The new EYFS framework...
When the new EYFS Framework was released, it brought in some changes; some were widely accepted, others have caused many discussions amongst practitioners and advisors. One thing that almost everyone who works in early years understands though, is just how important it is to put the child at the centre.
The new EYFS Framework that early adopters have been working from since September, and which becomes statutory for all settings from September 2021, does try to move things away from assessment that ends up just on a spreadsheet, and towards ensuring that any assessment made benefits the child and their development.
For many, this is a welcome change, but it is still a scary prospect to let go of the data that helps ‘prove’ so much. The questions should be – who is the data for and who benefits most from it?
Let me start by saying why I think tracking children through age bands isn’t always going to be the best thing for their development. When we focus on a few statements in a narrow age band, it’s easy to become fixed on these, and wanting to rush the child through the age bands as soon as we have ‘ticked off’ what we have seen. Almost every page of the current Development Matters contains the following:
Children develop at their own rates, and in their own ways. The development statements and their order should not be taken as necessary steps for individual children. They should not be used as checklists. The age/stage bands overlap because these are not fixed age boundaries but suggest a typical range of development.
Even with that statement listed so often, it became common to see spreadsheets and data collected that did exactly this. Children were tracked through the age bands as if every child would develop the same way, achieving the same things at the same age. The reality is that this is not how child development works. Some children will start to walk before their first birthday; for others they may be nearer to their second birthday before they consider even trying. Does that mean the child who learned to walk at a slightly later stage won’t make the ELG in Physical Development? Of course not – there is so much more development for them to go through before even considering that. But by focusing on statements and age bands we risk thinking about the “end point” (where we want the child to be at a certain point) instead of considering what their actual needs are for their development right now.
The other thing that the new framework is encouraging is for there to be less focus on providing evidence for a child’s development, and more emphasis on trusting practitioners’ knowledge of a child. This doesn’t necessarily mean that observations shouldn’t be taken though. It just means that the observations that are made should be short and concise to serve as a memory jog for practitioners when they are considering their children’s development. The link with home remains a vital aspect of early years, and the ability to quickly share observations with families, and for them to send observations to you too, is so important, especially when you are considering the development of the child as a whole.
To help support educators with all of this, Tapestry has developed a new feature called ‘Flags’. These flags will allow you to make an observation on a child as before, but instead of worrying about assessing that observation, practitioners need only ‘flag’ the areas that they feel are relevant for that observation. For example, if you are making an observation that involves a group of children creating a den outside with large building materials, you may want to flag PSED, CL and PD to start with.
These flags are then all pulled together in the ‘Areas of Concern’ screen which is a space that allows you to consider the children’s development and raise any concerns for children that you may have in each of the areas. The reason we did not use the terms ‘On Track’ and ‘Not on Track’ was because we were worried about what people would compare these to. By having them as concerns that are not related to any age band, they are able to be used as you wish for any child. If you have a child with learning differences who is developing as you would expect them to be with the support you have in place for them, there is no reason why they could not be a ‘No Concern’ for the whole year. Similarly, if you have a child who is a high achiever when they join you but then starts to struggle with the challenges you are providing them with, they may be marked as a concern so that the staff are aware and able to try new approaches to support the child.
A lot of people are worried about how they are going to be able to ‘show progress’ to SLT, management, or Ofsted. The first thing to remember is that the new EYFS framework is trying to move away from tracking and assessment as it currently is. That’s not to say that you don’t need to assess your children – that would be a recipe for disaster if no one was keeping an eye on how the children are developing! The shift in assessment is about moving away from where a child is on a tracking document to thinking about how you can support that child so they make good developmental progress. For most children, your ‘bread and butter’ every day teaching will support their development. These children are the ones who you would class as a ‘No Concern’ on the Areas of Concern screen. That doesn’t mean that you’re not considering anything about them. It just means that you are meeting their needs through your teaching and activities that you provide for the children and therefore they are continuing to make good progress. Those children who may be struggling to access these activities or to follow the taught sessions would be your ‘Concern’ children who then have extra support put in place for them. As that support helps the children, and they make accelerated progress so that they are no longer a concern, you can see the impact of your provision. So whilst you may not have spreadsheets and charts showing how a child is moving through the age bands, progress is very much still monitored and if anything, all children are having the best opportunities available to them to ensure that they are making progress.
Hopefully you will agree that the changes in the EYFS Framework around assessment are going to help reduce the time spent producing spreadsheets for tracking that do not benefit the children, but instead allow for the assessment that is made to really impact on the children’s development.
If you would like to find out more, Ben and Stephen, from the FSF and Tapestry Education Team, recorded a webinar discussing the new EYFS framework on Tapestry.