New 'aspects of engagement' assessment to replace P-scales

The government has announced that a new testing approach to measure the attainment of pupils with complex disabilities will replace “P-scales” from 2020.

Ministers say the new “aspects of engagement” approach, which will replace P-scales 1 to 4, will address problems over the old system’s focus on “linear progress”.

P-scales are currently used to measure the attainment of pupils working below national curriculum level.

Around 7,000 primary school pupils are currently assessed based on this system because their needs are so complex it would be “inappropriate” to measure their attainment using SATs.

Following a review of the system last year, executive headteacher Diane Rochford recommended that P-scales should be scrapped since they reflected the old national curriculum levels system no longer used in mainstream education.

The government has since admitted that the measure did not work because it focused on linear progress, which is “not always how children with the most complex needs progress”.

The new approach will be based on “seven aspects of engagement”, which focuses on pupils’ abilities in specific areas like awareness, curiosity and anticipation. The approach was was originally developed through a DfE-funded project led by Professor Barry Carpenter in 2011.

Officials say the new assessment will “enable every kind of progress made by these pupils to be identified”.

Following the Rochford review, the government announced it would remove the requirement on schools to assess pupils using the P-levels from 2018-19, but only for “subject-specific learning”.

In May this year, the government published details of new pre-key stage standards for SEND pupils.

Nick Gibb, the schools minister, described the new approach as a “significant milestone in our drive to make sure every child – even those with the most complex needs – receives the highest standard of education and care”.

“We have already introduced education health and care plans that are tailored to children. This new approach to assessment will make sure that individual focused approach is replicated in the classroom.”

Rochford will now lead an expert group to “refine” the new approach based on the findings of a pilot run earlier this year.