This year, we've all heard the question: 'Are you adopting Birth to Five Matters or Development Matters?' A more pointed query might be 'how exactly are you using the non-statutory guidance'
Both documents, written by the Early Years Coalition or Julian Grenier respectively, have much insight and knowledge to offer. Neither should be used as a ticklist, though. That they are not is the expressed wish of the authors who offer descriptors as a few illustrative examples of what children with typical development might do. These are not designed as 'must-do' milestones. Yet our sector has been abuzz with numerous requests and attempts, some commercial, to reverse engineer each new guidance into a ticklist, with some very dubious denials: 'It's not a ticklist -- it's a checklist!'' 'It's a highlighting sheet' 'It's a tree where you colour the leaf with the statement when it's done!' And so on.
We've also seen moans and groans about not being able to tick statements under EYFS2021 on Tapestry. I always found the whole process of fitting the square pegs of children's unique experiences into the round holes of a descriptor a tedious, time-consuming task offering little value. So, on a purely personal basis, I am glad this feature is gone!
But if not ticklists then what?
An answer I’ve come up with is Personal Profiles. For anyone who grew up reading Smash Hits, Shoot! or other youth magazines, it’s a familiar format of Q&As on an individual ‘star’. Only the star in this case is the child, and the revealing insights relate to their learning and development.
To use Personal Profiles click on this link and enter the name of your key child, select their chosen gender (this is purely for generating the pronouns in the questions), choose a level of challenge, and this free website will generate a set of 21 questions plus three relating to the Characteristics of Effective Learning. Then create a new observation and paste the questions.
As you answer the questions you build up an overview of the whole child. As your child learns and develops, you alter your answers to reflect this progress. If a child’s attainment starts to go beyond the scope of the question, you find a more challenging question. There are three sets of 21 questions, each set being progressively more challenging.
I developed Personal Profiles as a new way of staying on top of what key children are achieving, while dramatically cutting down on paperwork. How I’ve done it is I curated some salient descriptors from the guidance documents and adapted the developmental statements, inverting them into open questions that enable a wide range of nuanced answers to be recorded. The result is a format that helps to vividly tell the story of each child, providing meaningful, qualitative information for parents, rather than generating a bland series of numbers and letters as data such as 30-50 E.
In August 2021, Ofsted’s guidance for Registered early years providers stated:
Inspectors will want to find out about the story of the child, including:
• What they could do when they started at the provision
• What they can do now and how you got them there
• What your plans are for that child so that they are ready for their next stage of learning
The Personal Profiles can help you comfortably fulfil on this. The story of the child is documented because the words you write are unique, especially about each individual, not copied from a guidance document written by someone who does not know the child. Regarding the above bullet points, firstly, to retain a record of what a child could do when they started, you can use Tapestry’s Edit History to see an early version of their Personal Profile. Alternatively, you can paste the Q&As for the Prime Areas into a new document to establish a baseline / starting point. Secondly, you can record what a child can do and how they got there by simply answering the questions. The question format makes providing information quicker, and there is no need to ‘evidence’ what you know. You simply say what you know and how it was achieved. Conversely, you can also see at a glance what you don’t know, for example, if you cannot yet answer mathematical questions about your child. Finally, you can use a Personal Profile to create a plan for the child’s next stage of learning by reflecting and identifying which is a child’s strongest area and which is their most challenging area, as a basis for supporting a child in both.
By asking the right questions, Personal Profiles can be a game-changer in knowing your key children better than ever before.
For more information about them, visit https://www.eyfspersonalprofiles.com
This Coffee Break was written by Kuen-Wah Cheung, creator of Personal Profiles.
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