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EQUALS is a not-for-profit registered charity, first formed in 1994, committed to supporting the work of teachers, TAs, schools and parents/carers of pupils with profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD) severe learning difficulties (SLD) and moderate learning difficulties (MLD).

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This forum is for professionals working with pupils with learning difficulties and disabilities (PMLD, SLD and MLD). There are articles and news items from Peter Imray; our Director of Developments and from other EQUALS Trustees. You can also read about new and exciting developments from the EQUALS charity.

We also welcome contributions from members, so should you wish to contribute an item, please email your item to  our Strategic Development Officer; Paul Buskin at paul@equalsoffice.co.uk


I have recently had a query sent to me by a colleague working in an all age special school who have just decided to move over to an Informal, Semi-Formal, Formal Curriculum model, and it struck me that the issues raised relating to the time devoted to Literacy and Numeracy and their relative importance, might be of interest to Equals’ members. The teacher’s questions are in italics followed by my suggestions.

My main concern is for the ASD pupils who have reading/math levels that are old L1. How do you suggest that we support those pupils in the lessons to ensure that they do not lose those skills? Do we teach them a formal curriculum for those subjects? I am concerned that if we don’t continue to teach them those core subjects using the formal curriculum, then they will lose those skills!
 
I’m afraid there is not a definitive answer, since the degree to which you run with a formal/semi-formal combination and how much of either you put into an individual’s timetable will very much depends on a number of factors; these being

    1. Age
    2. Current ability levels 
    3. Potential to get up towards level 4 (old money) 
    4. Interest of the individual learner

1. Age – I would be more inclined towards the formal curriculum model the younger the learner is and by extension, less inclined the older the learner is. Generally speaking, if the learner hasn’t got number by the time they’re 8 or 9 and certainly by the time they’re 11, they’re probably not going to get it to a level that will help.
 
Learners MUST have an abstract understanding of the relationship between every number and every other number if they’re going to have a chance of being numerate, otherwise it just tends to be learning by rote. Rote learning also of course, comes in to reading, and again, learners really need to understand that words themselves are merely abstract symbols representing ideas that are put together to form ever more complex thoughts. The ability to read, so often apparent in learners with ASD, does not signify understanding, otherwise I would be able to understand Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, which I can’t. I can read the words, but have no idea what they mean!
 
The thing about such rote abilities is that they open teachers up to dilemmas of difference – do I carry on teaching literacy and numeracy in the hope that the learner eventually gets it or do I follow a different model knowing that the learner can and will succeed at that? Unfortunately there is no right answer, but I’m not certain that you will be able to do justice to both because both will take up SO much time.

2. Current ability and levels and 3. Potential can be more or less taken together, because both numeracy and especially literacy only really start to make sense from a position of positively helping with ordering and living our lives – that is, helping us to make sense of the very complex world around us – when we get to around level 4 of the National Curriculum, a position achieved by most neuro-typical 10 year olds by the time they leave primary school. If children haven’t already or are not going to (in your and others’ professional opinion) get to those dizzy heights, there doesn’t seem to be much point in spending large amounts of time pursuing the ambition. You may however, spend small amounts of time doing it, and how large or small will be decided by how much this additional work impinges on their making progress within the semi-formal curriculum.
 
Of course the other very important issue that we mustn’t forget here is that simply because you’re not teaching formal Literacy and Numeracy does not mean that your learners are not improving their literacy and numeracy skills. Maths is everywhere and in every thing. All learners will learn HUGE amounts of maths by being able to successfully cross a road, make a pizza, kick a ball, take their feet off the bottom of the pool, traverse across the hall. One doesn’t have to learn formal maths to learn maths! Similarly, we tend to forget that literacy is merely a higher and more complex form of communication, because that’s what it is – communication. Stephen Hawking has not managed to communicate with me and obviously, the complexity of the language used means that he wasn’t trying to communicate with me in the first place. If he was, I have to tell him that he’s failed abysmally! Is that my fault – no! It’s his fault because to be effective and therefore meaningful, the communication MUST be understood by both parties. If it’s not, what’s the point?

4. The individual learner’s particular interest is I think also a key factor – do they like reading, counting, doing sums? Some do, and if they do, why not carry it on, though again how much time you spend on this depends on how this will impinge on their successes in other areas.
Finally, on losing skills, my view would tend to be that rote skills not practised tend to stay pretty solid over time and will come back once practice recommences. That’s what makes them rote skills. And anyway a little bit of practice will largely keep them intact.

In summation, there is unfortunately, no definitive answer – it is a dilemma and dilemmas tend not to have easy answers otherwise they wouldn’t be dilemmas! Trust your judgement as a professional of long standing and experience. Trust the judgements of others you trust – your Senior Leadership Team, your TAs, SaLTs, OTs, Physios. Make a collective judgment on where you think the learner will be academically in 5 years time if you just carried on with a formal curriculum. This may not be entirely accurate (what forecasts are?) but given experience and knowledge you are likely to be broadly correct, that is, within a P scale or two. Trust that collective judgement and make your decisions accordingly.

Peter Imray
3rd October 2018
 


EQUALS has published a ‘Brand New’ Semi-Formal Curriculum, specifically designed and written for learners of all ages with SLD.

The aims of the Schemes of Work project have been

    • to build on the collaborative work of Penny Lacey and Swiss Cottage School;
    • to write outstanding practice schemes of work for non National Curriculum ‘areas of learning’;
    • to involve outstanding teachers in good and outstanding schools throughout England and Wales;
    • to produce schemes of work that are available to all schools on a cost recovery (not for profit) basis through the Equals website;
    • to share best practice within a broad band of stakeholders, including both the DfE and Ofsted.

The general principles governing the schemes of work are that they

    • are developmental in nature and open to personalisation – they start at the beginning of the individual pupil’s learning journey and aim for the highest level of independence possible;
    • cover all stages of education from 2 to 25 (and beyond) but are not directly related to either age or key stage. Learners fit into them where they will according to their individual abilities, interests and learning journey;
    • are not related to the National Curriculum, though the common language of the P scales is occasionally used for ease of understanding.

Below is a short video of just over 11 mins by Peter Imray; our Director of Developments. Peter Imray talks about our brand new Semi-Formal (SLD) Curriculum.

 

To place an order, you can Download an Order Form or Order in Web Shop

 All of the Semi-formal Curriculums are priced at £49.00 + VAT each for Members and £149.00 + VAT for non-members. 

My Citizenship and My Forest School will be available later this academic year.

 

EQUALS Members benefit from significant discounts on EQUALS publications.
The members price for the above publications is only £49 + VAT each.
This involves a saving of £100 + VAT each, compared to Non-members prices

If you would like to become a member of
EQUALS at £120 + VAT for 12 months please click here


To view a preview, please click on a link below

 


Hi all

I am forwarding on a message from Christopher Robertson (Birmingham University) which contains a link to a summary report of Monday 13th July’s Upper Tribunal judgement ruling relating to autism, behaviour and exclusion.

The judge took the view that the Equality Act does not offer sufficient protection against exclusion for children with autism, but I think we can also take this to cover CYP with SLD and PMLD since they can be equally discriminated against when it comes to the view that the behaviour which leads to the exclusion is ‘not a matter of choice’. I am not going to underestimate the significance of this ruling for all schools!!
 
https://www.irwinmitchell.com/newsandmedia/2018/august/aggressive-behaviour-is-not-a-choice-for-autistic-children-jq-671403

All the best

Peter

 


EQUALS National Conference

29th November 2018 – Central London

Our Summer Conference in July 2018 was so popular we have organised this to run again on the 29th November 2018. This is for ‘Alternative Assessment Ideas for Learners of all ages with PMLD and SLD and is again at the NCVO in Central London.

Our conferences are extremely popular and at times fill up fast, so early booking is recommended.  Our autumn conference is already almost full.

Book Online

Application Form


EQUALS Semi-formal SLD Curriculum – SoW – Twilight Workshops

Course Profile

With the Rochford Review confirming that ‘schools already have the freedom to use any curriculum they feel is appropriate for the needs and requirements of…… pupils’ who are not engaged in ‘subject specific learning’, we seek to explore

  • What does subject specific learning mean?
  • Who might be involved in subject specific learning and who might not?
    hat kind of curriculum makes sense for learners with SLD who will only ever be able to succeed (at the very best) up to the very beginnings of the National Curriculum?
  • What kind of curriculum model can enable those with SLD to be the very best that they can be and to do the very best that they can do, irrespective of their level of learning difficulty?

 

Our next twilight workshops are at

John F Kennedy School in London, E15 4RZ. 
on the 9th October 2018 – 4-6:30 pm

Swiss Cottage School in London, NW8 6HX. 
on the 17th October 2018 – 4-6:30 pm

Threeeways School in Bath, BA2 5RF.
on the 24th October 2018 – 4-6:30 pm

Wilson Stuart School in Birmingham, B23 7AT.
on the 6th November 2018 – 4-6:30 pm

Oak Grove College in Worthing, BN13 1JX.
on the 13th November 2018 – 4-6:30 pm

Talbot Specialist School, Sheffield, S8 9JP.
on the 14th November 2018 – 4-6:30 pm

St Ann’s School, Hanwell, London, W7 3JP.
on the 21st November 2018 – 4-6:30 pm

Melland High School, Manchester, M18 7DT.
on the 27th November 2018 – 4-6:30 pm

Costs for the above workshops are:
Only £19 per delegate for EQUALS Members

Download Application

Book Online

 
 
We seem to be in a position of much greater flexibility than we have been for a very long time which makes for extremely exciting and interesting times in curriculum development!

Below is a short video of just over 11 mins by Peter Imray; our Director of Developments.
Peter Imray talks about our brand new Semi-Formal (SLD) Curriculum.

 

To learn more please click here

 


Written by Mike Sissons
and originally developed at The Dales School (North Yorkshire)

MAPP (Semi-Formal) is a suite of materials developed to facilitate the planning, assessment and recording of progress in relation to personal learning intentions.
 
 

 
Whats New in this ‘Semi-Formal’ edition of MAPP?

    • MAPP (Semi-Formal) spreadsheets now generate longitudinal data which provide a graphic presentation of individual progress over time. This process is automated so that no additional administrative burden is placed on teachers
    • Longitudinal data can be transferred from each individual record to a cohort sheet to facilitate reporting and whole school analysis of progress.
    • The MAPP Milestone Statements have been comprehensively rewritten and expanded.
    • A completely new section provides guidance on the implementation of MAPP and addresses the key issue of how to demonstrate that progress is good or better within a framework of personalised assessment.

Below is a short video of almost 11 mins by Mike Sissons; the author of MAPP – Semi-Formal.

Mike Sissons talks about the new MAPP – Semi-Formal.

MAPP (Semi-Formal) at a glance

Section 1 contains the MAPP Milestones. These are not strictly hierarchical and, though they increase in complexity within each section, there is no assumption that learners will work through all of them or approach them in a fixed order. They are intended to guide thinking when writing personal learning intentions; they are not intended to be exclusive and teachers should refer to other relevant resources.

Section 2 contains the Assessment of Lateral Progress (ALP). This is the core instrument in MAPP for assessing progress in relation to learning intentions, whatever their source. It has been used to assess progress in physical development, for example, an area not covered by the Milestone statements but an area which is of vital importance to many pupils with LDD.

In this revised edition of MAPP, the aspect of ‘prompting’ has been renamed ‘independence’.

This is simply a change in language which has been made to provide consistency, and to avoid the confusion that has sometimes arisen over the notion of progress being linked to a reduction in prompting, rather than an increase in independence.

Section 3 offers guidelines on the completion of the MAPP (Semi-Formal) spreadsheets. These spreadsheets generate more information than the spreadsheets in the first edition of MAPP but have been designed in such a way that they do not require teachers to input any additional data.

Section 4 discusses key concepts in MAPP (Semi-Formal) and recommends systems and processes concerning its implementation. This section contains answers to the questions that have most frequently ben raised in training sessions and presentations since the publication of the first edition of MAPP in 2010.

£100.00 + VAT for members and £149.00 for non-members.

* Discounts are available for schools, that previously purchased the first version of MAPP.
Please email paul@equalsoffice.co.uk for further details.

To place an order please click on the ‘Download Order Link’ button below or you can also order through our Webshop.

 

EQUALS Members benefit from significant discounts on EQUALS publications.
The members price for the above publication is only £100 + VAT each.
This involves a saving of £49 + VAT each compared to Non-members prices

If you would like to become a member of
EQUALS at £120 + VAT for 12 months please click here

 


by Peter Imray

Organisations that train staff in physical intervention (restraint) techniques such as Team Teach, PRICE, CALM etc generally advise on training needs (including retraining needs) in relation to the level of risk in the school. Traditionally this has meant the special schools, which naturally have a higher level of challenging behaviour (CB) than mainstream schools, potentially classify as a higher level of risk. In turn this has attracted advice to the effect that all staff need an initial two days training with a further one day at regular (either annual or bi-annual) intervals.

I believe however, that schools who are on top of CB operate on certain key principles which, when executed well, significantly reduces the risk of physical intervention. That is, such schools (i) have a proactive rather than a reactive policy to CB (ii) regard any physical intervention as a ‘failure’ and therefore a cause for concern (iii) do not use static holds such as holding to chairs or wrapping holds for smaller children, and will NEVER take any children or young people to the floor. Let’s look at these in turn.

(i) Operating a proactive rather than a reactive policy implies that the school will seek to resolve serious and habitual behaviours before they happen rather than afterwards. This involves not waiting for the behaviour to occur but listening to the behaviours, and crucially ACTING on such communications, because these behaviours are telling us something, usually involving ‘I don’t want to do this or to be here’ and/or ‘I need attention’. This is I accept, a fairly simplistic interpretation, and if you want more depth I have put a reading list at the bottom of this post. The principle is however, sound. If we merely follow the physical intervention training, whoever it is from, we are in real danger of waiting for the behaviour to happen in order to distract or defuse or guide away or hold, because naturally, that’s what the training is about.

(ii) Regarding any physical intervention as a ‘failure’ naturally springs from the proactive policy. If schools are regularly holding and/or restraining, and particularly if they are regularly holding and/or restraining specific (named) children/young people, their proactive policy is clearly not working. Holding and/or restraining is not good for anyone, the child, the staff, the parents, society at large. Two recent BBC programmes (one on the radio, one on TV) highlighted the potentially catastrophic and illegal consequences of regular restraint. Of course things will occasionally go wrong, and schools therefore need training in guiding children to a safe place, but even this must not become the norm, and if it is, this must be a serious cause for concern.
(iii) Not using static holds, forces schools to think inventively about enabling learners to take control of their own behaviour. That is, static holds are about overpowering, forcing children to be still, and give the message that if you can’t control your own behaviour, I will control it for you. This is however, an extraordinarily negative message. We should be teaching learners to take responsibility for their own behaviour, and they’ll never be able to do that when they’re pinned to a chair or to the floor. Using guiding holds such as a two person single elbow, or a single person double elbow or (as the least intrusive) a caring C guide above the elbow (these are all Team Teach names, but I believe that other organisations use similar holds) enables staff to guide the learner to a safe space where they can come down in their own time. I fully accept that such a policy needs careful planning and thought and of course space, but if the proactive policy – listening to the behaviours and acting on the learners’ communications – are done well, there will be no need for static holds and a considerably reduced need for guiding holds.

The point about this is that the rejection of static holds significantly reduces the need for two day initial training and one day follow up training and schools do perhaps need to be much more insistent about devising a policy that suits them. I would suggest that the initial training should revolve around simple ‘escapes’, safe spaces, and the guiding holds noted above, which would take one day at the most. I personally would be much more concerned with ensuring that all staff have understood and agreed on a proactive policy, because that will ensure that reactive strategies, such as escapes and guiding holds are kept to an absolute minimum. I am certainly not accusing physical handling training organisations of operating a cash cow, but there is not a legal minimum standards training requirement, and these organisations have a moral responsibility to try and keep schools’ costs to a minimum by advising them on ‘appropriate’ levels of training. BILD (the British Institute of Learning Disabilities) currently accredits some 40 physical intervention training organisations, but there is no legal sanction to this and it is not an Ofsted or DfE requirement that organisations who train schools are on this list. It should be noted for example that Team Teach, one of the biggest organisations currently working in special schools, are no longer on BILD’s list.

Finally, and crucially, the rejection of static holds also leads to a realignment of risk. If schools are only using guiding holds to enable learners to get to a safe space as quickly as possible, the ‘risk’ factor, that is, the risk of using invasive and potentially dangerous restrictive holds, becomes significantly reduced. Special schools who regard challenging behaviour as normal (Hewett, 1998) are usually much less likely to make a crisis out of an everyday event, and are actually, probably significantly better at the whole issue of working with CB than the traditionally low risk mainstream school. This low risk assessment also has a knock on effect on retraining, so that schools might think of an additional hour or so after school just to ensure that that standard guiding holds noted above are understood and remembered. This training can of course, be done by the school’s own trainers.

In conclusion therefore, I would suggest that special schools invest much more time in ensuring a proactive behaviour philosophy, and much less time on learning holds and strategies they probably shouldn’t be using in the first place. This would make for a considerably reduced training and re-training obligation, save time and money, and lead schools towards a safer, more positive practice which is better for learners, staff, parents/carers and society in general.

Peter Imray
peter.imray@hotmail.co.uk

Reference
Hewett D (1998b). Challenging Behaviour is Normal in P Lacey and C Ouvry (eds) People with Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties. London. David Fulton.

Reading List

Amid the plethora of books on challenging behaviour there are (still!) very few books relating to CB and PMLD/SLD. In which case the old ones are probably the best if you can get hold of them, namely

Harris J, Cook M and Upton G (1996). Pupils with Severe Learning Disabilities who present Challenging Behaviour. Kidderminster. BILD.

Harris J, Hewett D and Hogg J (2001). Positive Approaches to Challenging Behaviour. Kidderminster. BILD.

For more up to date thoughts I would advise looking at

Imray P (2017) (2nd ed) Turning the Tables on Challenging Behaviour. London. Routledge.

Imray P and Hewett D (2015) Challenging Behaviour and the curriculum in P Lacey, R Ashdown, P Jones, H Lawson and M Pipe (eds) The Routledge Companion to Severe, Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties. London. Routledge.

And finally, still the best book on ASD and SLD
Jordan R (2001). Autism with Severe Learning Difficulties. London. Souvenir Press.


by Peter Imray on 29th March 2017

SMART targets are not the best way to set learning intentions for either SLD or PMLD, and may indeed be the worst way. There are a number of reasons for this:

  • they make motivational teaching problematic and therefore take away the necessary condition of target ownership
  • they can appear to offer clarity of purpose but actually limit opportunities to learn
  • they tend to rule out a constant learning approach by narrowly focussing achievement
  • they can be over-reliant on shallow, rote learned facts and skills

A google search reveals that SMART targets seem to have been first devised by George Doran, an American businessman, in the early 1980’s. What is also interesting is that the acronym has changed over the years with a number of versions being on offer. I have long been confused by Achievable and Realistic since I can’t see how they differ from each other. Haughey (2014) for example prefers Agreed Upon, whilst the original from Doran (1981) offered Assignable. Both ‘A’s directly infer something fundamental to the origins of SMART targets but which are missing in later educational versions, that is, the centrality of ownership. For Haughey, the ownership of the target and the motivation to succeed at the target are key to the achievement of that target, and of course this must be so. If someone is not motivated, why would they expend time and energy on achievement? The first fundamental principles of any mnemonic must be that it makes sense and I would therefore suggest that whatever the A and R might stand for, they must, if they are to remain true to the original sense of the mnemonic, effectively mean ownership and motivation. They CANNOT remain as Achievable AND Realistic, because neither of these is directly related to motivation.
As it appears however, that the educational version of SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound) is not entirely true to the original, this creates even more additional problems when related to those with SLD and PMLD. Taking Penny Lacey’s 2010 questioning of SMART targets as a starting point, she refers back to the principles of ‘assessment for learning’ by looking at the educational purpose of assessment. This may in turn she argues, be derived from Black et al’s (2003) seminal work on the subject.
(Black et al’s) assessment for learning is concerned with how assessment can inform teaching and learning: how evidence from learning is used to plan what comes next. Learners’ voices are at the heart of assessment for learning as they decide what they are going to learn and how they are going to learn it. (Lacey, 2010, 17, my empahasis).
This again comes back to ownership and my overarching concern that learners with PMLD and SLD will, by the very nature of their learning difficulties, have targets thrust upon them. More on this later.

Ensuring the target has been achieved
The logic behind SMART is that un SMART, fuzzy, or perhaps SCRUFFY targets make it difficult to ascertain whether the target has been successfully achieved. This does however, very much depend on the specificity of the target and the degree of achievement. It is possible to have a loose learning intention and a varying degree of achievement, as for example, when achievement is (i) less than expected (ii) expected (iii) more than expected on a scale of three; or when achievement is (i) a lot less than expected (ii) less than expected (iii) expected (iv) more than expected (v) a lot more than expected on a scale of five. SLD and PMLD teaching and assessment has a long history of using similar gradations, as in the achievement of a target never, occasionally, frequently or consistently.
This point is strengthened when one considers that it might be overly and in the end, self-defeatingly simplistic to be so black and white in the assessment of achievement. A SMART target is achieved or it is not achieved, there is no room for dubiety; but I wonder if life is like that for anyone. I start my day with a list of 10 things to do; is my day a failure if I only achieve 7 on this list. Probably not, in fact this could be considered a considerable success. What about achieving 4, is that a success or a failure? Well it could be either, especially if I’ve actually achieved a couple of somethings that were not on my list at the start of the day but still needed doing. This is the great advantage of NOT having a black and white, all or nothing approach, since we are not closing ourselves off to accidental or additional learning, or indeed gradations of achievement. This might be considered to be a constant learning approach which constantly looks for learning opportunities, irrespective of what has been planned. Simply because an achievement has not been forecast does not mean that the achievement is not worthwhile.

Motivation must be a key to learning
Further, within the SMART concept, both Specific and Time Bound present real difficulties especially when the targets are being chosen for the learner, as will be inevitable with learners with very complex needs and severe/profound communication difficulties.
GAS (Goal Attainment Schedule) as defined by Turner-Stokes (2016) and used by a few special schools to determine ‘good’ progress, derives from the NHS and specifically appears in relation to rehabilitation. This means that the SMART target agreed on with the patient has to have the patient’s clear approval, otherwise s/he won’t co-operate in its attainment. Medical staff may push the patient further than the patient believes s/he can go, but the patient must believe that some progress is both desirable and achievable. That is, the individual must be able to perceive the big picture to be able to work out that the pain, discomfort and effort is worthwhile. If a pupil with PMLD or SLD cannot see that big picture (because they have PMLD or SLD!) encouraging them to ignore, overcome, look beyond the pain/discomfort/effort becomes incredibly difficult and entirely reliant on short term rewards. This will do nothing for generalisation because the isolated activity is actively divorced from the big picture.

Limiting opportunities to learn
GAS works as a measure of ‘good’ because it factors in (i) the desirability of the achievement and (ii) the difficulty of the achievement and multiplies these (in a very complicated mathematical formula) by the rate of progress in scale of 3 or 5 noted above.
Unfortunately, in the world of SLD/PMLD education, staff may well be pushing learners to achieve a specific something that they have no interest in achieving, or may not be able to achieve when they want to achieve it. Let us take for example, a broad (and very un SMART) learning intention ‘to encourage William towards independent movement’ arrived at through multi-disciplinary discussions which included William’s family. To smarten this loose learning intention up, we can use our knowledge that William (who is working consistently and over time at around P6) loves the sensory room and enjoys following the sensory trails that the school uses to enable independent movement throughout the school. A SMART target can then be devised, to the effect that ‘William will follow a tactile track and stop at the sensory room object five times a week’. This assumes his continued desire to travel to the sensory room, but has all sorts of automatic limitations built in. How often is the sensory room free? Is there staffing available to escort him when he can go? What will be the point of travelling to the sensory room if he can’t spend time in there? Will he have the energy and the desire to go when the sensory room is available? Does this mean that he is only working on his movement target 5 times a week, and if so why? If we make this 15 times a week, won’t this just increase the complications of sensory room and supporting staff availability?
Such specifics may well have the effect of restricting Wlliam’s opportunities to learn because it makes the generalisation of any specific skill learned, particularly difficult. When the purpose of the goal is to encourage him towards independent movement, narrowing this into one particular movement in one particular place at one particular time (when the sensory room is free) doesn’t make sense. If we have the freedom to explore the opportunities for a much looser learning intention, we may find 55 (rather than 5 or 15) weekly opportunities for extending his learning through a SCRUFFY (Student-led, Creative, Relevant, Unspecified, Fun, For, Youngsters) approach. In the interests of engaging with SMART targets we may well have to narrow the learning not broaden it. And it is difficult to see what benefits there are to this. Penny Lacey’s warning of the dangers of narrowing broad aims into SMART targets (Lacey, 2010) should not automatically be put to one side on the basis of her whimsy, though there is undoubtedly an element of tongue in cheek about the word. SCRUFFY targets allow staff and learners to explore LOTS of different avenues to achieve the same desired goal, and because there will not be a single road to travel, as in a SMART target, learners are able to exercise far more control in the direction and pace the of learning as well as maintaining their motivation and experience generalising opportunities to learn.

The dominance of shallow, rote learned skills
‘Sometimes, when assessing children’s calculation skills, rote learning can mask underlying procedural or conceptual difficulties. A child may know that ‘3+2 is 5’, in the same way as they know their sister’s name is Phoebe. However, it should not be assumed that the child understands how to add up, or what is meant by the word ‘add’. Assessment should therefore consider children’s understanding of procedures and principles as well as the ability to recall number facts.’ (Gillum, 2014; p279/80 author’s emphasis).
We need to continue to be aware of valuing only that which can be easily measured, since this this is likely to lead to compartmentalisation of learning, followed by compartmentalisation of achievement. Little thought or consideration is given to contextualised, deep and meaningful learning that makes sense to the learner and which the learner can actually use. Shallow learning – the rote remembering of unrelated or isolated facts or skills – is given high priority because assessment of progress is considered the most important part of teaching. One of the most significant pronouncements of the Rochford Review (2016) was to recognise that an over-reliance on assessment leads to teaching to the next step schemas which then drive the curriculum. Such schemas make much of rote learned ‘abilities’ which may in fact, not be abilities at all because understanding is so often absent.

In conclusion, SMART targets for pupils and students with either profound or severe learning difficulties may well be stupid, because they can form a barrier to both learning and achievement by being overly prescriptive. The SMART target approach is unfortunately, yet another example of theories applicable to neuro-typical, conventionally developing learning that are universally applied without thought. They are I would suggest, neither helpful nor smart.

Peter Imray, March 2017.

References

Black P, Harrison C, Lee C, Marshall B and William D (2003). Assessment for Learning: putting it into practice. Maidenhead. Open University Press.

Doran G T (1981) There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives. Management Review: 70 (11) 35-36.

Gillum J (2014) Assessment with children who experience difficulty in mathematics. Support for Learning. 29 (3) 275-291

Haughey D (2014) A Brief History of Smart Goals. Available at https://www.projectsmart.co.uk/brief-history-of-smart-goals.php Accessed 12th February 2017

Lacey P (2010) Smart and Scruffy Targets. The SLD Experience. 57: 16-21.

Rochford Review(2016) Final Report www.gov.uk/government/publications/rochford-review-final-report

Turner-Stokes L (2016) Goal Attainment Scaling (GAS) in Rehabilitation: A practical guide. London. Kings College.

Available at https://www.kcl.ac.uk/lsm/research/divisions/cicelysaunders/attachments/Tools-GAS-Practical-Guide.pdf

 


People may wish to read a very recent SLD forum post, which is in italics, and my response, which is not, both below. I am becoming increasingly interested in this issue of non-engagement in the formal education system. The traditional response seems to be an automatic rejection of the learner’s point of view by the education system as it stands, and I wonder whether we ought to be seriously reviewing this approach. It would not be difficult to imagine this young man in five years time as now having a label of ‘mental health’ problems as seemingly do all of the children who express what used to be called Social Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties (SEBD) and is now called Social, Emotional and Mental Health Needs (SEMH) in the UK at least. I find it VERY disturbing that overt rejection of the norm is now automatically described as madness!

We have a student with a diagnosis of ASD and Tourette’s.  He is working at about L2/3 NC level (old money) – he is 13 ½ .

The Tourette’s developed in the last couple of years.  He has always been very distractible but this is increasing to the extent that he can only focus for a few seconds at a time.  For example he often can’t get through a whole sentence without losing focus and retreating into his mind.   He can attend for long periods of time on favoured activities (talking about video games, drawing).  These favoured activities may be interrupted by tics and some noises but only for a few seconds.

He has tics and some noises associated with the Tourette’s but he is also almost permanently playing out a fantasy video game in his head that has accompanying noises and hand movements.  He describes this as dreaming the game and sometimes he enjoys this and may laugh to himself and sometimes, when asked to focus, he might say, with a little distress, ‘but I just can’t stop the dreams’.

He is also developing what might be OCD type behaviours (tapping books on table several times, touching hand rail in a particular way) and whilst I am on my steep OCD learning curve I wonder if there are any strategies to inhibit the development of OCD?

We are struggling to unpick what is an ASD type internal world/special interest, what is Tourette’s and what is OCD.   We are waiting for a follow up on the Tourette’s diagnosis.

We use visual timetables and a work schedule, motivators, time out, breaks, social stories and other visuals to try to alert him to his lack of focus and ‘game playing’ but as we aren’t entirely sure what is internal world stuff and what is Tourette’s I am worried we may do more harm than good.  We have also tried to work with his parents to change the amount of time he spends on computer games at home.

Has anyone got any ideas about how we can unpick what is causing his huge difficulty and any strategies to help this boy spend enough time in the real world to learn.

Thanks

J.

 

 

Hi J

This is very interesting and is perhaps a typical example of the wave of very complex learners that all schools (and especially all special schools) have been increasingly involved with over the last 10 years or so. These are the learners that Barry Carpenter calls ‘new generation’ and who are ‘pedagogically bereft’ (Carpenter et al, 2016; Carpenter, 2011), that is, disengaged with and from the education system. It is not that your young man cannot concentrate and attend, he can clearly do that very well indeed, it’s that he does not wish and sees no purpose to concentrating and attending to stuff that for him is boring and meaningless. The problem is, he has a point! Unfortunately the UK education system is set up to condition people to be like ourselves; the subjects are the ones we worked on, the school/class/learning structure is the one known and familiar to us, the outcomes are the ones we want for ourselves, which might loosely be described as ‘helping this boy spend enough time in the real world to learn’. But to learn what, and what for? Clearly, whatever the ‘real world’ is to him does not involve him doing the stuff that you want him to do. So he disengages by slipping into his own world and daydreaming, and the older he gets the more powerful this tactic becomes. Perhaps we should count our blessings as at least he is not displaying extremes of challenging behaviour, as so many others do.

It might however help if we looked at his area of special interest in a different way, that is from his perspective. Were for example his obsessional behaviours directed to a cause that you and the school could perceive as being ‘useful’, matters might be different. I would imagine that Mozart’s, Turner’s and Einstein’s ‘education’ involved very little other than music, art and maths respectively otherwise they would not have become the geniuses that they were. They were allowed to do this because their educators could see these ‘obsessions’ as being central to their lives. They didn’t want their charges to have an education like everyone else and be like everyone else. Our education system demands that we try and make children think like us, learn like us, be like us, have our ambitions and dreams, live in our real world. That is fine for most, but clearly not for all.

It sounds to me that you are doing all the right things in your attempts to steer him out of his preferences and towards a more rounded education with your emphasis on ‘visual timetables and a work schedule, motivators, time out, breaks, social stories and other visuals’. But it will require his co-operation, and it seems that he is not willing to give it!

Student voice must be listened to if education is not just going to be about educating those who are willing to comply. This means listening to behaviours and acting upon what these behaviours are telling us, not merely insisting that everyone does the same. We must give children and young people a reason to belong, and whilst it may be ideal that this happens in the same classroom, in the same school and studying the same curriculum, the evidence tells us that this is not possible, however much we might like it to be so. Sadly, there is a now real question to be asked within our current education system; would we now allow Mozart and Turner and Einstein to focus on their areas of special interest so that they could become the best that they could be and do the best that they could do? Probably not!

All the best

Peter Imray

 

References

Carpenter B (2011) Pedagogically Bereft!: improving learning outcomes for children with foetal alcohol spectrum disorders. British Journal of Special Education. 38 (1) 38-43.

Carpenter B, Carpenter J, Egerton J and Cockbill B (2106) The Engagement for Learning Framework: connecting with learning and evidencing progress for children with autism spectrum conditions. Advances in Autism. 2 (1); 12-23.