones are probably the best if you can get hold of them, namely

Harris J, Cook M and Upton G (1996). Pupils with Severe Learning Disabilities who present Challenging Behaviour. Kidderminster. BILD.

Harris J, Hewett D and Hogg J (2001). Positive Approaches to Challenging Behaviour. Kidderminster. BILD.

For more up to date thoughts I would advise looking at

Imray P (2017) (2nd ed) Turning the Tables on Challenging Behaviour. London. Routledge.

Imray P and Hewett D (2015) Challenging Behaviour and the curriculum in P Lacey, R Ashdown, P Jones, H Lawson and M Pipe (eds) The Routledge Companion to Severe, Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties. London. Routledge.

And finally, still the best book on ASD and SLD
Jordan R (2001). Autism with Severe Learning Difficulties. London. Souvenir Press.

by Peter Imray on 29th March 2017

SMART targets are not the best way to set learning intentions for either SLD or PMLD, and may indeed be the worst way. There are a number of reasons for this:

  • they make motivational teaching problematic and therefore take away the necessary condition of target ownership
  • they can appear to offer clarity of purpose but actually limit opportunities to learn
  • they tend to rule out a constant learning approach by narrowly focussing achievement
  • they can be over-reliant on shallow, rote learned facts and skills

A google search reveals that SMART targets seem to have been first devised by George Doran, an American businessman, in the early 1980’s. What is also interesting is that the acronym has changed over the years with a number of versions being on offer. I have long been confused by Achievable and Realistic since I can’t see how they differ from each other. Haughey (2014) for example prefers Agreed Upon, whilst the original from Doran (1981) offered Assignable. Both ‘A’s directly infer something fundamental to the origins of SMART targets but which are missing in later educational versions, that is, the centrality of ownership. For Haughey, the ownership of the target and the motivation to succeed at the target are key to the achievement of that target, and of course this must be so. If someone is not motivated, why would they expend time and energy on achievement? The first fundamental principles of any mnemonic must be that it makes sense and I would therefore suggest that whatever the A and R might stand for, they must, if they are to remain true to the original sense of the mnemonic, effectively mean ownership and motivation. They CANNOT remain as Achievable AND Realistic, because neither of these is directly related to motivation.
As it appears however, that the educational version of SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound) is not entirely true to the original, this creates even more additional problems when related to those with SLD and PMLD. Taking Penny Lacey’s 2010 questioning of SMART targets as a starting point, she refers back to the principles of ‘assessment for learning’ by looking at the educational purpose of assessment. This may in turn she argues, be derived from Black et al’s (2003) seminal work on the subject.
(Black et al’s) assessment for learning is concerned with how assessment can inform teaching and learning: how evidence from learning is used to plan what comes next. Learners’ voices are at the heart of assessment for learning as they decide what they are going to learn and how they are going to learn it. (Lacey, 2010, 17, my empahasis).
This again comes back to ownership and my overarching concern that learners with PMLD and SLD will, by the very nature of their learning difficulties, have targets thrust upon them. More on this later.

Ensuring the target has been achieved
The logic behind SMART is that un SMART, fuzzy, or perhaps SCRUFFY targets make it difficult to ascertain whether the target has been successfully achieved. This does however, very much depend on the specificity of the target and the degree of achievement. It is possible to have a loose learning intention and a varying degree of achievement, as for example, when achievement is (i) less than expected (ii) expected (iii) more than expected on a scale of three; or when achievement is (i) a lot less than expected (ii) less than expected (iii) expected (iv) more than expected (v) a lot more than expected on a scale of five. SLD and PMLD teaching and assessment has a long history of using similar gradations, as in the achievement of a target never, occasionally, frequently or consistently.
This point is strengthened when one considers that it might be overly and in the end, self-defeatingly simplistic to be so black and white in the assessment of achievement. A SMART target is achieved or it is not achieved, there is no room for dubiety; but I wonder if life is like that for anyone. I start my day with a list of 10 things to do; is my day a failure if I only achieve 7 on this list. Probably not, in fact this could be considered a considerable success. What about achieving 4, is that a success or a failure? Well it could be either, especially if I’ve actually achieved a couple of somethings that were not on my list at the start of the day but still needed doing. This is the great advantage of NOT having a black and white, all or nothing approach, since we are not closing ourselves off to accidental or additional learning, or indeed gradations of achievement. This might be considered to be a constant learning approach which constantly looks for learning opportunities, irrespective of what has been planned. Simply because an achievement has not been forecast does not mean that the achievement is not worthwhile.

Motivation must be a key to learning
Further, within the SMART concept, both Specific and Time Bound present real difficulties especially when the targets are being chosen for the learner, as will be inevitable with learners with very complex needs and severe/profound communication difficulties.
GAS (Goal Attainment Schedule) as defined by Turner-Stokes (2016) and used by a few special schools to determine ‘good’ progress, derives from the NHS and specifically appears in relation to rehabilitation. This means that the SMART target agreed on with the patient has to have the patient’s clear approval, otherwise s/he won’t co-operate in its attainment. Medical staff may push the patient further than the patient believes s/he can go, but the patient must believe that some progress is both desirable and achievable. That is, the individual must be able to perceive the big picture to be able to work out that the pain, discomfort and effort is worthwhile. If a pupil with PMLD or SLD cannot see that big picture (because they have PMLD or SLD!) encouraging them to ignore, overcome, look beyond the pain/discomfort/effort becomes incredibly difficult and entirely reliant on short term rewards. This will do nothing for generalisation because the isolated activity is actively divorced from the big picture.

Limiting opportunities to learn
GAS works as a measure of ‘good’ because it factors in (i) the desirability of the achievement and (ii) the difficulty of the achievement and multiplies these (in a very complicated mathematical formula) by the rate of progress in scale of 3 or 5 noted above.
Unfortunately, in the world of SLD/PMLD education, staff may well be pushing learners to achieve a specific something that they have no interest in achieving, or may not be able to achieve when they want to achieve it. Let us take for example, a broad (and very un SMART) learning intention ‘to encourage William towards independent movement’ arrived at through multi-disciplinary discussions which included William’s family. To smarten this loose learning intention up, we can use our knowledge that William (who is working consistently and over time at around P6) loves the sensory room and enjoys following the sensory trails that the school uses to enable independent movement throughout the school. A SMART target can then be devised, to the effect that ‘William will follow a tactile track and stop at the sensory room object five times a week’. This assumes his continued desire to travel to the sensory room, but has all sorts of automatic limitations built in. How often is the sensory room free? Is there staffing available to escort him when he can go? What will be the point of travelling to the sensory room if he can’t spend time in there? Will he have the energy and the desire to go when the sensory room is available? Does this mean that he is only working on his movement target 5 times a week, and if so why? If we make this 15 times a week, won’t this just increase the complications of sensory room and supporting staff availability?
Such specifics may well have the effect of restricting Wlliam’s opportunities to learn because it makes the generalisation of any specific skill learned, particularly difficult. When the purpose of the goal is to encourage him towards independent movement, narrowing this into one particular movement in one particular place at one particular time (when the sensory room is free) doesn’t make sense. If we have the freedom to explore the opportunities for a much looser learning intention, we may find 55 (rather than 5 or 15) weekly opportunities for extending his learning through a SCRUFFY (Student-led, Creative, Relevant, Unspecified, Fun, For, Youngsters) approach. In the interests of engaging with SMART targets we may well have to narrow the learning not broaden it. And it is difficult to see what benefits there are to this. Penny Lacey’s warning of the dangers of narrowing broad aims into SMART targets (Lacey, 2010) should not automatically be put to one side on the basis of her whimsy, though there is undoubtedly an element of tongue in cheek about the word. SCRUFFY targets allow staff and learners to explore LOTS of different avenues to achieve the same desired goal, and because there will not be a single road to travel, as in a SMART target, learners are able to exercise far more control in the direction and pace the of learning as well as maintaining their motivation and experience generalising opportunities to learn.

The dominance of shallow, rote learned skills
‘Sometimes, when assessing children’s calculation skills, rote learning can mask underlying procedural or conceptual difficulties. A child may know that ‘3+2 is 5’, in the same way as they know their sister’s name is Phoebe. However, it should not be assumed that the child understands how to add up, or what is meant by the word ‘add’. Assessment should therefore consider children’s understanding of procedures and principles as well as the ability to recall number facts.’ (Gillum, 2014; p279/80 author’s emphasis).
We need to continue to be aware of valuing only that which can be easily measured, since this this is likely to lead to compartmentalisation of learning, followed by compartmentalisation of achievement. Little thought or consideration is given to contextualised, deep and meaningful learning that makes sense to the learner and which the learner can actually use. Shallow learning – the rote remembering of unrelated or isolated facts or skills – is given high priority because assessment of progress is considered the most important part of teaching. One of the most significant pronouncements of the Rochford Review (2016) was to recognise that an over-reliance on assessment leads to teaching to the next step schemas which then drive the curriculum. Such schemas make much of rote learned ‘abilities’ which may in fact, not be abilities at all because understanding is so often absent.

In conclusion, SMART targets for pupils and students with either profound or severe learning difficulties may well be stupid, because they can form a barrier to both learning and achievement by being overly prescriptive. The SMART target approach is unfortunately, yet another example of theories applicable to neuro-typical, conventionally developing learning that are universally applied without thought. They are I would suggest, neither helpful nor smart.

Peter Imray, March 2017.


Black P, Harrison C, Lee C, Marshall B and William D (2003). Assessment for Learning: putting it into practice. Maidenhead. Open University Press.

Doran G T (1981) There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives. Management Review: 70 (11) 35-36.

Gillum J (2014) Assessment with children who experience difficulty in mathematics. Support for Learning. 29 (3) 275-291

Haughey D (2014) A Brief History of Smart Goals. Available at https://www.projectsmart.co.uk/brief-history-of-smart-goals.php Accessed 12th February 2017

Lacey P (2010) Smart and Scruffy Targets. The SLD Experience. 57: 16-21.

Rochford Review(2016) Final Report www.gov.uk/government/publications/rochford-review-final-report

Turner-Stokes L (2016) Goal Attainment Scaling (GAS) in Rehabilitation: A practical guide. London. Kings College.

Available at https://www.kcl.ac.uk/lsm/research/divisions/cicelysaunders/attachments/Tools-GAS-Practical-Guide.pdf


People may wish to read a very recent SLD forum post, which is in italics, and my response, which is not, both below. I am becoming increasingly interested in this issue of non-engagement in the formal education system. The traditional response seems to be an automatic rejection of the learner’s point of view by the education system as it stands, and I wonder whether we ought to be seriously reviewing this approach. It would not be difficult to imagine this young man in five years time as now having a label of ‘mental health’ problems as seemingly do all of the children who express what used to be called Social Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties (SEBD) and is now called Social, Emotional and Mental Health Needs (SEMH) in the UK at least. I find it VERY disturbing that overt rejection of the norm is now automatically described as madness!

We have a student with a diagnosis of ASD and Tourette’s.  He is working at about L2/3 NC level (old money) – he is 13 ½ .

The Tourette’s developed in the last couple of years.  He has always been very distractible but this is increasing to the extent that he can only focus for a few seconds at a time.  For example he often can’t get through a whole sentence without losing focus and retreating into his mind.   He can attend for long periods of time on favoured activities (talking about video games, drawing).  These favoured activities may be interrupted by tics and some noises but only for a few seconds.

He has tics and some noises associated with the Tourette’s but he is also almost permanently playing out a fantasy video game in his head that has accompanying noises and hand movements.  He describes this as dreaming the game and sometimes he enjoys this and may laugh to himself and sometimes, when asked to focus, he might say, with a little distress, ‘but I just can’t stop the dreams’.

He is also developing what might be OCD type behaviours (tapping books on table several times, touching hand rail in a particular way) and whilst I am on my steep OCD learning curve I wonder if there are any strategies to inhibit the development of OCD?

We are struggling to unpick what is an ASD type internal world/special interest, what is Tourette’s and what is OCD.   We are waiting for a follow up on the Tourette’s diagnosis.

We use visual timetables and a work schedule, motivators, time out, breaks, social stories and other visuals to try to alert him to his lack of focus and ‘game playing’ but as we aren’t entirely sure what is internal world stuff and what is Tourette’s I am worried we may do more harm than good.  We have also tried to work with his parents to change the amount of time he spends on computer games at home.

Has anyone got any ideas about how we can unpick what is causing his huge difficulty and any strategies to help this boy spend enough time in the real world to learn.





Hi J

This is very interesting and is perhaps a typical example of the wave of very complex learners that all schools (and especially all special schools) have been increasingly involved with over the last 10 years or so. These are the learners that Barry Carpenter calls ‘new generation’ and who are ‘pedagogically bereft’ (Carpenter et al, 2016; Carpenter, 2011), that is, disengaged with and from the education system. It is not that your young man cannot concentrate and attend, he can clearly do that very well indeed, it’s that he does not wish and sees no purpose to concentrating and attending to stuff that for him is boring and meaningless. The problem is, he has a point! Unfortunately the UK education system is set up to condition people to be like ourselves; the subjects are the ones we worked on, the school/class/learning structure is the one known and familiar to us, the outcomes are the ones we want for ourselves, which might loosely be described as ‘helping this boy spend enough time in the real world to learn’. But to learn what, and what for? Clearly, whatever the ‘real world’ is to him does not involve him doing the stuff that you want him to do. So he disengages by slipping into his own world and daydreaming, and the older he gets the more powerful this tactic becomes. Perhaps we should count our blessings as at least he is not displaying extremes of challenging behaviour, as so many others do.

It might however help if we looked at his area of special interest in a different way, that is from his perspective. Were for example his obsessional behaviours directed to a cause that you and the school could perceive as being ‘useful’, matters might be different. I would imagine that Mozart’s, Turner’s and Einstein’s ‘education’ involved very little other than music, art and maths respectively otherwise they would not have become the geniuses that they were. They were allowed to do this because their educators could see these ‘obsessions’ as being central to their lives. They didn’t want their charges to have an education like everyone else and be like everyone else. Our education system demands that we try and make children think like us, learn like us, be like us, have our ambitions and dreams, live in our real world. That is fine for most, but clearly not for all.

It sounds to me that you are doing all the right things in your attempts to steer him out of his preferences and towards a more rounded education with your emphasis on ‘visual timetables and a work schedule, motivators, time out, breaks, social stories and other visuals’. But it will require his co-operation, and it seems that he is not willing to give it!

Student voice must be listened to if education is not just going to be about educating those who are willing to comply. This means listening to behaviours and acting upon what these behaviours are telling us, not merely insisting that everyone does the same. We must give children and young people a reason to belong, and whilst it may be ideal that this happens in the same classroom, in the same school and studying the same curriculum, the evidence tells us that this is not possible, however much we might like it to be so. Sadly, there is a now real question to be asked within our current education system; would we now allow Mozart and Turner and Einstein to focus on their areas of special interest so that they could become the best that they could be and do the best that they could do? Probably not!

All the best

Peter Imray



Carpenter B (2011) Pedagogically Bereft!: improving learning outcomes for children with foetal alcohol spectrum disorders. British Journal of Special Education. 38 (1) 38-43.

Carpenter B, Carpenter J, Egerton J and Cockbill B (2106) The Engagement for Learning Framework: connecting with learning and evidencing progress for children with autism spectrum conditions. Advances in Autism. 2 (1); 12-23.

by EQUALS on JANUARY 24, 2017

Hi All
I’ve been working on a post-Rochford Basket of Assessment Approach (after Swiss Cottage School, 2014) and I thought some people may be interested. This is my updated version.

Some explanatory points.
(i). Despite having looked at lots of different alternatives I’m still of the view that MAPP (for SLD) and Routes (or Quest) for Learning for PMLD are the most convincing. I understand Mike Sissons is re-writing MAPP, but in any event I’d be surprised if he radically changed the Continuum of Skill Development (CSD) that is the heart beat of MAPP or the principle of spread sheet recording which makes quantitative measurements SO much easier. It is perfectly possible to put any learning intention, including any derived from RfL, into the MAPP spreadsheet and this means that both MAPP and RfL are ideal for both qualitative and quantitative data. There seems little doubt however, that schools’ use of both MAPP and RfL must be completely wholehearted. It is not possible to pick these off the shelf at the end of every year (or even term) and expect them to work effectively. All school staff need to be really comfortable with how they work and that takes time and commitment.

(ii)  There is no denying that SCERTS is very good, giving lots of detailed and cross-disciplinary information, but it is also very complex and very time consuming. It is the old adage of the more you put in the more you get out; however, I am not convinced that the additional information gained from the SCERTS process is worth the extra effort, time and complexity involved. This is especially so with a Basket of Assessments Approach because this very process views the assessment through a number of different angles and perspectives anyway.

(iii)  There seems no reason to stop using the P scales as a broad academic assessment, even though Rochford suggests we will no longer have to use them as a statutory assessment tool. The P scales have always provided a common language and an essential part of both SLD and PMLD definitions and a simple yearly single P scale assessment gives invaluable information. The point with this is however, not to spend a huge amount of time on assessing the yearly P scale attainment, since the detailed information will be obtained from other sources such as MAPP and RfL. This means that more intense P scale measurements like Pivats are largely pointless since you will want (and need) to know that a learner is still on P4 or now on P7, though believing that a learner is P4 (iii) or P7 (ii) brings very little extra to the table. I do not believe that there are any circumstances where the use of B Squared can be justified.

(iv)  The middle sections are directly related to Rochford and depend on whether pupils are engaged with ‘subject specific learning’ (SSL) or not. I take this to be National Curriculum (NC) subjects, particularly Maths and English, and is a recognition that SSL may not be the optimal model for all children. Again, this is a judgement call, but for me it is MUCH more difficult to build a case for any NC subject, including English and Mathematics (and by reference Literacy and Numeracy) for those with SLD and PMLD since it is a defining characteristic that all those with SLD and PMLD will be working consistently and over time at levels below (and usually well below) the subject’s starting point (DfE, 2012; Imray and Colley, in print). Having the start of a curriculum model as the summit of ambition cannot be a healthy state of affairs for either pedagogy or curriculum and might indeed, constitute a startling lack of ambition for all learners on the PMLD and SLD spectrums!

(vi)  The IPKeS Standards OR the Engagement Scales are Rochford requirements but only up to KS2. It is interesting to note that Rochford is entirely silent on KS3, 4 and 5. I cannot believe that KS3 will continue to be subject to the P scales and can therefore only assume that Rochford takes the (unspoken) view that if pupils haven’t got the 3R’s by the time they’re 11, they’re probably not going to get them. This seems to me to be an eminently sensible position.

(vii)  Rochford is very clear that a wide variety of evidence is going to be increasingly important, and one must assume that this should include qualitative evidence.

Rather than following the letter of the P scales, it is much more important that knowledge, concepts and skills are acquired in a range of contexts and situations, according to a varied and stimulating curriculum. Assessment should be similarly varied to evaluate pupils’ attainment and progress in different ways according to their age, interests and needs. (Rochford Review, 2016, p14)

We need therefore to make sure that any qualitative evidence is as robust as possible and the best way of doing that is through extended longitudinal studies of as many learners as we can, and perhaps even, all learners in the school. The use of digital recording opportunities makes this a much less onerous option than even 10 years ago, especially as teachers are likely to be using such evidence within MAPP and RfL anyway. Kate Davies of the SLD Forum (and of Ash Lea School in Nottingham) speaks highly of Evidence for Learning as a suitable app for collation of qualitative evidence.

(vii)  I have put it in but I remain sceptical of the benefits of KS4 and KS5 accreditation schemes such as offered by ASDAN and others, though many may well be used as schemes of work. I do not see how Ofsted can take seriously any accreditation scheme that only requires continued life to guarantee a pass, and failure is impossible. The work required of staff (rather than students!) is however considerable, and quite possibly an unnecessary distraction since no worthwhile summative or formative information can be forthcoming from the actual accreditation procedure.

(viii)  Given the DfE’s (2015) suggestion that all schools need to follow up on post school outcomes, it seems pertinent to spend some time researching what happens to learners after they leave school. One would assume that this to a degree, should inform curriculum development, since the curriculum should in large part be related to preparing learners for their next stage, whatever that may be.

In relation to external moderation, Rochford are keen that schools form monitoring clusters and it makes sense that schools open themselves up to a ‘critical friend’ approach in order to ensure that any and all data is as objectively reached as possible.

One final issue, still to be resolved: how do schools judge ‘good’ progress? This is a REALLY thorny problem. I can point people to GAS (Goal Attainment Scaling) commonly used to assess levels of rehab in the NHS, and clicking on the link referenced in Turner-Stokes (2016) below gives you a free download of the principles and a handy set of guides on how to use them. GAS works on the basis of quite a complex mathematical formula which factors in both difficulty and relevance of targets, though thankfully, an excel spreadsheet provided makes this easier to assess. Be cautious however, because they’re keen on SMART targets and Penny Lacey’s warning that those with PMLD are ‘poor consumers of SMART targets’ (Lacey, 2009) surely also applies to most with SLD as well.

I am worried that Ofsted’s obsession with defining good progress will lead us into the same sort of cul-de-sacs that the P scales led us and perhaps we need to have another debate around SMART and SCRUFFY targets, but this post is long enough already!

All the best

Peter Imray

DfE (2012) Glossary of special educational needs (SEN) terminology. Accessed 8th February 2016.

DfE (2015) Commission on Assessment without Levels. Final Report Accessed 26th November 2015.

Imray P and Colley A (in print) Inclusion is Dead: Long Live Inclusion. London. Routledge.

Kiresuk T and Sherman R (1968) Goal attainment scaling: a general method of evaluating comprehensive mental health programmes. Community Mental Health Journal. 4: 443-453.

Lacey P. (2009) Developing Thinking and Problem Solving Skills. The SLD Experience. 54: 19-24.

Rochford Review (2016) The Rochford Review: final report. Review of assessment for pupils working below the standard of national curriculum tests. Standards and Testing Agency.

Turner-Stokes L (2016) Goal Attainment Scaling (GAS) in Rehabilitation: A practical guide. London. Kings College.

by Peter Imray on the 1st DECEMBER 2016

I recently posted new definitions of Severe Learning Difficulties (SLD) and Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties (PMLD) written by Andrew Colley and myself on the SLD Forum, asking for comments and views. I was hoping that I would get some intelligent responses that would enhance the definitions and so it proved. The piece below is a summation of the comments along with the revised definitions of the two groups’ learning characteristics.

There have been a couple of ‘concerns’ over the fraught issue of labelling, that is, the fear that putting a label on a child will merely encourage teachers to teach to that label, to not see beyond the label; that knowing the individual is much more important than knowing about the label; and at the more extreme ‘ableist’ end, that there is no such thing as a child with autism or Down’s or SLD or PMLD, there is only the child. Yes, we understand these concerns, but they are clearly concerns that have no faith in the teaching profession as being thinking, sentient beings. Of course one child with autism or Down’s or SLD or PMLD is not the same as every child with autism or Down’s or SLD or PMLD. Why would they be? It’s like saying that one child with glasses is the same as every child with glasses. Why would they be? I do not know of any good teacher who does not have a clear understanding that all children are different and all children are themselves, individual, unique. BUT, some children share common learning characteristics and it is extraordinarily useful for teachers to know that children with autism are likely to have difficulties with …………… and children with PMLD are likely to have difficulties with ……………To not know this and to not be prepared for this because we don’t like the idea of ‘labels’ seems to me to be both unprofessional and unnecessary. Further, these are defining learning characteristics, they do not define the child, any more than the wearing of glasses defines the child. Good teachers will not be limited by the label; they will see it as a starting point. Inexperienced teachers may initially see it as an end point but will soon learn, as all inexperienced teachers learn, to see the child behind the label. Poor teachers may well however, only see the label. To base a pedagogy on the failings of poor teachers seems to us irresponsible, crass and immensely disrespectful to the vast majority of teachers who understand that to regard someone has having PMLD or SLD does not and never will, define the child. And so we come full circle; if we’re going to have the terms, they might as well be concise and make sense!

As for the definitions themselves, there were several questions over our over egging the ‘multiple’ of Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties, so that it appeared as though the learner had to have multiple physical difficulties. We agree that this is not the case, that is, it is perfectly possible for someone to have a profound learning difficulty without necessarily having attendant and multiple physical difficulties. We have altered the definition accordingly. There was also a question mark over the suggestion that children with PMLD might use formal language. We agree that that this, though possible, is very rare and again, have altered the description. Lastly there were several posts which questioned the use of the P scales as markers of academic ability because the Rochford Review had recommended that they cease as a statutory measure of assessment. However, their cessation as a statutory measure does not mean that we should cease using them as a common language of approximate cognitive developmental levels. The Rochford Review (rightly) accepted that they were not fit for purpose as a comparative measure of attainment, but they were never designed for that in the first place, so this is hardly surprising. There is however, an extremely strong case for continuing to use the P scales as broad markers and to make them more internationally known, simply because they do provide that common language.

Here then are the two definitions re-defined, with the considerable help from the SLD Forum, and considerable thanks from Andrew and me.

Pupils with profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD) are on a spectrum that indicates that they have profoundly complex learning needs. In addition to profound learning difficulties, pupils are likely, but not axiomatically, to have other significant difficulties such as physical disabilities, sensory impairment and/or severe medical condition(s). Pupils require a high level of adult support, both for their learning needs and also for their personal care. They are likely to need sensory stimulation and will need a curriculum which recognises that all learners will to a greater or lesser degree, have difficulties with object permanence, contingency awareness, declarative communications, making choices, learning by imitation and following instruction. Some pupils communicate by gesture, eye pointing or symbols and a very few by very simple single word language. They will be working academically, consistently, and over time, within P-scale range P1-P3, perhaps reaching some elements of P4, throughout their whole school careers to the age of 19 and beyond. (Imray and Colley, in print)

Pupils with severe learning difficulties (SLD) are on a spectrum which indicates that they have significant intellectual and cognitive impairments and may also have difficulties in mobility and coordination. Pupils may use objects of reference, sign, symbols and/or language to communicate, though all will to a greater or lesser degree have severe communication difficulties, which will affect both expressive and receptive communication skills. Other difficulties will be experienced to a greater or lesser degree in understanding abstract concepts, maintaining concentration and attention, retrieving both short term and long term memory, utilising sequential memory, exercising working memory, processing information, retrieving general knowledge, thinking, problem solving, and generalising previously learned skills. They will be working academically, consistently, and over time, within the P scale range P4-P8 for all of their school careers to the age of 19 and beyond, though some may reach into the opening levels of a neuro-typical academic curriculum such as the UK or Australian National Curriculums or a US Standards Based Curriculum. (Imray and Colley, in print)

(November 2016)


Imray P and Colley A (in print) Inclusion is Dead: Long Live Inclusion. Oxford. Routledge.

Where are we now?

Policy Paper Summary

This policy paper is based on a whole day seminar which enabled an early review of the new SEN / disability policy and legislation and which was organised by the SEN Policy Research Forum in June 2016.

Impact of the legislation on parental assurance by Brian Lamb (Consultant): Brian concluded that the reforms are in the context of a major squeeze on LA and Health budgets. Limits to the ability to deliver a reasonable level of provision could undermine some clear gains intended by the reforms. Early evidence suggests that while there is more to do to achieve a decisive shift in culture, parent carer forums are having a positive effect on strategic planning through the Local Offer and the Schools Information Report. For new recipients, the EHC Plan process is working for a majority of families in improving confidence and co-production. However, evidence from wider parent carer surveys and the recent acceleration in tribunal cases indicates some doubts about whether the system has secured the confidence of a significant number of families.

Impact of the legislation on school practices and SENCO role by Kate Browning (SENCo trainer): Kate concluded that the reforms for the most part have had a positive impact on the SENCO role and school practices, particularly when school leadership embraces the reform principles, such as collaboration with parents and carers of children and young people with SEN and recognition of the importance of the SENCo role. However, the SEND reforms are affected by shifts in mainstream educational policy and practice that are not aligned with improving SEND outcomes. Individual schools, multi academy trusts and local areas are taking different approaches to the implementation of the reforms which calls for more detailed research.

Impact of legislation from a national perspective by Andre Imich (SEN and Disability Professional Adviser, DFE): Andre concluded that implementation was moving forward positively; the varied evidence indicating that the vision for the new system was starting to be embedded. The examples of success need to be celebrated, but there remain significant roads to travel as the process involves an evolutionary process of change. The volume of transfers from statements to EHC plans, the capacity of local authorities, and difficulties in fully realising joint-agency working continue to challenge the system. Nevertheless, most of those involved in the SEN system believe in the new ways of working, in co-production with families and in embracing collectively the opportunities afforded to achieve improved outcomes and life chances.

Impact of the legislation on local authorities by Chris Harrison (SEND consultant): Chris concluded that reforms had sparked welcome changes by shifting ways of working through engagement with families. Though the reforms are ‘the right thing to do’, their implementation has proved a major challenge with uneven change across LAs. The reforms came at a time of austerity which has led to financial constraints, restructuring and the refocusing of LA attention away from schools. He suggests some simple ways to prevent LAs slipping into a negative cycle.

Peter Imray (November 2016)

The paper is also available for downloading at:

SEN Policy Research Forum – blogs.exeter.ac.uk