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Complex Engagement

Complex curriculum Engagement Model

Engagement Profile

Engaging pupils in their learning as actively as possible is key to successful learning and teaching. We use the Engagement Model to support us in planning to maximise learning and teaching opportunities. All pupils following the complex curriculum have an engagement profile; this document details how pupils engage in each of the areas of the engagement model, it includes favourite activities and approaches that work well. These profiles are updated termly and are shared with parents and carers and other professionals. The profiles are available in classrooms

Engagement Scale Observations

Teachers complete 1 engagement scale observation for each pupil each week. These observations should cover as many areas of the engagement model as possible and are given a numerical score

1 – disengaged

2 – fleeting

3 – partly sustained

4 – mostly sustained

5 – fully sustained

Teachers then use the observation to plan next steps in learning for the pupil. This may be to repeat the experience, to modify the way the experience is presented or to change the experience more substantially.

Engagement scale observations can show progress for a pupil as they increase their engagement. For example, a teacher may do an observation at the beginning of a series of lessons then repeat the observation at the end.

Progress may also be evidenced when a pupil is able to repeat levels of engagement in self-initiated exploration following on from adult led experiences.

In some cases, the purpose of the engagement scale observation may be to support the teacher in better targeting the learning experiences to meet pupils needs.

Teachers are encouraged to do observations that focus on a range of several types of engagement not just those that show the highest levels of engagement. In some cases, closely analysing activities that show low levels of engagement can allow teachers to change direction and provide higher quality learning experiences

The model

The engagement model is circular rather than linear. No one area of the model takes precedence. Teachers can focus their observations where ever they feel is most relevant. They are encouraged to use the model as widely as possible to gain as full a picture as possible of the learning experience

The engagement model is subdivided into the following areas:


Exploration focusses on pupils building on their initial reaction to a new stimulus or activity; for example, whether they display more than an involuntary or startled reaction to the activity. Pupils may be interested in and curious about the stimulus or activity; for example, they may notice it or reach out to it.

Exploration becomes more established when the pupil is still responsive to the same stimulus or activity when it is presented in different contexts or environments; for example, a different time of day, a different place or with different people.

Exploration is important in identifying which stimuli or activities interest pupils and motivate them to pay attention and investigate them further, so that they can develop new knowledge and skills.


How a pupil investigates a stimulus or activity to bring about a desired outcome. Pupils will act spontaneously and independently during a familiar activity without waiting for direction.

Initiation becomes more established when pupils show they understand how to create an impact on their environment to achieve a desired outcome.

Initiation is important to establish how well pupils are developing independence, which is required for more advanced progression.


How much pupils predict, expect, or associate a stimulus or activity with an event. They may anticipate that a familiar activity is about to start or finish by interpreting cues or prompts such as auditory (what they hear), tactile (what they feel) and visual (what they see).

Anticipation becomes more established when pupils show awareness that a familiar activity is about to start or finish, even when cues and prompts are reduced.

Anticipation is important in measuring pupils’ understanding of cause and effect; for example, if they do this, then something will happen. This prepares the brain and helps with the pupil’s memory and sequencing.


How pupils interact with a new stimulus or activity or discovers a new aspect of a familiar stimulus or activity. They will display behaviours that show they want more control of the stimulus or activity, for example by stopping it or trying to make changes to it. Pupils will often show what familiar adults consider to be ‘surprise’, ‘excitement,’ ‘delight,’ ‘amazement’ or ‘fear.’

Realisation becomes more established when the pupil uses the newly developed skills or knowledge in new ways and in different contexts or environments. This is important as it can keep the pupil excited in their education and prevents an activity from becoming routine


Whether pupils can sustain their attention in a stimulus or activity for long enough so that they can actively try to find out more and interact with it.

Persistence becomes more established when pupils show a determined effort to interact with the stimulus or activity. They will do this by showing intentional changes such as changes in their gaze, posture, and hand movement.

Persistence is important so that pupils maintain an activity long enough to develop, reinforce, and apply their skills or knowledge so they can achieve their desired outcome.

DFE Engagement model July 2020


We regularly share our findings around engagement with parents are carers: through shared access to Evidence for Learning and by sending the Engagement profile home termly and with the annual report. We include discussions of the engagement model as part of the Annual review process.

Engagement forms the basis of discussion in our moderation sessions. In 2022/23 we plan to further embed the language of engagement into long term targets and provision in EHCPs.