Target setting for children with special needs

You can’t get away from data these days. CATs, FFT, RaiseOnline, departmental targets, yearly targets – the list goes on and on. Working in a special school means that I only teach children who are statemented (hold a statement of special educational needs) and have a variety of needs. Until recently there wasn’t much of an emphasis on data and targets for special schools, they were always left to tell their story because they couldn’t be judged by the same standards as mainstream schools.

Colleagues who work in mainstream schools often complain about unrealistic targets and the constant drive to hit them. What about children with SEN? How do we set targets for these children? Well there is good news and bad news! The good news is that there is an additional data set, collated from children who have special needs across both mainstream and special schools. As part of these data sets are a set of matrices that give expected progress from a given starting point. For those who haven’t seen it before, it is a product of the National Strategies initiative and a download link is given at the bottom of the page. We now use progression guidance to set targets for our students, and we can use the data to compare progress with lower, median and upper quartiles within that data.

The bad news is that this data set is a crude tool and makes no account for individual needs (it is after all representative of many students with their collective results combined) so you’ll have to decide for yourself if a target is appropriate. Progression Guidance is also one of the main indicators that Ofsted have for inspecting special schools like my own – and the inspectors are well versed in its use. Worse of all is that to be a good school, we have to be setting targets (and without good reason, achieving results) in line with the upper quartile from this data set – aspirational targets. For those of you who are familiar with Fischer Family Trust data (FFT), the upper quartile targets are roughly in line with FFT A data (at least for the students in my school).

So where does this leave you? If you are in a mainstream school and teach students with SEN I’d recommend you download and flick through the Progression Guidance document for yourself, it might be useful for your target setting process (primarily for maths and English). If you are in a special school then I’m guessing you will already be familiar with Progression Guidance since the document was published a few years ago, but you might not have realised how much Ofsted come to rely on this document when inspecting special schools.

progression guidance document