So what, exactly do we mean by ‘progress’?

This is a question the Wraparound Team have been grappling with for some time.
In our position we are extremely fortunate to work with children, young people, teachers, SENCOs, head teachers, paediatricians, speech and language therapists, social workers, early help teams, parents, grandparents, to name a few, and what comes up time and time again is this word, ‘PROGRESS’.

What has become apparent to us is that all agencies, professionals, services have different views on what exactly, progress means to them. So a speech and language therapist may devise a plan which outlines progress, for the Child/Young persons, speech and language development, an occupational therapist will devise their plan, a teacher will devise their plan…you get the picture…and what is left is usually a very confused parent, carer or young person, who does not know which plan to follow first, never mind which target to work towards.

For people in educational settings, progress to them may mean, academic progress. If we take a small example of a child with reading difficulties; for a school progress, for them may mean an improvement in reading age of 6 months in one year, but for the parent progress may mean that they can now read a book with their child, or their child’s self-esteem has risen.

So the outcome of the question so far, is that progress means different things to different people, but all about the same individual and therein lies a conundrum.

How can one person be accountable for the progress he/she makes towards numerous different agencies, services, professionals and targets?

Below is an extract from the SEND Code of Practice which highlights what teachers should be looking for when assessing progress, which interestingly, includes things other than attainment.

6.17 Class and subject teachers, supported by the senior leadership team, should make regular assessments of progress for all pupils. These should seek to identify pupils making less than expected progress given their age and individual circumstances. This can be characterised by progress which:
• is significantly slower than that of their peers starting from the same baseline
• fails to match or better the child’s previous rate of progress
• fails to close the attainment gap between the child and their peers
• widens the attainment gap

6.18 It can include progress in areas other than attainment – for instance where a pupil needs to make additional progress with wider development or social needs in order to make a successful transition to adult life.

So back to our question, how can one person be accountable for progress and meeting the targets set from lots of different agencies?

Well here at Wraparound HQ, we are into making things as simple as possible, we take the complicated and make it easy.

We flip it all on its head and start with the person, not the services.

Take a small example.

We had a meeting with a primary SENCO who needed some support completing a request for a statutory assessment for a 4 year old in her school.

The conversation was something like this:
SENCO: “He needs at least 19 hours TA support a week.”

Us: “Why, What for?”

SENCO: “hmmm, well to access a broad and balanced curriculum obviously.”

Us: “yes but, what is it you want him to achieve? What are his aspirations and the outcomes from this 19 hours TA support, you say he needs?”

At this point the SENCO was rather flummoxed.

So we started from scratch, the boy who was 4 years old, was quite obviously on the autistic spectrum somewhere.
What it came down to was her aspiration for him, was, that he was better able to cope in social situations. (aspiration).

Then we worked on outcomes. We started small and agreed a positive outcome, would be that he could manage playing outside at break time twice a week, without getting into difficulties, to be achieved in 12 months’ time. (He was currently not going out at break time at all.)

Then we tackled provision. We looked at how parents could support this outcome, (by taking their child to local parks at weekends). How school could support this outcome, (by using consistent techniques to tackle poor social understanding of situations, by having one TA for 19 hours a week), then, how could speech and language support this aspiration, (by providing training, guidance to the TA, and some direct intervention so enable the boy to better understand facial expressions) and so on and so on.

The SENCO left feeling elated that she could see the actual, practical benefit to the child of accessing a greater level of support, that it was not all about extra funding, it was about the child making tangible progress.

What we find when sitting in the many meetings we go to, is that the focus on the child can be lost in all this talk of progress and process. Our basic premise is that whatever targets, plans that are written by whatever professional, they should all be focussed and working towards the same outcome, the same aspiration. Schools, parents and the young people themselves are very often the driver of their own lives, but quite often lack the confidence to say what they want.

So next time you mention the word, PROGRESS just stop to think, what actually is it you mean by this?