- ‘How am I going to track children’s progress?’
- ‘How do I check children against age-related expectations?’
- ‘How am I going to create baseline data for children when they start?’
I don’t think they are.
It’s understandable that these are people’s first questions. After all, for years we’ve been supplying ‘data’ to local authorities, Ofsted, PVI owners and management boards and senior leaders in schools.
What approach should we take when we are assessing children in the revised EYFS?
- The most important role assessment has, is to improve the child’s learning and overall experience. So most assessment is minute-by-minute. It’s scaffolding children’s learning. For older children in the EYFS, it’s about giving kind but precise feedback that helps them to reflect on and develop their learning.
- Lots of ‘data’ about children won’t actually help us to ensure that any individual child makes great progress, or overcomes difficulties when they are struggling. What we need, for children who are struggling, is a close and detailed look at what their difficulty is and how we can help them overcome it. We want our assessment information to celebrate every child’s progress – whether that’s small steps or huge strides. We also want it to pinpoint children’s needs, so we can help them quickly.
- If you think of the time we spend on assessment like a cake, I don’t think that we should divide it up equally between the children we’re working with. Rules of thumb like ‘four observations per child per month’ are not sensible.
The curriculum is the ‘top level view’ of all the things we want children to experience, know and be able to do as a result of coming to our setting or school. We should develop and set that out clearly and briefly with our staff teams and parents. That way, everyone can be engaged and ready to support the children to achieve the key milestones in our curriculum.
Minute-by-minute assessment practices, like scaffolding and feedback, are essential elements of effective pedagogy.
The first thing to note is that the purpose of the revised Development Matters is different to the predecessor document.
· Give children extra support and scaffolding where needed.
· Make sure that our assessment is useful and helps us to do this.
Assessment on entry should also focus on what will help our work.
- Confidence – how a child manages the move from parent to key person or childminder. How they manage to develop relationships and play or explore alongside others.
- Communication – how a child manages to express their needs and use communication to join in with others. How well they manage to follow instructions, when this is necessary.
- Physical development – how well a child’s small and large motor skills enable them to play with the equipment and enjoy the spaces we offer.
- Self-help – how well a child manages drinking, eating, toileting, their coat and dressing/undressing.
If parents are expecting a lot of ‘evidence’ to be logged and shared about their child’s development, this will be a good time for dialogue to explore that. On the one hand, celebrating children’s learning is important. Those online journals, or Learning Journey books, are very precious to parents. They also provide a good context for parents and children to talk about learning, at home and in the setting.
I’d suggest two points here.
- Our professional understanding of child development helps us minute-by-minute to support learning and development.
- The progress model of our curriculum helps us to make sure that our enabling environment and our playful, adult-guided learning promote progress.
- Agreeing how parents and the nursery setting/childminder will collaborate to help a child with an important next step in their development is useful. I think that should be something of key importance, like toilet training, or learning to ride a bike without stabilisers. Both parties need to collaborate to support the child.
- If your planning process with 'next steps' is working for you, don't throw it out. Just reflect on whether there are opportunites to make your planning less time-consuming so can put your energy where it will make the biggest difference. This whole discussion about the revised EYFS is about reflecting on guidance, and then making the professional judgements that will work for you, the children and their families, your staff team and the wider local community.
I’d suggest the following approach to making changes in response to the revised EYFS:
- Explore the revised EYFS for yourself. For example, the revised Development Matters is a quicker and simpler read than the old document. You’ll need to find 90 minutes to read that. Check the changes to the Statutory Framework, too.
- Dialogue – talk with your team and with parents about the changes to the EYFS. In schools and settings – managers, senior leaders, and others will need to be part of the discussions
- Reflect and self-evaluate - what do you do well? Make sure you preserve that. Where are there opportunities to make changes?
- Prepare: have a credible plan to make the necessary changes so that you are in line with the new requirements. Think about a plan for 2021-2022, with realistic milestones. Don’t plan to change everything for the first week of September.
- Prepare: make sure your team have time for discussions and time for the professional development they need.