Target setting is an essential part of the government’s strategy for enabling pupils with SEN to reach their full potential. This guidance was issued in 2001 (revising a document from 1998) and aims to help both mainstream and special schools to set appropriate targets. The initial readership was those schools which were required to set measurable targets for pupils with SEN in 2002/3 after having previously set zero-rated targets.

The first part of the document sets out a five stage cycle for school self-improvement, with case studies illustrating each stage. Assessment and target setting are central to improvement, but the guidance recognises that Key Stages and the National Curriculum may not be sufficient for pupils with SEN. Here P scales may be useful in recognising achievement below Level 1.

Part two outlines performance criteria for mathematics, English and science, with revisions to the 1998 document having been based upon extensive consultation with schools. Together with the simultaneously published DfEE/QCA guidance ‘Planning, teaching and assessing the curriculum for pupils with learning difficulties’, this document offers a common structure and language for schools to use when judging pupil performance.

While Levels P4-P8 have subject-specific descriptions, at Levels P1-P3 the criteria are the same across all three subject areas – however in response to teachers’ requests the differentiation between these lower levels has been increased. The criteria for mathematics and English also offer differentiation within Levels 1 and 2 of the National Curriculum.


  • Foreword
  • Introduction
  • School target setting
  • Differentiated performance criteria