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Low, in-line, above, secure - do the words affect our interpretation?


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I'm just working through the various trackers/reports I have from the pre-schools/nurseries which have sent children to me this year. I'm finding myself monumentally confused! They have made an assessment against the different aspects and I have the following words to work with:

Setting 1: low, secure, high

Setting 2: working well, working within, working very well

Setting 3: emerging, developing, secure or emerging, succeeding, secure depending on which key person has completed the report

Setting 4: hasn't used the age bands but has assessed their children against the ELGs using emerging/expected/exceeded

The tracker our LA send out has low/secure/high within each age-band. Anyone getting 'low 40-60 months' is deemed to be in-line, above that is above and below that is below age-related expectations.

One child spent most of Friday afternoon either lying or rolling on the floor or sitting saying 'Aah, aah, aah' repeatedly despite all my best efforts. He has been given 'high' for managing feelings and behaviour. For me this means that he is above average on entry and is likely to be on track to exceed the ELG and without wishing to sound too negative there is no way he's going to achieve that. The same pattern follows across all other aspects - he is either in-line or above. Aside from what might need to be a moderation conversation coming up I'm wondering if it would make a different if these settings knew at what they were calling 'low' was what I would say was in-line? I'm asking because the paper tracker for this particular child doesn't match the verbal report I got either!

To create further confusion one child attended 2 different settings, one just for the summer term. Both have sent reports but their judgements don't match each other.

Any thoughts?!

Edited by Froglet
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poor you - and we are having a similar experience this year. We have a similar range of words and also coloured dots.

Somehow the revised curriculum has thrown things out of kilter over the last two years, and our poor pre-schools are being pressured, just as we are, to track children so as to demonstrate their progress.

So we have transferred the gist of the preschool assessments onto our own tracking sheets to show where the children were assessed as being in Summer 14. We use a paper system alongside Target Tracker; this Summer 14 just goes on the paper system. Then we do our own baseline assessments by Oct half term, which we talk through with parents, and then this goes on both systems. This way we have a visual reminder of what the child has shown they are able to do, and last year found that it did take a few children a whole year before they regained their 'leaving preschool' levels.

We are in the process of setting up visits to Year R as it is now, rather than in the Summer, from our feeder settings to inform the transition process, so staff there can speak from experience when preparing both parents and children, and I'll use this opportunity to do a bit of informal moderation too. More systematic moderation would need to wait until the Spring term I feel, when our children are more settled and so are the pre-schoolers.

We have some children from one setting who have been assessed as exceeding ELG's in PSE and UW; they are not showing us their high level skills yet, so our entry data will be what we see.

Our LA advice is as yours - low 40-60 is in-line.

But I still see most children within 30-50 and some below that, and some way below that. Apparently someone has done some research and found that most reception teachers assess most of their children as being somewhere within the 30 -50 band.

It is frustrating that the intake picture is so wavy, not least because so many people put so much effort into getting it right. The only comfort I can offer is that it's not just you! And I did get a bit grumpy on Friday when I found one of my Year 1 colleagues testing children's phonics levels, 'just to check'!!

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There is certainly mileage in getting together with your feeder settings and doing some cross moderation. Even the most experienced people would benefit from agreement that we are all singing from the same sheet, and have a shared understanding of what eg 30-50 in managing feelings and behaviour 'looks like'. The more people get together to discuss, the better and more accurate the judgments become over time, and this helps everybody, most especially the children.

But do also bare in mind, that some children may have come from a setting in which they have spent up to 3 years, in a ratio of possibly even 6:1. They have transitioned to a school, where the ratio is possibly 30:1 or most likely 15:1, where the rules, the people, the routine, the space, the expectations, are all very different. Not surprisingly after just a month there, they may not yet be showing you their full potential! Aren't we the same as adults? Some of us drop right into a new situation without a blink, whilst some of us take time to adjust, due to nerves, anxiety etc. Do we show our true spirit straight away in new surroundings? This is why transitions are so important, and as marywilliam said, starting early is key (where possible as school LAs don't give out school places until April), so that children have lots of opportunity to see that new place etc.

I do agree about the language, there are so many different terms out there, and some are possibly less helpful than others.

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But do also bare in mind, that some children may have come from a setting in which they have spent up to 3 years, in a ratio of possibly even 6:1. They have transitioned to a school, where the ratio is possibly 30:1 or most likely 15:1, where the rules, the people, the routine, the space, the expectations, are all very different. Not surprisingly after just a month there, they may not yet be showing you their full potential! Aren't we the same as adults? Some of us drop right into a new situation without a blink, whilst some of us take time to adjust, due to nerves, anxiety etc. Do we show our true spirit straight away in new surroundings? This is why transitions are so important, and as marywilliam said, starting early is key (where possible as school LAs don't give out school places until April), so that children have lots of opportunity to see that new place etc.

Absolutely! I do know that - my particular concern in the case of the child I mentioned was that the verbal 'report' I got from his setting when I went to visit doesn't match what was written down (or the subsequent conversations I have had with his speech therapist). I completely agree about time to settle in too; I have to give my head teacher on-entry assessments 3-4 weeks after they've started and 2 weeks later seen a child blossom and show me stuff they could clearly already do/knew and I've changed my initial assessment. I wish I could do more transition work and this is something I can think about more for the future but one of the issues I face is that for at least half of the new reception cohort I don't know where they have been before coming to me. I have a couple who consistently send children our way but the others change every year. I feel like I spend my entire time chasing my tail trying to catch up with them all.

I do hope that what I said in my first post didn't come across as if I was having a go at the settings that feed in to my reception class (or in general) it certainly wasn't intended as such it was just a frustration with the range of language used and how to interpret that. I'm just wanting to give the children I have the best start I can. My apologies if I've offended anyone. :(

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Hi froglet

No,I am absolutely sure you haven't offended anyone, and no apologies required!. It is obvious you want the very best for your children, and are trying to find a way through. It is as you say a perennial problem, the language, the application or interpretation of the development matters, the lateness of allocation of school places, time to do thorough transitions, all makes for a picture to which there are no easy solutions.

If you are very concerned about the accuracy of spoken v written alongside speech therapist, can you approach the setting and suggest some sort of ongoing cross moderation if there is nothing already happening in your area? And perhaps have a conversation with the manager about how the information is quite different and has left you a little confused?

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As a preschool manager I am really interested in this from the other side.

 

I do get the feeling that the Reception teachers are assessing children in 30-50 but some of those children are 50 plus months when they go in to school so why the low assessment?

Basically if children are not where they should be on school entry, what should we be doing about it? And what is wrong with our assessment systems now?

Or is it the statements and the banding which is wrong to reflect where an average child will be on school entry?

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I would urge all schools to contact their feeder pre-schools to work with them...i have tried for 5 years to set up moderation between my main settings and i'm still struggling to sort this out! I do also think that we need to be careful in 'setting' an expected target for on entry as some of the children have only just turned 4 and some are coming in at 5 ....HUGE difference

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Well, you certainly haven't offended me Froglet, I'm finding this informative and i'm planning now to speak to our reception teachers to see how they feel about our assessments and reports. Our new manager is attempting to change how staff do the LJs so it might be a good place to start. :)

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As an early years nursery person, I would have to say that I am not surprised by the inconsistencies. We as a setting are given no help whatsoever with tracking. We have nothing except ourselves to moderate. There seems to me to be such a huge leap from 40-60 statements to ELG's, yet we can only describe against the development matters/eyo statements.

 

I always feel like I am just stabbing in the dark (not that I will admit that to Mr/Mrs inspector when they come to call!!)

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As an early years nursery person, I would have to say that I am not surprised by the inconsistencies. We as a setting are given no help whatsoever with tracking. We have nothing except ourselves to moderate. There seems to me to be such a huge leap from 40-60 statements to ELG's, yet we can only describe against the development matters/eyo statements.

 

I always feel like I am just stabbing in the dark (not that I will admit that to Mr/Mrs inspector when they come to call!!)

I agree with you on that. I recall when the Pink folder arrived nobody used it the same way which meant there were 1001 ways. Unfortunately, nothing much has changed LAs send out different messages or none at all. I'm definitely going to talk to our reception teachers :)

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Well - shock horror...... we don't pass on transition records :o

Currently our LA 'suggests' we use their documents - we ask the schools if they want them, if they say yes we use them, but to be honest most say a very polite ' thank-you but no thank-you'

Having said that, they come and visit, and we talk/discuss etc, the children visit them- again we talk etc whilst there.

I think the trouble is, we as pre-schools are pressured to show progress......well lets be honest- there only so much progress you can show in the age-bands xD Once they've moved onto to school - again the pressure to show progress..... Another factor that needs to be considered when arranging moderation visits/meetings- for many pre-school workers this could simply mean, yet more unpaid work. :(

As mundia says, many of our children have been with us a long time, with small ratios, and leave us as very confident little people and it must be a total culture shock one they arrive in mainstream school.

I guess it only a matter of time before we are going to have to conform and send reports though.

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I think the trouble is, we as pre-schools are pressured to show progress......well lets be honest- there only so much progress you can show in the age-bands xD Once they've moved onto to school - again the pressure to show progress..... Another factor that needs to be considered when arranging moderation visits/meetings- for many pre-school workers this could simply mean, yet more unpaid work. :(

As mundia says, many of our children have been with us a long time, with small ratios, and leave us as very confident little people and it must be a total culture shock one they arrive in mainstream school.

I guess it only a matter of time before we are going to have to conform and send reports though.

Absolutely! It's the pressure to show progress against a system that makes the jumps too big and too irregular that creates the inconsistencies I feel. (and was never designed to be an assessment tool but we needed something because of the externally applied pressure).

Pre-school setting staff here know their children really really well and we have great discussions. We are trying to find ways for staff from preschools to come to our school to meet each other so we can all moderate together, but I am aware, as you say, that this could be an imposition. \it would be great to get people together though.

We are starting to use a 6-step system introduced by Target Tracker this year, so will see if that helps.

And I guess the compulsory baseline will stop all the flow of assessments in the next couple of years, though I really hope the information and discussions will be even better.

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