New engagement assessments for primary school pupils with the most complex needs – Friday 23 November 2018

This week I report on new engagement assessments for primary school pupils with complex needs, publication of new statistics on child mental health and updated non-statutory guidance on mental health and behaviour in schools, as well as plans for the DfE to publish a list of extra-curricular goals to build pupils’ resilience.

Engagement assessments to be introduced in 2020 for primary school pupils with most complex needs
The DfE has announced a new approach that will enable primary schools to better assess pupils with the most complex needs will be rolled out across the country from 2020. The statutory assessment will replace P scales 1 to 4 and will be based on the ‘7 aspects of engagement’, an assessment approach that focuses on pupils’ abilities in specific areas like awareness, curiosity and anticipation.

The assessment approach will enable every kind of progress made by these pupils to be identified. This addresses a key issue with P scales, which focus on linear progress and this is not always how children with the most complex needs progress. An in-depth review, led by Diane Rochford, has concluded that P scales do not best serve these pupils and recommends an assessment approach that instead focuses on engagement. This was backed by the findings of a pilot that the DfE ran earlier this year.

An expert group, led by Diane Rochford, will now refine the approach based on the findings of the pilot, ready for it to be introduced in all state-funded schools which have pupils not in subject-specific study from 2020.

First official statistics on child mental health published in 14 years and updated non-statutory guidance on mental health and behaviour in schools
The first Government child and adolescent mental health statistics for 14 years have this week been released by NHS Digital. They suggest that around 12.8% of 5 to 19 year olds in England have a clinically impairing mental health condition, equating to around three pupils in an average sized classroom. In the North East the figure was slightly lower at 11.6% (10.5% for boys and 11.6% for girls).

The DfE has recently updated the non-statutory ‘Mental health and behaviour in schools’ guidance to include more information about schools’ responsibilities in relation to mental health and guidelines for identifying behaviour that could be related to a mental health problem. The updated guidance also encourages schools to work collaboratively with external agencies and other professionals to ensure they are providing effective support for all pupils.

Education secretary to publish ‘bucket list’ of extra-curricular goals to build pupils’ resilience
Education secretary Damian Hinds is due to publish a series of extra-curricular goals for pupils to achieve every year which could include exploring a cave, knitting and growing vegetables to develop their resilience.

Building children’s character has been a key theme of Mr Hinds since he joined the Department for Education in January and was mentioned in his first speech as Education Secretary.