Prior to the EYFS 2021, reception teachers would examine the mountain of evidence they had collected on the children and use the exemplification materials to compare attainment, before making a judgement for each ELG.
The new exemplification materials were eagerly awaited, following the publication of the revised ELGs. However, when they arrived they weren’t quite what teachers were expecting. Gone were the examples of observations; these were replaced with videos of teachers talking about a child in their class, and why they thought they were either emerging or expected for the ELG. Whilst being able to ‘listen in’ to these conversations is really useful, they’re not really the type of exemplification materials that people were used to. Maybe these shouldn’t have been called ‘exemplification materials’, but that’s a discussion for another day!
However, there is a good reason why these videos have been recorded and released. The new framework is very clear that there is no longer a requirement to have a collection of evidence for your judgements, so recreating exemplification materials as before, would not have been suitable; it would encourage teachers to start collecting all that unnecessary evidence again. What the videos do provide though is guidance on how school teams can meet to discuss the children and whether or not they have met the early learning goals.
The children discussed in the videos have varying levels of attainment and different rates of progress; they are not all expected to meet the early learning goals – and this provides a great opportunity for staff to discuss what they’re doing to support the child. This reinforces the approach of making sure that everything we do is centered around the child and how we can adapt our provision to suit their learning needs.
It’s interesting hearing the teachers talk about the knowledge and skills that the child has learned throughout the year, referring to specific examples. It is clear from the videos that it’s much easier to talk from memory about a child’s learning and development in PSED or KUW, (for example, leading their play, playing cooperatively, making friends, talking about different countries and cultures...) but that we all need some form of recording, to remind us of each child’s attainment in other areas of learning. It’s impossible to remember each child’s level of understanding in phonics or number, for example. Whilst staff may not have lots of observations to refer to, these videos show the importance of keeping some record of your planning and how the children have accessed the planned provision, including any areas where they may have needed extra support.
Of particular interest is how the teachers discuss several areas of learning at once (video 1 discusses the interaction between EAD, KUW and Maths). This reinforces the way in which children learn and reflects the way in which the early years framework has been designed – to plan activities and experiences that help support the development of the whole child.
So how can we make use of these videos as we come to the end of the reception year, and what implications does this process have for future years?
The videos model how a moderation session might look within a school: a discussion between the early years educators and the senior leadership team. These conversations cannot and should not be replicated exactly; the children in your setting will be different to the ones in the video and your curriculum is likely to be different too. The questions posed, however, are useful for senior leaders to hear and to see how the conversations can develop from asking effective, open-ended questions. Asking questions that lead into explanations of why things were planned for that child and how they responded gives a good indication of how secure the child is in that early learning goal.
Useful questions used in the videos were:
· How has practice changed following the reforms?
· What more does the child need to do to meet the expected standard?
· Tell me about this child’s word reading skills, or this child’s relationships with children and adults…
· What did you see towards the end of the year that made you think this child is achieving the ELG?
· Do you want to talk a little bit more about what helped with this child’s vocabulary?
· How do you think that (observation) matched to the ELG?
· Can you give me examples of how their language has increased?
· What makes you confident in your judgement….?
· How were you seeing that in class? How was that manifesting itself?
· What should the Year 1 team do in terms of supporting this child’s development further?
As with all moderation sessions, it’s useful to note that these videos are only focusing on a few children in a few areas. There is no need for educators to talk about all the children in all 17 early learning goals. What is important is that the practitioner demonstrates confidence in talking about the selected child and areas of learning so that the senior leadership teams can have confidence in all the ELG judgements that the teacher has made. Referring to written or electronic notes, photos, videos and so on, can support those judgements and act as a memory jog/prompt for the teacher. It’s worth noting that the video clips of the children engaged in their learning are explicit examples of how short, yet focused, video observations can be, capturing the learning you’re seeing in the classroom. But we all need to bear in mind to keep those observations manageable!
The reflective conversations between educators we’ve seen in the exemplification videos would be extremely beneficial throughout the year, not just at the end of the reception year. If you have a system for recording reflections about children’s learning, so much the better. For example, Tapestry's Reflections feature will allow you to do this easily - sharing comments, observations, photos and videos with colleagues to determine how well the children are engaging with your curriculum and provision, and to identify any adaptations that might be needed to meet the needs of every child.
A final point of interest in the exemplification materials involves the children moving onto Year 1. One of the questions listed above encourages the teacher to think carefully about, and to describe, the future learning opportunities and support the individual child will need in Year 1. Having these reflective conversations, or sharing Tapestry Reflections, with the Year 1 teacher is essential, helping the Year 1 staff prepare for their next cohort and preparing the groundwork for continued good progress.
Local authorities are no longer providing moderation events, so having reflective conversations in school, or within a locality / cluster of schools, will benefit educators immensely and in turn, help them to provide more focused provision for the children. And all this can be achieved without the need for endless data, which can only be a good thing!
By Ben and Helen, from our education team.