Created as a way to track the progress and learning for children with SEND, P-Scales are a preliminary guide of best-fit to help teachers plan more effectively. Rather than being as linear as National Curriculum Levels, P scales help to assess a child’s learning and what teachers’ priorities need to be, specifically regarding that child.

Essentially descriptions produced by the QCA (Qualifications & Curriculum Authority); P scales are used for outlining early years learning and attainment before level 1 of the National Curriculum.

The P level descriptors are used by teachers in the same way that National Curriculum level descriptors are. This means they assess and recognise a pupil’s attainment; allowing the teacher to structure their teaching, and the child’s learning, accordingly.

They can be used to:

• decide which level descriptor best fits a pupil’s performance over a period of time and in different contexts, to form a rounded judgement

• help teachers to evaluate on a continuous level; adapting teaching to suit learners’ needs

• record a child’s achievements and development over a term, year or Key Stage

• track linear progress and assess when a child has moved up a level, making them closer to National Curriculum Level 1

• track lateral progress also, across various subjects and various levels to help form a rounded picture of how a child is developing

When a pupil has SEND, it’s unfair and unhelpful to categorise progress in linear, upwardly progressive terms. Advancement should be assessed and praised in other ways. Of course, many are developing new skills, knowledge and understanding.

But pupils are also making progress when they:

• show the same achievement on more than one occasion, demonstrating learning is maintained

• refine their achievements, demonstrating skills either more fluently or with less support

• gain confidence in their achievements; evidencing that they can apply learning in different circumstances;

• combine existing skills, knowledge or understanding in new ways

• show their capability of relating what they have learned to real-life situations

Prior to their creation, learners with special educational needs and disabilities were given no clear structure of how to progress either linearly or laterally. W1 (working towards) was very limiting, as it didn’t allow for any kind of assessment.

With the introduction of P scales, progress in all National Curriculum subjects can be described; matching a learners’ performance against a series of statements ranging from ‘P level 1’ through to ‘P level 8’. The overall National Curriculum also uses a similar structure form Level 1 to Level 8, helping teachers, learners and parents or carers build an overall picture of strengths and areas for improvement.

As with the NC Levels 1-8, pupils generally work up through the levels. However, the nature of the P Levels is different and some young people may remain on a specific P level for quite some time. This important thing to remember with P Levels, is that this does not necessarily mean that they aren’t progressing; but that the progress they are making might be laterally across several aspects of a P level, rather than moving up to the next one.

P levels have changed frequently, as is the way with education. Since these became standard measurement of performance, the most significant change occurred when English became split into three levels of Reading, Writing and Speaking and Listening. This helped make sense of students with speech language and communication needs (SLCN) , which can largely contribute to how a teacher plans and how a child learns most effectively.

P scales are assessed also using a teacher’s professional judgement, since they are interpreted via a line of best fit. However, with as many as 1 in 10 pupils needing support in SLCN sreas, the implementation of P scales has a marked space within the new SEND framework.

For parents and carers wishing to purchase a copy of the level descriptors to better understand ways to support children in applying learning to real life situations, we have a paperback copy available.

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