I realise that we are not all seated in the same vehicle. There are many different sizes and shapes, let alone colours. I have been quick to highlight anything that might be on the horizon when uttered by Amanda Spielman, even if it relates to school more than to Early Years. I have been of the opinion that,”The common inspection framework” is a key to the direction of travel, in which every vehicle you are travelling in is moving.
So, consider the fact that Amanda talks about ‘the quality of the curriculum’ and links these things to ‘British Values’, to ‘being ready’ at the end of the Early years to go on to key stage 1. There has also recently been a focus on healthy living, physical exercise and development and diet. There was the debacle over the ‘Bold Beginnings’ publication. Every time someone tried to explain that this was more about school and reception, they failed to convince us in Early years that this would not undermine the free-flowing, curiosity shop that is the unique early years establishment. So where does that leave us?
It is my professional opinion that it remains a truth that Ofsted does not recommend or suggest any particular method or style of approach. That is to say, you could take Reggio, Montessori, High Scope or any other approach and Ofsted would not say that it is wrong. I was taught to look at ‘Outcomes’. Measured by typical behaviours (found in Early Outcomes)
What are Outcomes?
Outcomes are the achievements and successes children have everyday. Their first step as they learn to walk, their first words as they learn to talk, the pictures they paint, the marks they make, the whole of the rounded development of a child. The outcomes for a nursery are what value you added to the learning alongside the parents. When I listen to Amanda Spielman, that is what I hear her saying very loudly. The next OBC (Ofsted Big Conversation) has a topic on risk and Amanda was keen to say too many restrictions had been placed on children and staff so that children were not learning to minimise risks for themselves.
EYFS profile data is used to:
- inform parents about their child’s development against the ELGs and the characteristics of their learning
- support a smooth transition to key stage 1 (KS1) by informing the professional dialogue between EYFS and KS1 teachers
- help year 1 teachers plan an effective, responsive and appropriate curriculum that will meet the needs of all children
- Settings should develop their own approach to assessment which meets the needs of their children, parents, staff and curriculum. Statutory practitioner assessment at the end of the early years foundation stage is just one part of the broader assessments that practitioners make.
There are 3 main forms of assessment in settings:
- Day-to-day formative assessment – to inform teaching on an ongoing basis
- In-setting summative assessment – to understand a child’s performance at the end of a period of teaching
- National statutory summative assessment – to understand a child’s performance in relation to national expectations and comparisons.
- Practitioners can use observational assessment to understand children’s learning. Practitioners watch, listen and interact as children engage in everyday activities, events and experiences, and demonstrate their specific knowledge, skills and understanding.
Observational assessment is the most reliable way of building up an accurate picture of children’s development and learning. This is especially true where the attainment demonstrated is not dependent on overt adult support. Observational assessment is central to understanding what children really know and can do.
Some observations will be planned but some may be a spontaneous capture of an important moment. It is likely that observations of everyday activities will provide evidence of attainment in more than one area of learning. Observational assessment doesn’t need prolonged breaks from interaction with children, or excessive written recording. It is likely to be interwoven with high quality interactions or conversations in words or sign language with children about their activities and current interests.
- Responsible pedagogy is evident when practitioners have a good understanding about how children develop and because of that they can accurately assess the child when they demonstrate their learning and development. Responsible pedagogy enables each child to demonstrate learning in the fullest sense. It depends on the use of assessment information to plan relevant and motivating learning experiences for each child. Effective assessment can only take place when children have the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding, learning and development in a range of contexts.
- Children must have access to a rich learning environment where opportunities and conditions allow them to flourish in all aspects of their development. The learning environment should provide balance across the areas of learning. Integral to this is an ethos which:
- respects each child as an individual
- values children’s efforts, interests and purposes as instrumental to successful learning
When practitioners are evaluating the effectiveness of their assessment processes they should consider:
- child development, both the biological and cultural aspects, and its impact on how learning may best be supported
- planning which ensures a relevant, motivating, flexible and interesting curriculum
- provision of an environment which truly enables successful learning by all children in their care
- the need for detailed understanding of the EYFS framework for assessment in order to gather accurate, reliable and meaningful information
- the importance of high-quality adult interaction which is sensitive and adaptive to the needs of individual children and capable of promoting learning
- organisational aspects of provision, resources, curriculum and people Successful implementation of these aspects of pedagogy and provision will enable practitioners to make an accurate, reliable and consistent assessment of children’s learning. This will inform planning for year 1.
How to review the learning initiated by children:
- Are they:
(Children with effective learning characteristics)
- willing to have a go
- involved and concentrating
- having their own ideas
- choosing ways to do things
- finding new ways of doing things
- enjoying achieving what they set out to do
Nowhere in the requirements does it say all supported photographically. The evidence is gathered more as an evaluation of what the teacher has seen and heard.
What is also true is that there is a drive for the quality of providing a rich learning environment for all children and a focus on equality of opportunity for all, no matter what colour the car, in which you’re travelling.
About the author: Esther Gray
Esther is a renowned and respected expert in early years education and regulation in England. She qualified as NNEB and achieved a BTEC Level 6 in Investigative Practice, amongst others, while working for Ofsted.
For four decades she has honed and used her skills to support and advise providers of childcare and education. Until retirement from Ofsted in March 2017, Esther was focused upon the legal requirements, regulatory matters and compliance with the EYFS required by the Department for Education.