As a primary school in its third year of opening, with Year 2 as our eldest cohort, completing a ‘Preparing for Adulthood from the Earliest Years’ (PFAEY) review, could have been considered premature. But we made a deliberate choice.
Our school vision is “to instil aspiration and high expectations for learning to empower every child, without exception, to become a successful citizen of the world through excellence in all that we do.” We treasure every minute our children spend in our nursery and school; harnessing their curiosity; nurturing a love of learning; building relationships; and supporting the development of the essential foundational and academic skills needed for greater independence in the future. From their first day in our Nursery, we’re passionate about ensuring that all pupils, especially those with SEND, participate fully in the life of the nursery, school and wider community. We want them to have choices in the future - choice about employment, where to live, who to live with and how to spend their leisure time. We recognise that even this early, opportunities to take part in school life are important preparation for participation and a sense of belonging in adulthood.
Schools complete PFAEY reviews for all sorts of reasons. Our intent was threefold: to sharpen our focus on our ‘why early in our school journey’; to provide our whole school community with the opportunity to participate in evaluating our effectiveness; and to use the findings and recommendations to co-produce the next iteration of our school development plans, including our curriculum. We were aware of research showing that in the early years, children with SEND fall behind their non-disabled peers who started from the same point in their learning and development, experience a pattern of greater difficulty in social interaction, and higher levels of behavioural and emotional problems, compared with their peers. By the teen years, young people with SEND have lower aspirations for their future career than their peers with the same outcomes at GCSE. We didn’t want that to be the future for the children in our nursery and school. So it didn’t matter that even our oldest children were at least a decade away from adulthood and it didn’t matter that we didn’t have a perfectly polished ‘Preparing for Adulthood curriculum.’. We knew our ambitions for our pupils and we knew our direction of travel. We had started the journey and wanted to evaluate the route we were taking and our mechanisms for achieving our ambitious goals for our pupils and their futures.
So what’s involved in a PFAEY review? The review framework starts with self-evaluation against eight themes including leadership, outcomes, curriculum and personalisation, quality of teaching and learning, and working with pupils with SEND and their parents. We committed to taking an evidence-based approach, investing time in several leadership meetings exploring evidence, considering our strengths and identifying our areas for development against each of the PFAEY self-evaluation themes. We actively involved pupils, teachers, teaching assistants and parents in the self-evaluation process. We agreed to be honest and transparent about our weaknesses, accepting that whilst highlighting them made some of us feel vulnerable, the opportunity to improve provision for our pupils through the review process was too valuable to waste by glossing over imperfections.
Would I encourage schools, including primary schools, to consider completing a PFAEY review? Absolutely! To maximise the impact of the review, involve a wide range of stakeholders in all stages of the review, from the self-evaluation through to agreeing follow-up actions to the report. A review is not designed to catch anyone out; it’s not a test and there is no ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ so there really is little risk in sharing an honest picture of your school. Above all, I’d encourage you to enter into the process excited to learn more about your children, their aspirations for the future and the opportunities we have as educators to support them to achieve them.
To find out more about our Preparing for Adulthood from the Earliest Years (PFAEY), visit School improvement for SEND | Whole School SEND
Register your interest in taking part in the September 2023 Preparation for Adulthood from the Earliest Years (PfAEY) peer review.