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The transition we’re all currently experiencing is confusing and overwhelming sometimes. We knew this was coming, especially the early adopters, but a change of this magnitude means a lot of readjustments. I am sure you, like me, had plans for how the reforms would work in practice, only for the day to arrive and you realise it’s not as simple to implement as you’d hoped. And one of those areas has been assessments and progress tracking.
So as we move away from tick-lists, how do we rethink the way we measure children’s growth?
During this piece I aim to use my experiences over 12+ years in Early Years, working as an educator, manager and Early Years Teacher to provide practical tools to help inform the assessments you make, and monitor the progress and development of your children.
Below, we’ll look at the six methods I have built over the years to help build up the best possible holistic picture of a child. I hope these will mean that whatever progress monitoring process you develop in your setting, you feel confident you are being as thorough and accurate as possible.
‘Summative assessment’ describes assessments that practitioners complete for children at certain developmental stages throughout the Early Years Foundation Stage. You’re likely familiar with summative EYFS assessments like the two-year check, or the reception baseline assessment and EYFS profile (assessment against the Early Learning Goals). These give a holistic picture of a child’s knowledge, development, and skills.
Pre-reception Early Years settings over the years have typically completed a baseline assessment when a child first joins, and a final summative assessment before a child leaves to join Reception, using their professional judgement. However, this has been considered good practice rather than being a statutory requirement in the Early Years foundation stage. Whether summative assessments are completed in addition to the three statutory assessments depends on the preference of each individual setting, alongside other decisions such as how many documented observations are collected on each child and how often.
Summative assessments are different from formative assessments, which are the regular, day-to-day assessments you use to inform your planning, provision, and Early Years practice.
In a sentence, it’s up to you.
Thanks, in part, to the revised EYFS, gone are the days when Early Years practitioners were expected to complete multiple tick-list style assessment documents or ‘tracking.’ If you’d like to know why, Famly has put together an excellent documentary, The EYFS Tracking Lie, to explain just that.
Now, individual Early Years providers decide how and when children’s development and progress should be monitored, using their choice of curriculum guidance. In short, it's a great time to review your assessment procedures.
In my setting for example (which, for context, offers term-time Pre-School provision for children aged 2-5), we will be baselining children within their first half-term to note their starting points, then re-evaluating more formally halfway through the academic year and again at the end.
During the rest of the year, we’ll be observing children against the new (non-statutory) Development Matters observation checkpoints. Down below, you’ll find my toolkit of how to make this monitoring as genuine, meaningful, and representative as can be.
Regularly monitoring progress for each child across the seven areas of learning can seem daunting. It can be a challenge to feel confident that you have built up a broad and accurate picture of a child’s knowledge and skills.
Here are six methods I use to make all that easier:
It can be easy to become fixated on collecting documented evidence and using it as the most significant way of monitoring progress and development of an individual child. I know I have been guilty previously of believing if there isn’t tangible evidence such as linked observations in learning journals, then parents or carers or other professionals will not believe your assessments.
However, I would argue that one of the most important changes in the new EYFS guidance is the importance that is placed upon the child development knowledge of educators, specifically a child’s key person. The key person knows the child best within your setting, with equal weight being placed on the knowledge of parents. That is why I believe, if you ask the right questions of parents, they too are able to play a pivotal role in understanding a child’s stage of development.
Please note: here at Famly we love sharing creative activities for you to try with the children at your setting, but you know them best. Take the time to consider adaptions you might need to make so these activities are accessible and developmentally appropriate for the children you work with. Just as you ordinarily would, conduct risk assessments for your children and your setting before undertaking new activities, and ensure you and your staff are following your own health and safety guidelines.