Welcome to part 6 of the EYFS Series we are running to support you with the EYFS reforms which come into play in September. Today we’ve got a Q&A with experienced Early Years Consultant and trainer, Penny Cartwright. We asked Penny some of your pressing HOW questions when it comes to implementing the reforms in your setting and she’s provided some very useful advice…
Catch up on:
- Part 1 – ‘Beatrice Merrick on using Birth to 5 Matters’
- Part 2 – ‘A whistle-stop tour on Self-Regulation with Sue Asquith’
- Part 3 – ‘Don’t worry about the reviewed EYFS: Make it Work For You with June O’Sullivan’
- Part 4 – ‘Feel prepared for the revised EYFS with Sue Asquith’
- Part 5 – ‘Some thoughts on pedagogy and curriculum’
Many childcare settings are currently reconstructing their assessment procedures in readiness for the new curriculum, where should they start and what should they be focusing on?
“With the changes to the EYFS from 1st September 2021, it is important to remember why the changes havebeen made. The first reason for the change, is to improve outcomes for all children, but
with a particular focus on improving outcomes for disadvantaged children, and to close the gap. The second reason is to reduce workload, to ensure practitioners are spending less time on paperwork and more time interacting with the children, focusing on what will make a difference to children. ”
The focus for leaders, practitioners, and childminders is to:
- Know and understand what the statutory requirements and expectations around assessment are in the revised EYFS.
- Get to know the two new non-statutory documents (Development Matters and Birth to 5 Matters) to support the EYFS and assessment and decide, which one or both, they will use and for what purpose.
- Be clear what the purpose of observations and assessments are.
- Review current assessments systems and consider how useful what they are doing is. Identify what is working well but also what could be improved.
- Reflect on the amount of time practitioners take to do assessments, including observations and gathering information, and review this to focus on only what makes a difference to children and their outcomes.
Can you point to any support or resources which are available for them to do this?
The main documents to support assessment in the revised EYFS are the revised Statutory Framework (2021), Development Matters (2020) and Birth to 5 Matters (2021). Development Matters (2020) and Birth to 5 Matters are non-statutory but can support practitioners to implement the revised EYFS, and to support assessment.
Development Matters (2020) offers a simpler way of assessing children. The document includes useful information on the principles of assessment and planning. It does stress, the document is not to be used as a tick list, or to generate lots of data. Settings can help children to make progress without unnecessary paperwork. The number of age bands have been reduced to three (Birth to three, 3 & 4-year-olds and children in reception). The areas of learning are not separated into different aspects. The document includes examples of what children will be learning and examples of how practitioners can support this. There are also ‘Observation checkpoints’ with questions for practitioners to ask themselves about the children’s development.
Birth to Five Matters is a more detailed document. This is an extremely useful resource and can support practitioners with assessment and planning. It can also support practitioners and childminders to develop their understanding of child development and what good early years practice looks like. Many practical ideas of what adults can do and what adults can provide, will support practitioners and childminders to implement the revised educational programmes for all seven areas of learning.
When deciding what assessment in the revised EYFS will look like and what system to use, many organisations who currently offer electronic learning journals to support EYFS assessments, are in the process of updating these in line with the revised expectations, Development Matters 2020, and Birth to 5 Matters.
Some local authorities provide guidance on assessment to support schools, settings, and childminders. Many local authorities are in the process of updating guidance in line with the revised EYFS.
One of the key objectives behind the reforms was reducing practitioner workload, what are 3 changes every nursery should make to enable this?
How many changes settings and childminders will need to make will depend on what their current practice is and how much time they spend on paperwork and how effective this is.
It is a good opportunity to:
- Review all the paperwork practitioners complete, for both assessments and planning and ensure the focus is to only do what will make a difference to children. (What are we doing, why are we doing it and who are we doing it for?)
- Review the amount of paperwork required for planning and assessments. How much information is collected for learning journals? (Observations, photos, samples.) Is all this necessary? Ensure what we are recording is significant and useful. (Quality rather than quantity.)
- Review the support and training available to ensure practitioners and childminders are confident, have a good understanding of child development and how to use assessments effectively to support children’s learning in all areas. Can practitioners and childminders talk about their key children and their development? Do they know which children need more support, in which area and what they can do to support them?
The other key objective was to improve outcomes for all children. What kind of methods can practitioners use to identify the children that are falling behind while moving away from the tick list approach?
- When making assessments, look at the broad ages and stages or age range and use a ‘best fit’ approach rather than ticking off every statement. Are children on track with their development? Is their development typical for their age? What are the most important things to know?
- Practitioners need time and regular opportunities to discuss individual children with colleagues (their needs, interests, characteristics, and development) to identify where children are in their development and what the priorities are for children.
- Practitioners need time to get to know Development Matters (2020) or/and Birth to Five Matters.
Are there some everyday activities you can recommend practitioners do to strengthen language and vocabulary development particularly with disadvantaged children?
The best way to support children’s communication and language is through providing a language rich environment and opportunities for high quality interactions and conversations throughout the day. Everyday activities will support all children’s communication and language. Children who need the most support, will need more positive interactions and conversations with adults, to motivate and encourage children to want to communicate with them.
Communication and language development is still a prime area. The revised EYFS emphasizes the importance of prioritising communication and language for all children. A good starting point for practitioners and childminders is to look at the revised educational programmes as these describe the types of experiences and activities important to support children’s learning in all areas, including communication and language. Development Matters (2020) and Birth to 5 Matters also include many practical ideas on what adults can do and can provide.
Some examples are:
- Provide a stimulating learning environment, indoors and outdoors with a wide range of interesting resources.
- Make the most of books, share a wide range of books with children every day, individually and in small groups.
- Provide lots of opportunities for role play, supporting children with what they already know and are familiar with.
- Give children opportunities to talk about themselves, their family and home experiences.
- Make the most of everyday routines, mealtimes, singing songs, tidying up etc.
- Ensure that the adults are responsive to children, and tune into children’s needs and interests and who are interesting and interested in the children!
What purpose do you think an EYFS Profile (or learning journal) serves in the revised EYFS? For example, how does it relate to observations, assessments, and parental engagement?
Do you know what a childminder or setting can expect during the ‘learning walk’ with Ofsted – how should they prepare for this?
What has stayed the same in this revised framework that practitioners can continue to focus on with the children?
- The overarching principles of the EYFS remain the same: unique child, positive relationships, enabling environments and learning and development.
- The revised EYFS is still a play based, inclusive framework, and practitioners still need to start with the individual needs, interests, and development of the child.
- The characteristics of effective teaching and learning are still central and should be supported throughout all aspects of practice. How children learn, their behaviours and attitudes need to continue to be a focus for all practitioners to support.
- The role of the adult is still crucial.
- The names of seven areas of learning and development have remained the same, with the importance of the prime areas. Communication and language continue to be a priority as this underpins all areas of development.
- How young children learn has not changed.
- Good practice is still good practice!
- Keep on doing what you know is right for your children!
About Penny Cartwright
Penny Cartwright is an experienced Early Years Consultant and trainer. She was a teacher in nursery and reception in three local authorities before becoming an early years advisor in the London Borough of Lewisham. Penny believes passionately that young children deserve the highest quality teaching and learning, with a stimulating learning environment, which supports children to become confident, independent learners and motivated to learn. She has a proven track record of working with leaders and practitioners in schools, settings and childminders to improve outcomes for children.
Penny Cartwright has specialised in early years for many years. She studied at Goldsmiths’ College, has a degree in early childhood education and has many years’ experience working as a teacher and as an Early Years Consultant and trainer for a local authority and independently. She was the Strategic lead for the Every Child a Talker project and is particularly interested in how we support children’s communication and language skills which is fundamental to all other areas of learning. Penny is one of the authors of ‘A Place to Learn – Developing a stimulating learning environment’.
Penny’s Recommended Resources
Statutory framework for the early years foundation stage (www.gov.uk)
Birth to 5 Matters Birthto5Matters-download.pdf
Development Matters Development Matters – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Early Years Inspection Handbook for Ofsted Registered provision for September 2021 (www.gov.uk)