Precise assessment and personalisation of provision is central to the way in which children’s learning pathways are determined at Willow Dene. We have developed our own assessment system called Learning Journeys which ensures that we are able to accurately evaluate children’s progress and identify their next steps. This informs our target setting which defines the priorities for each child.

We work closely with families to ensure their aspirations for their child are addressed, building on existing skills to work towards future goals, regarding parents as partners in supporting their child’s learning.

Learning Journeys provides teachers with relevant frameworks for assessing the learning of all of the children who attend Willow Dene. It is broken down into four sections.

is based on the Welsh Government’s highly regarded ‘Routes for Learning’, a tool for exploring the learning of children with complex needs. It covers the earliest processes and skills on which all future learning is built.

was developed by Willow Dene School and our therapy team for assessing children working between P3ii and P4, when a huge amount of learning takes place which is not captured by these level descriptors.

assesses the progress of children who are developing emergent concepts between P5 and P8.

captures the progress of the small number of our children who achieve National Curriculum levels.


Footsteps and Stepping Out exist as one system, focusing on early learning of communication, cognitive and social interactions processes and skills, while Paces and Strides form a separate system which measures progress in each of the strands of English and Mathematics. Several children straddle both systems as their learning progresses from early development into concept based learning to ensure any gaps in their understanding or functioning are addressed before they move on. Each system assesses progress against clear statements which define aspects of learning at the appropriate level.

Learning Journeys lends itself well to the spikey learning profiles that some of our children have, or where they may have significant areas of strength, such as in number, particular difficulties associated with a physical disability or communication disorder which impacts on their learning. The statements are written in such a way that they are not limiting to children because of a particular mode of communication, physical difficulty or sensory impairment. Learning Journeys places greater weighting on being able to generalise or use and apply a skill than achieving it within a fixed context, which acknowledges how difficult this is for some of our learners.

Learning Journeys also takes account of many indicators of well-being which can inhibit or support learning. These include factors such as pain, sleep, significant medical events, attendance (often linked to the previous factors) and behaviour, which can considerably affect the learning of children with SEN. These factors are RAG-rated against each termly data drop to reference progress against the other significant events in children’s lives. This ensures not only that the progress is contextualised, but also that the school is doing everything that it can to support children and families to improve the situation when indicators are showing red or amber. Examples of this include organising school-based medical clinics to minimise attendance issues, supporting the learning of children who are hospitalised and implementing sensory programmes to improve behaviour, all of which has a positive impact on children’s progress.

Assessments made within Learning Journeys are far more robust than in previous systems as all progress is evidenced through videos, photos and observations which are hyperlinked into the document. This allows the Senior Leadership Team to monitor progress more effectively, ensuring that moderation is also consistent and reliable. Because all children transition to new classes with a really secure assessment profile, staff in these classes can start to work with children much more effectively from the outset.

At a meta-level the data which Learning Journey is generating is helping us to learn much more about how our children learn, particularly those children working at the earliest levels of development. In the past, data has told us very little about these children’s learning as the assessment systems we have used largely failed to detect the progress children were making, particularly in the shorter term. We are now starting to hypothesise about learning patterns and trends and what expected progress might look like for different individuals and groups of children. This deeper understanding of progress for this very specialised group of learners is impacting on practice, which in turn has a positive impact on outcomes.

Within Willow Dene, the framework that Learning Journeys provides has created a culture where everyone in class teams is much more involved in children’s assessment, and by virtue of this have a clearer and deeper understanding of their learning. It also enables more effective multi-disciplinary working with professionals such as therapists (whom were involved in the creation of Learning Journeys).

Data and Attainment

Please be aware that statutory KS2 assessments did not take place in July 2020 for any schools due to COVID-19

Key Stage 2 results - Children in KS2 are disapplied from formal testing however we are able to demonstrate progress through the school assessment system.

Latest DfE School Performance Tables: