This month, in our ongoing feature highlighting the work of members of the UK education suppliers’ trade body BESA, we hear from KENNY WHEELER of Driver Youth Trust, and we find out about diagnostic assessment with NFER Tests.

Using person centred approaches to support vulnerable learners

Kenny Wheeler

There is no denying that schools are very busy places. Good intentions sometimes get compromised because of the rush to get things completed. Having a tick box approach to tasks can mean that corners can get cut and the real benefits of a process can get lost as a result of haste. If we look at vulnerable

learners, then the more we know about them the better equipped we will be in being able to meet their needs within the learning environment. The individuals we see at school are only part of the whole. In order to fully understand someone we need to see the holistic individual. Therein lies the challenge, how can we gain a holistic insight into an individual in a meaningful way when we are rushing to get jobs done? One way to achieve this is the creation of a meaningful one-page

profile. These outline what is important to an individual, what they and others like about themselves and how to best support them. In short, they should reflect the essence of an individual so that staff can connect with them on their level. A person centred approach may involve exploring what a good

day and bad day looks like for an individual. It may be the case that the mood for the day has already been influenced way before the learner arrives at school. If we know that a bad day is in the offing, then we can take steps to avoid it and work with the learner to get them back on track. Good days and bad days then extend into a good week and a bad

week. What is it that makes a good week for a learner? Can we use this to help with motivation or in focussing them during the day? Relationship circles then add another layer of information. Who is

important and closest to me, who do I trust, who is part of my life? It may be that certain individuals in the relationship circle contribute to a bad day, so if we know they are in the young person’s life at a given point in time we can take action to support them. We also look at hopes and aspirations, this doesn’t mean drawing

up a CV for a six year-old but could mean exploring what someone might want to do. Have they thought about Cubs or Brownies or maybe a group of some sort? Could this be an aspiration for them to work towards? It really is about thinking about what is possible for an individual not what might be the expectation (from others). Overall, when this proceeds in a stepped process the information

gathered gives a real, holistic insight into an individual. Not only does the school have a useful one-page profile (amongst other information) they also have a learner who feels valued and listened to and possibly more in control of their own learning, engagement and progress. Where it works well the one-page profile is a live document updated by staff and pupils so they can see their journey over time, great for reminding them about the small steps of progress they have made. It is also extremely useful in supporting effective transition from one year to another and one setting to another.


Diagnostic assessment with NFER Tests

Pocklington Junior School in York is committed to putting learning at the very heart of assessment. This means ensuring that assessment outcomes are used to guide next steps in teaching. Headteacher, Mr Alex Reppold, discusses how NFER Tests fit within the school’s diagnostic approach to assessment. “We administer NFER Tests across the whole school during what we

call ‘Challenge Weeks’. These are pitched positively to pupils and are all about the children challenging themselves to do their best. We use this as a litmus test to see whether children are broadly where they need to be and how we can move learning forward. It allows us to set alarm bells off if we need to or recognise where good progress has been made so we can learn from it.” As well as providing an independent measure of attainment and

progress, NFER Tests produce valuable data to help schools inform ongoing teaching and learning. This includes robust standardised scores and age-standardised scores which allow pupil attainment to be benchmarked nationally, as well as enabling meaningful comparisons between pupils and between groups of pupils within their own school. Using these outcomes, schools can identify strengths and weaknesses at an individual and class level, and detect areas of the curriculum which may need reinforcing. To help schools get the most from their NFER Tests data, teachers

and school leaders benefit from free access to NFER’s time-saving online analysis tool. Here they can record pupil marks, automatically convert these into standardised scores and generate a series of easy- to-interpret reports in just a few clicks. Pocklington involves staff at all levels in the analysis of NFER Tests results in order to maximise their value. Mr Reppold explains: “There is multi-layered diagnostic work that takes place. As a

headteacher, I look at percentages to gain an overarching understanding of attainment and to inform where to allocate resources, such as teaching assistants, within particular year groups or classes. Subject leaders focus on the programme of study and look across the top line at strengths and weakness to inform what areas need more focus and what teachers should be doing in terms of teaching time. Class teachers undertake individual question-level analysis to see where there are gaps in understanding, and identify on a child-by-child basis where extra drop-ins or support may be needed to plug those gaps.” Pocklington Junior School is one of thousands of schools that use

NFER Tests to support teaching and learning. Like many schools, it’s the rigorous development process underpinning NFER Tests that makes them the trusted choice. Mr Reppold continues: “Because they’ve got a decent research base behind them, the tests

mean we can have an impartial judgment against what we are doing and evidence of progress. It’s a structure that I know has been rigorously tested and does stack up in terms of the statistics behind it.”

uFor more information on NFER’s popular range of termly standardised assessments for key stage 1 and 2, visit

June 2019

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