Whether a primary, secondary or higher education teacher, it’s likely there will be children or young people in your class who struggle with a special educational need (SEN) of some form. Often, these children will have a PEN portrait, some might have an EHCP and all teachers and teaching assistants will know the challenges to learning these individuals experience.
When I was a teacher, I worked in a mainstream school with a high percentage of children with SEN. One year, in my Year One class 19 out of 31 children had a barrier to their learning. And whilst this meant I didn’t reach the government’s target of the percentage of children who passed the Phonics Screening, I learnt a lot about behaviour management and differentiation that year. Most lessons had to be differentiated about seven ways to ensure the higher ability children were stretched as well as the larger group of lower-ability children were scaffolded depending on their prior learning and whether I had additional adults in the classroom. It’s easy to think you can plan a lesson for ‘the lowers, the middlies and the tops’, but as teachers, we know this is never the case. Sarah is deaf in one ear and has a speech and language impediment, William has cerebral palsy and is in a wheelchair with one-to-one support (most of the time), Richy has an EHCP because he has ADHD, autism, and can barely form letters. Then we have Rosie who has severe attachment issues from her complex home life and she cries and screams at the start of each day and just before home time. Ben has Tourette’s and severe behaviour outbursts; kicking and punching children over colouring-pencil squabbles and runs out of the classroom as soon as he’s asked to sit at his desk. Meanwhile, Ria is reading Harry Potter books at the age of five and is prone to switching off at the mention of ‘phonics’ because she can read unfamiliar words with all the split-digraphs*.
The day-to-day life of a teacher is not easy. Proving progress and providing evidence is a challenge in itself when the children with these complex needs make small increments of progress that aren’t catered for in standardised assessment tools. This is where EdTech Lobby’s new partner, PAGS® (through Felser) comes in. PAGS® (Profile, Assessment and Goal Setting) is a comprehensive assessment tool that covers four areas:
- Communication and Interaction
- Cognition and Learning
- Social Interaction and Awareness.
By drilling down within these four core areas, teachers can be confident of the required steps to support children in their learning and development. Following a baseline assessment, realistic targets are set and PAGS® provides strategies and resources to support the teacher to help the learner. Intuitive to the fact that individuals don’t always make progress, it also assesses regression and adapts goals accordingly. Using the platform, teachers and teaching assistants can take photos and make comments as key evidence towards a child’s goals. Evidence input can be saved and paused in the likely scenario of a child running into the classroom with a bleeding knee – evidencing towards a profile goal can be resumed when there’s stillness in the classroom again.
The PAGS® tool is accessible by all key adults in a learner’s life and profile and progress reports can be shared with SENCos and parents; full of rich data and evidence of progress, even if the learner hasn’t increased by two book bands or understands how to convert fractions to decimals!
PAGS® assesses the whole child and the holistic approach ensures the key adults in a child’s life provide support to progress towards the child’s goals. Moreover, the tool is connected to the child, this means that if a child changes school, their PAGS® profile moves with them and teachers can see the steps in their learning journey. By supporting children’s development within these core areas, children are better equipped to achieve in their academic learning, no matter which curriculum the learner is following. I wish I had PAGS® when I was a teacher.
*all names have been changed.