Monday, 30 January 2017

Celebrating children's learning

The large majority of early years practitioners use the non-statutory Development Matters as a guide to planning for children's progress in the EYFS. But there has bee a longstanding problem: whereas a range of exemplification materials have been produced for the Early Learning Goals, there is nothing equivalent to support Development Matters. That means that there haven't been the materials to support training and development in this area, or to support moderation of assessments.

This is particularly important when it comes to transition. If children are going to build their learning over time as they transfer from, say, a preschool into a primary school, or from a childminder into a nursery class, then it is important that the assessment information about them is accurate and robust. Otherwise, the receiving school or setting may well simply ignore all the information that transfers with the child. That's why the East London Partnership worked with a group of nursery schools across London on the Celebrating Children's Learning project.

These observations were contributed by the group to help practitioners to assess children’s learning and exemplify the progress they make, using the Development Matters guidance. They were particularly selected to show the Characteristics of Effective Learning in action. Every aspect of the seven prime and specific areas of learning is illustrated by real observations of young children’s learning in action, using a wide range of different styles and formats.


We hope that these materials will be useful for training and development purposes, both to develop the quality of assessment, and to improve the accuracy and robustness of assessment across the early years. If early years settings, childminders and schools come together for training and for moderation, that will improve transition arrangements and will help to ensure that children can build on their learning and deepen their interests. Higher-quality assessment information will also engage parents more, and prompt more discussion: fostering early learning is a partnership between parents and practitioners.

As we worked on the project, we identified four features in the most effective practice in early years assessment:


  • you can ‘hear’ the child’s voice or ‘get a feel’ for their play
  • there is keen observation of the child’s exploration, play and thinking
  • the practitioner has noticed that the child is learning a new skill, or is making new links between aspects of knowledge
  • there are examples of Sustained Shared Thinking, or a response from the child showing their feeling of awe and wonder.