Working with Coppice School to create SmartRubric Goals

'Forcing the Fit' in Special Schools
When Karl O’Reilly, Headteacher, visited the SmartRubric stand at BETT 2019, he was looking for an assessment management system that would help him solve a really difficult problem at Coppice School, a community day school for students with severe learning difficulties.
Coppice School had already implemented other assessment/progress tracking applications, but none of them were able to show pupil progress in a way that was meaningful for their students. I learned from Karl that special schools frequently have to make do with systems designed for mainstream schools, plugging the gaps with a mix of extra systems and spreadsheets to approximate the unique needs of their pupils and staff.
At Coppice, 'forcing the fit' in this way meant it was difficult to analyse the true progress pupils are making— meaning a lot of time, money and effort wasted guessing at which kinds of interventions are working and which aren’t.
Karl explained that, for example, “a young person may have made very little progress academically, but may now tolerate working with a peer for longer than 10 minutes.” These kinds of steps can be enormous in terms of that pupil’s progress, but there’s no one system that lets schools track EHCP targets like this alongside academic progress — after all, student engagement with EHCP targets like independence or confidence are deeply connected to how the student achieves against academic objectives.
Herbert the Reading Dog
(photo courtesy of Coppice School)
I visited Coppice School shortly after we met, and I was so impressed with the facilities, the students and the obvious passion of all of the staff. They’d built a beautiful farm where students could work and interact with all kinds of animals. A very handsome Bearded Sheepdog named Herbert added his friendly weight to the supportive and warm atmosphere of the campus. There was student artwork and evidence of incredible enrichment activities everywhere I looked.  
I spent the day with Karl and various members of staff, talking through their requirements, their frustrations and their hopes for their students, but it soon became apparent — SmartRubric alone wasn’t going to meet their needs by itself.
SmartRubric is built for managing whole-class assessments, not individuals. A rubric big enough to extend from the students of lowest ability to the students of highest ability in one of Coppice School’s classrooms would be unmanageably large.
While Coppice was very interested in SmartRubric, I didn’t want to sell a product to them that wasn’t going to solve their problem.
That evening, I thought carefully about what Coppice was trying to achieve for their students, and bit by bit an idea began to take shape. What would it look like if we created something new, that built on all the bits of SmartRubric that they wanted—like the reporting and flexibility, but extended the functionality to match exactly the needs of a school like Coppice so they no longer had to 'force the fit' with a product that wasn't designed just for them?

Effective Assessment in Special Schools

For Karl, “an effective system would mean we could focus our teaching and learning on individual progress rather than assessing pupils on arbitrary targets set by preexisting packages.” They needed to be able to track progress in areas their pupils needed most — independence, engagement, confidence — in a way that was integrated with curriculum goals in Maths, English and other subjects.
The system had to be robust enough to meaningfully show the progress of pupils against a range of curriculum and EHCP targets, but flexible enough to adapt to the extremely varied, personal needs of each student. The system had to be simple to implement, and quick to manage, allowing teachers to spend less time on admin and assessment and more time working with students. I drafted a quick product specification and sent it to Karl. To my delight, he saw the potential immediately and agreed to work together on it.

SmartRubric Goals - a Tailored Solution

The result of our collaboration is SmartRubric Goals. Unlike the core SmartRubric product, Goals allows teachers to create totally customisable goal profiles or IEPs for individual students, using a mix of unique, personal objectives and curriculum targets cherry picked from rubrics in the SmartRubric library.
Each objective can be enriched with specific activities designed to help that particular student make progress, so for a LEGO-loving young person working on his or her motor skills, an activity about picking up and manipulating LEGO blocks could be linked to that target. Even the level descriptors can be rewritten to reflect the particular needs of the individual student. For example, if a student is non-verbal, the language around speech or speaking from a rubric around doing a presentation can be adapted to reflect that student’s preferred communication style without affecting the underlying standard.
Both Karl and I are looking forward to seeing what the impact of SmartRubric Goals is on the staff and students at Coppice School. Karl hopes it will mean they “no longer have to accept a 'best-fit solution' as our only way of evidencing, celebrating and enhancing the progress our amazing pupils make everyday.”
We will be running a limited number of trials for special schools and select SEN departments in mainstream secondaries, beginning in September. To learn more or add your school to the waiting list, visit


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