Outcomes help us to evaluate the success of the support that is being provided to the young person with additional needs.
What is an Outcome?
An outcome is the benefit or difference made to an individual as a result of an intervention. All children have the right to dream, and a dream - an aspiration - can become an outcome when genuine action is taken toward achieving it.
An outcome is long term - it is achieved through shorter term targets or interim steps. These steps may well mean teachers shaping curriculum activities through interventions for small groups or schools developing a nurture group or special class to achieve steps collectively: this will be more effective than using a ‘single child’ / individualistic approach. This would particularly be the case where, for example, outcomes relate to social communication.
What are the characteristics of a ‘good’ Outcome?
- It should be personal to the child, and not expressed from a service perspective.
- As children grow older, they need to ‘own’ the outcome since they are the ones who will need to put the effort in to achieve it (we can support but they need to do the work). So it is best where it can be expressed in their own words so they can understand it and can engage with it
- It should be something that those involved have control and influence over
- While it does not always have to be formal or accredited, an outcome should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound (SMART). The pointers below may help in the formulation of an outcome; it should be / have
1. Specific but Stretching, so -
- A clear statement of what will be achieved: the ‘what’
- Be well-defined and easy to understand: the ‘why’
- Guide action: the ‘how’
2. Measurable and Motivational, so -
- ‘Evidential’, i.e. it can be assessed objectively, so it...
- Includes figures/numbers and...
- Can be observed (i.e it is not about emotions or thoughts - which can’t be seen - but about actions and responses, which can be seen)
3. Achievable but Ambitious, so -
- Challenging but not beyond reach
- Providing opportunities for success along the way
4. Relevant and Realistic, so -
- Aligning with the aspirational outcome
- Meaningful to the child / young person
5. Time bound and Timely, so -
- A time scale/end date
- Achieved (at a stretch) within the allotted time
The Benefits of Outcomes
- Having Outcomes which are meaningful to the child/young person means it’s more likely they will make a greater effort to achieve those Outcomes
- They are longer term and therefore, more likely to help towards planning for adulthood
- They help everyone prioritise and focus on what’s really important to that child/young person
- They are better able to target resources and effort to increase chances of success
Questions you should ask when devising an outcome:
- What will success look like?
- When will it be achieved?
- How will you know when it has been achieved?
- How can the outcome be framed positively?
- Are we sure it is an outcome for the child - ie that will be a success or achievement for the child - rather than identifying provision? (eg ‘She will be talking with her friends in the playground daily’ rather than ‘She will have x amount of therapy’)
Drilling down into Outcomes… an example
“By the time I leave school, I will have lots of friends.”
Is this clear enough for the young person to know what they are working towards and how they might get there? Is this Outcome “SMART” enough for those working with the young person ie does it say what you will see, why, and measure to know when you have got there?
A SMARTer Outcome…
“By the time I leave primary school, I will be having simple conversations about things that interest me with people of my own age with at least three people that I call my friends”
Is this an Aspiration or an Outcome?
“To be in a band playing music to the crowd!”
It’s an aspiration - and the outcomes will depend on the key stage, strengths and needs of the child or young person. So, the outcomes could be written as
“By the time I’m x years old, I will...
- have passed X qualification with merit or distinction on my guitar”; or
- be playing the recorder in school assemblies at least twice a term
- have played a percussion instrument in my school band on Open Day”; or
- play 3 short pieces of music on a piano to a small group of familiar people”.. etc etc
..And the ‘Steps Towards’..?
Essentially, the ‘Steps Towards’ are the basis for IEPs or SSPs (see below). They are the shorter term targets and ‘mini-successes’ on the way, i.e. the achievements and developments you will be looking for to show that the child is moving towards that outcome. So for a child whose outcome is to have a conversations with people of her own age, the ‘steps towards’ might be focused on areas such as
- making eye contact with her teacher when the teacher says her name
- saying “hello” to a known adult at least three times in the week
- asking and answering simple questions in sentences
- completing a game that involves speaking with another child etc
Just like the outcomes, the appropriate ‘steps towards’ will depend on the child or young person themselves and what is realistic and reasonable for them to achieve in the agreed timescale.
It is also important to consider who is ‘shaping’ the plan to achieve the outcome - ie who will be responsible for putting into place the plan to achieve the outcome? Teachers will lead on this, but often it is LSAs who are implementing considerable amounts of the plan: therefore the plan should be co-developed so that there is equal ownership of the process and the results, and an equal understanding of the interventions and assessment of progress required.
It is also useful to remember that an annual review is a review ‘of the fitness of the Plan for the child’, not ‘of the child’,. Therefore, when developing the Steps Towards (or SSP, as below) it is important to consider who will be inputting into the Annual Reviews, and what information / evidence will they need to provide. Planning for this at an early stage means Annual Reviews can be more meaningful. The outcomes may not need to be updated - they usually are intended to last for the key stage - but when a child is approaching the end of a keystage, or when an outcome has been achieved, the outcomes should be updated or even removed and that removal celebrated - real progress has been taken place!