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 –


Click here to view Peter Imray’s report on

The Rochford Review Recommendations: An Analysis.

Firstly, a slight warning; these are recommendations not definites. Other previous government sponsored reviews have made recommendations that have not been carried through – The Salt Review of 2010 recommended distinct teacher training for SLD and PMLD for example. However, given both the DfE’s and Ofsted’s significant involvement in the deliberations and the fact that there are no real cost factors here, I would be very surprised if they were not accepted.

Peter Imray (October 2016).


We were delighted to hear that Bernadette Knill and John Ayres two of the founding Trustees of EQUALS were awarded OBEs in the 2016 New Year’s honours for their services to Special Education. Bernadette recently retired as Head Teacher at Priory Woods School.
click here to read more at Teeside News –

John continues to serve as Principal of The Eden Academy.
click here to read more at West London News –

(February 2016)