Inspectors will want to see that the curriculum is well-planned and sequenced, with increasingly challenging activities for children to engage with. Providers will need to show evidence that children consolidate and deepen their knowledge and understanding across all seven areas of the EYFS. They must also ensure that teaching is effective in helping children remember what they have been taught and to assimilate new learning into established concepts.
Children will be tracked during the inspection, as in the previous inspection framework. The inspector will discuss with the provider what they intend the children to learn, know and do as a result of the curriculum they offer. During these discussions, the inspector will evaluate practitioners’ knowledge of the EYFS curriculum and how they are building on what the children have already achieved. When observing interactions between staff and children, inspectors will consider how well staff engage in dialogue with children, how they watch, listen and respond to children and how they encourage children to express their thoughts and use new words.
Although Gill Jones, Ofsted Early Education Deputy Director, has announced a diminished focus on assessment, inspectors will still need to see that children are making progress. This doesn't mean, then, that we can dispense with assessment systems entirely but, as Ms Jones says, 'I hope that means you feel less obliged to create reams of paperwork, and that, in turn, will allow you to spend more time with young children and less time using Excel' (Early Years Alliance website)
Inspectors will still want to see that assessment is used effectively to ensure staff understand what children know, understand and can do, and how they can take the children’s learning forward. Providers will need to demonstrate the progress children make relative to their starting points, but assessment does not need to be an onerous task. Ofsted are making it clear that excessive assessment will be detrimental to the inspection outcome: ‘Leaders understand the limitations of assessment and avoid unnecessary burdens for staff or children’ (Ofsted early years inspection handbook, page 34).
Inspectors will want to know how the use of additional funding is having a positive impact on the outcomes of children, particularly disadvantaged children. Settings will therefore need to have a straightforward system to monitor groups of children to demonstrate that all children are making good progress.
Settings, then, need to have an efficient easy-to-use system to record observations and assessments, which will give staff a clear picture of where the children are in their learning. Tapestry learning journals support over 17,000 thousand settings in completing this task; staff can upload observations, photos and videos which can be shared with parents, carers and other professionals who might be working with the child. Assessments do not need to be made each time an observation is added to the child’s journal; the Tapestry support team have always advised against this, as well as avoiding the relentless ticking of the Development Matters statements! Far better to review the child’s journal on a termly or half-termly basis and make those assessments then. This reduces the daily and weekly burden of constant assessment and staff can concentrate on quality interactions with the children, recording observations at appropriate times. Hopefully, now that Ofsted is recognising the burdens of over-assessment, this will prevent leaders and managers insisting their staff complete an arbitrarily prescribed number of observations per child per week, which sadly has been the case in many settings.
The Early Years Inspection Handbook introduces the ‘learning walk’ to settings; schools are familiar these, but this is a new term for preschool settings (page 15):
‘Inspectors will complete a learning walk around the premises with the provider or their representative. This provides an opportunity for leaders to explain how they organise the early years provision, including the aims and rationale for their EYFS curriculum.’
So, what does the curriculum and pedagogy need to look like? Have we any clues?
‘The provider’s curriculum is coherently planned and sequenced. It builds on what children know and can do, towards cumulatively sufficient knowledge and skills for their future learning’
‘Practitioners understand the area of learning they teach and the way in which young children learn’.
‘Staff communicate well to check children’s understanding, identify misconceptions and provide clear explanations to improve their learning. In so doing, they respond and adapt their teaching as necessary.’
‘Practitioners and leaders use assessment well to check what children know and can do to inform teaching. This includes planning suitably challenging activities and responding to specific needs.’ (page 33)
Inspection reports have described the curriculum in good settings in the following ways:
Leaders have high expectations for children and provide a well-designed curriculum. They offer activities based on what children need to learn next.
The curriculum is well planned and overall, helps to develop children’s skills.
The committed staff team shares a clear vision for the intent of the curriculum.
The manager and staff provide a well-thought-through curriculum that builds on children’s interests and what children already know and can do.
The childminder’s highly ambitious curriculum ignites children’s passion for learning.
The manager and her enthusiastic team have high expectations for every child and have developed a curriculum based on children’s interests and what they need to learn next.
The manager supports staff to take good advantage of training and development, providing time and resources. This has made a good contribution to the development of the curriculum.
The manager uses effective systems to monitor the breadth and quality of the curriculum.
Assessment and Progress Tracking
Inspection reports have described assessment and progress tracking in good settings in the following ways:
Staff use a learning journal to record photographs, observations and comments about their key children.
All children, including those with special educational needs and/or disabilities, are supported well and make good progress relative to their starting points.
Staff carefully monitor children’s progress to ensure all children, including those who are in receipt of early education funding, make good progress from their starting points.
Staff make regular and reflective observations and assessments of children’s learning and development. They use these to fully understand the uniqueness of each child to ensure children make excellent progress given their starting points.
Staff carefully assess and monitor children’s progress so that they know what children can do and what they need to do next.
Children’s progress is subject to close monitoring. This helps the manager to identify where children, groups of children or areas of practice require additional support.
Children are making good and steady progress from their starting points. They are challenged to make the best progress possible through good tracking and monitoring by staff and management.
Staff monitor the progress of each child and groups effectively and provide good support to help children catch up if needed.
Managers monitor the curriculum and the children’s assessments well to narrow any gaps in learning. Staff seek good information on what children can do and are knowledgeable about what they need to learn next.
Staff observe children and complete assessments of their progress. They use this information to plan activities that reflect children’s individual needs and interests.
They make regular assessments of what children know and can do. Staff use this information to plan interesting and challenging experiences to move children forward in their learning.
Staff gather relevant information from parents about what their children know, understand and can do. They use such information along with their ongoing observations to meet children’s learning needs and interests.
Managers and staff check the progress of each child carefully. They observe children as they play and use such information to plan for their next steps.
Accurate assessments of children’s learning enable them to plan for their individual needs and provide enjoyable activities that motivate all children to join in.
Staff assess children’s development when they join the nursery and regularly check on their skills and knowledge. Staff use this information well to plan for what children need to learn next.
The childminder is systematic and meticulous in using observations to assess children’s development and identify challenging next steps in children’s learning. This helps her to construct a curriculum that is inspiring.
The manager analyses the progress of individual and specific groups of children. She identifies any gaps in children’s learning and puts plans in place to address these.
Within the 100 Ofsted reports, there are wide-ranging recommendations to direct settings to develop a broad, stimulating, sequenced curriculum:
Recommendations for Quality of Education
Question younger children more skillfully to successfully build on what they already know.
Enhance teaching so that staff quickly adapt the environment and activities to children's changing interests, to continually extend their learning.
Support staff to consistently identify children's misunderstandings and provide further explanations to improve children's knowledge.
Strengthen the monitoring and evaluation of whole-group teaching activities to ensure they are of the highest quality and children receive the very best challenges in learning.
Provide younger children with even more encouragement and support to enable them to fully explore and develop their own ideas.
Strengthen teaching skills so that children are encouraged to follow their own interests during play.
Support staff to develop their teaching skills so that they maximise opportunities for children to be able to think critically and solve their own problems.
Provide children with greater opportunities to think creatively about their activities and consider how they can achieve their aims.
Seek ways to adapt activities to enhance the learning of more-able children to enable them to make even further progress.
Develop the quality of teaching to enable staff to extend activities further to challenge most-able children and to promote their engagement.
Make greater use of opportunities to consistently extend children's learning, particularly during spontaneous activities, to help them make the best possible progress.
Help staff to strengthen their understanding about the progression of children's learning and apply this consistently when deciding what to teach children next.
Strengthen teaching skills so that every opportunity is made to develop children's thinking and language skills.
Make the most of opportunities that arise to follow children's lead and build on their interests during planned activities.
Provide even more experiences that help fully engage older children who prefer to learn outdoors and promote their learning even further.
Recommendations for Assessment and Progress Tracking
Enhance the way information about children's next steps in learning is shared with all staff to help everyone challenge children to the highest level and support them to make rapid progress.
Enhance the use of observations and assessments, to inform the planning for precise next steps in children's learning that help support rapid progress.
Strengthen further the assessment and planning procedures to precisely and efficiently identify children's ongoing progress to drive standards even higher.
Use the information gathered from observing children even more effectively, to help children make rapid progress.
Find out more from parents about what their children know and can do on entry and use this to plan even more meaningful experiences from the start.
Gather more precise information from parents when children first start at the setting, in order to inform the curriculum at the earliest opportunity
Gather as much information as possible from the setting children have previously attended, to obtain a fully comprehensive knowledge about a child's learning and development on entry.
Recommendations for Communication and Language
Develop further opportunities to promote children's understanding of words and their meaning in order to fully prepare children for the next stage in learning.
Strengthen staff's consistent interaction with children to further deepen children's understanding and extend their vocabulary.
Support children to develop their listening and attention skills consistently to help them to focus and concentrate during their play
Offer a higher level of challenge to aid children to develop their language skills and thinking.
Provide more opportunities and time for children to think of how to respond to questions they are asked.
Increase opportunities for children to have time to process their own thoughts and respond to questions, to further support their early language development.
Help all staff to consistently give children the time they need to think about and decide what they want to say in response to the questions that staff ask.
Strengthen the ways in which staff adapt their language to help younger children to learn to the highest possible level.
Ensure more consistency in the ways that staff develop children's thinking skills and support their understanding of new words and ideas.
Further extend learning during activities, for example by using questions that challenge children and make them think.
Recommendations for Physical Development
Review the organisation of the outdoor area so that children benefit from being more physically active in their play.
Strengthen arrangements for children to practise, challenge and build their physical skills.
Recommendations for Literacy
Seek to develop resources that extend children's early literacy skills in the outdoor area.
Provide children with more opportunities to build on and develop their knowledge of letters and sounds.
Provide children with an even greater level of challenge during activities, to help them achieve their highest potential, particularly with regard to literacy for older children.
Make more use of opportunities in free play to support older boys in extending their writing skills.
Recommendations for Maths
Improve teaching to develop children's mathematical skills further.
Provide more opportunities for children to practise and use numbers, counting and simple calculation.
Make the most of all opportunities to extend children's mathematical knowledge to help them develop an early understanding of numbers.
Enhance the teaching of mathematics to help children gain a secure understanding of numbers and build further on what they already know.
Provide more opportunities for children to further develop their mathematical skills and to solve problems unaided.
Provide children with more challenges in their mathematical understanding and development.
Recommendations for Knowledge and Understanding of the World
Enhance children's understanding of the wider community and each other's diverse cultures and lifestyles.
Provide higher levels of challenge to extend children's understanding of the world even further, including helping them to understand how materials change when combined together.
Support staff to use what they know about children's backgrounds, cultures and experiences to promote all children's understanding of the wider world and each other's similarities and differences in a meaningful way.
Develop teaching skills to further enhance children's opportunities to improve their knowledge and understanding of the world.
Review the provision of resources and activities that help children learn about the diversity of the world around them.
Increase opportunities for children to learn about how things work.
Improve staff's skills in teaching children how to use ICT effectively.
Strengthen children's knowledge of technology and provide resources that extend their understanding even further.
Recommendations for Expressive Arts and Design
Strengthen the use of questioning to extend children's ideas, in order to fully support their curiosity and imagination.
Provide more opportunities for children to develop their own thoughts and ideas during role play.
Part 3 in this series of '100 Ofsted reports' will examine the area of professional development and staff well-being.