Julian Grenier writes:
Last week I offered any Early Adopters the opportunity to write a guest blog about their approach to the early years curriculum. I'm finding it really useful to explore how different leaders and practitioners are thinking about the curriculum and progress.
I've been doing lots of work with Early Adopters, and with schools and settings looking ahead to the new EYFS in September 2021. We've been discussing the importance of keeping hold of practice and provision which is working well. We've also been discussing the idea of having a transitional year, so that change is introduced at a sensible pace.
I've written about some effective approaches to making change in our settings, and supporting staff with their professional development, in my book Working with the Revised Early Years Foundation Stage: Principles into Practice. You can download this as a free PDF or buy a printed copy at http://development-matters.org.uk
Change brings with it a chance to review practice and reflect. Some schools have decided to map out children's progression in key areas of learning. These maps can support staff in thinking about the best ways to interact with children and support them to make progress in their learning.
I think it's important to support schools and settings to try things out and make the decisions that work for them, and are consistent with the principles and the requirements of the EYFS.
There is no 'one size that fits all'.
It's important that creating these sorts of 'progress models' doesn't become a new and onerous piece of work. Like anything else, it's only worth doing if it improves children's experiences and learning, and supports the professional development of staff.
Likewise, it's also important that staff don't stop using the old Development Matters as a ticklist only to create new forms and ticklists.
I\m always enormously hearted, inspired and humbled by the work of the Early Adopters and their willingness to try things out and share their findings. That way, they help the whole sector.
Becka Wigmore, Early Years Phase Leader at Purbrook Infant School, writes:
The idea of the new curriculum seemed like such an exciting opportunity. We jumped on board the Early Adopter train and assumed it would be an easy ride – we were wrong! Changing your perspective and breaking away from what you have always done is more of a challenge than we first realised, and our new mantra is “Baby steps.”
Initially, we expected to have every curriculum progression grid and assessment strategy in place in a matter of weeks. It took us a while to recognise the opportunity for growth and development that we had been offered but, now that we have slowed down, we are taking full advantage.
Having the flexibility and freedom to create a curriculum based on our own children has provided us with the opportunity to explore how our children learn. Beforehand, we took Development Matters as a checklist for child development and were told that that every 30-50-month-old should be able to draw lines and circles, catch a large ball and copy some letters. If they couldn’t, we simply looked back to 16-24 months… However, if we wanted a child to learn to draw lines and circles, practising walking downstairs or balancing blocks on a tower seemed a strange way to go about it! There was no guidance on how to fill these gaps and move learning on. Now, the curriculum reflects the fact that children develop at different paces, and practitioners have the chance to dive deeper into the ways that children learn and develop individual skills.
We have decided to hold off on writing our curriculum progression documents and focus on skill progression. We are breaking down each area of learning into specific skills (for example, fine motor has so far been broken into pencil grip, pivots, scissor skills and drawing control). We are then researching and exploring development within these skills, creating a visual map of how children progress and grow. This involves reading deeply into each area of skill, researching how children develop and which skills lead onto others (for example, catching a ball with static straight arms comes before catching a ball with fluid, moving arms). Once we notice a child is unable to catch a ball, we will then know ways to model catching that they can achieve, rather than expecting them to catch a ball one handed with their eyes closed on the first day!
Naturally, not every child will progress linearly across from Step 1 to Step 8, but every child will have gaps to fill to support their forward progression. These documents will grow over time as more areas of need become apparent, and will be dynamic documents which are used to track next steps and progress.
This feels like an exciting chance to increase our staff’s pedagogical knowledge and our awareness of our children. Identifying a specific target within these skills should move children’s learning on faster as we target their individual needs and ‘in the moment’ progression can happen as staff model a next step that is supported by research.
Our curriculum progression document will come in time, based on these skills maps. Hopefully, taking the time to increase our own knowledge whilst writing these documents will mean that, once they are completed, they are well-researched and clearly structured, meeting the needs of our specific children. Some areas are easier than others – I am currently putting off maths until I can sit down with our maths leader and find some sort of starting point! However, as I keep telling myself, it’s all about the “baby steps”.