Session title: The Initial Assessment and Differentiation Controversy

Achieving outstanding outcomes by solving issues with initial assessment, target setting, differentiation and support.


The Initial Assessment and Differentiation Controversy is a half-day session.

Information for event organisers only


Too often, initial assessment is no more than a process for checking learners’ literacy and numeracy skills on entry, driven by the needs of teachers and their providers, and rarely considering the impact it has on learners. An all-too-typical concern is the significant difference between the outcomes of initial assessment and the GCSE grades achieved just a few months earlier. Finding it easier to blame ‘hot-housing’ by schools, it’s a rare provider that considers its approach and timing to be at fault.

Initial assessment, however, is far wider than English and maths. Along with diagnostic assessment, this process should identify any and every reason a learner may under-perform or leave early. It should lead to an individual learning plan (ILP) that sets out a clear starting point and records the support needs unique to each learner. Almost more importantly however, where a learner requires additional learning support, the ILP should also set out the conditions all parties should work towards to ultimately achieve and celebrate the learner’s independence of this support – well before the end of their programme.

Targets must be intrinsically owned by learners for these to be motivators rather than tormentors.

Informed by the ILPs, learner profiles should set out the differentiation challenge for the teaching teams. Unfortunately, too often it is teachers’ expectations of learners that are differentiated. Learner profiles should be use as a creative tool for the development of the differentiated strategies and resources required for all learners to achieve outstanding outcomes.

These outcomes should then be set out clearly in lesson plans. However, it is too common for learning outcomes to be no more than a list of activities, which then turns assessment into an audit of ‘what has been done’ rather than an evaluation of ‘difference made’.

Using this strong narrative, this session addresses squarely the Initial Assessment and Differentiation Controversy. Supported by comprehensive resources, this thoroughly planned, experiential session models eight of the strategies it looks at, including target setting, and differentiated support. The session also includes a summary of each teaching strategy and clear next steps for delegates to continue the development of their work after the session. This work is also supported by access to all session resources and more on the Centre for Creative Quality Improvement’s website.

Information for potential delegates

If you read many inspection reports you may be forgiven for thinking that Ofsted cuts and pastes weaknesses from a limited central database of gripes: ‘Insufficient individualisation of learning’; ‘Poor use of target setting’; ‘Insufficient progress from learners’ initial starting points’; ‘Insufficient stretch and challenge’. This can lead providers to create a new layer of ‘must dos’ for teachers, and add yet more pressure on an already stressful job.

But if we stand back for a moment and look at the issues from first principles, there is a wonderful and logical narrative that too often gets lost in the blur of bureaucracy.

Using all of the teaching strategies it is promoting, this session gives concrete models and experience of pragmatic solutions to Ofsted’s concerns. At the end of the session, delegates take away a set of illustrative strategies they have worked through, along with a summary of each to aid adaption to their own situations. This session should spell the end of the Initial Assessment and Differentiation Controversy.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the session, delegates will be able to:

  • set out a strategy to identify and articulate all potential barriers that may lead a learner to underperform or leave early
  • design differentiated support strategies to enable all learners to achieve outstanding outcomes
  • set out the ideal content of a lesson plan that will go on to create outstanding learning experiences for all learners
  • write low-level and high-level learning outcomes
  • write learning outcomes focused on the development of cognitive skills, physical skills and attitudinal change
  • set out the indicators and strategy they will use to evaluate the extent to which learning barriers are being removed.


The Initial Assessment and Differentiation Controversy is a 3.5-hour session.


To discuss your requirements in detail, please phone or drop us a line.


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