Planning and assessment in the EYFS

At last it has been acknowledged (by the EYFS review)!  Paperwork has been seen to be getting in the way of practice in early years.  Well, many of us knew that already.  I’ve been in settings where practitioners use clipboards almost as a weapon, daring me to comment on them.  They’ve become the tool of effective practice for some, enabling a whole host of written observations to be completed, yet they’re a barrier – a wall between the practitioner and the child, to others.

I think some of this focus on paperwork has occurred because of the national temperament.  We tend to follow procedures and routines, sometimes even when they cost us common sense.

That’s what has happened to the frantic paper gathering for EYFSP portfolios, and it happened with younger children too, as we tracked their progress against a whole range of statements.

We’ve been providing proof with paperwork.  Yet what was needed was for the observations to inform practice; and to support and enable children to move on.  This links to practitioners’ reflections on what they see and carries on into what they intend to do, rather than what they’ve written down about the child and filed away!

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The EYFS Review – 2011

I find it hard to believe that this review is so sensible and simple.

But I find that it is.

What do I like about it?

Well, for one thing, it is clear about the appropriate balance of adult led and child initiated learning.  It’s also the first time that I’ve seen, in plain English, the difference between development and skills explained so clearly.  In the review, these become prime and specific areas of learning.

I also love the way in which effective learning is clearly characterised.  By putting playing and exploring, active learning, and creating and thinking critically into the EYFSP feedback, I think it will ensure that we have the dynamic and exciting curriculum (particularly at Reception, but also for younger children) we’ve been looking for in early years for some time now.

Anyone who has had anything to do with the EYFSP knows that it is bulky and unwieldy.  I’ve often thought of the traditional tale of the Emperor’s New Clothes, when I’ve considered it.  Many aspects of the EYFSP are absurd (for starters, 80% – 20% observations of the child, when so much of some areas contains the beginnings of skills based learning, 117 points across 13 scales, etc… I could go on). Yet the EYFSP has been taken seriously by us all, even though it makes us absurd in so many ways!  So I love the simplification in the EYFSP and the way it also highlights learning styles.  Now that’s more use to everyone!

I have two issues, though, and I’ll blog about these later.  One issue concerns the acceptance that private schools should be able to opt out of the EYFS, yet not childminders.  The other concerns the governments continued emphasis on the Y1 phonics test, and whether this is going to distort the R class transition year into a focus on skills for reading / writing.  I don’t think they’re incompatible, as long as everything is thought out, but we shall see!

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Early Years / Early Literacy

This is my first blog.  I’m not quite sure about how it will turn out, but I’m prepared to give it a go!

I’m writing from London, England.  I am interested in early years and all things educational, particularly in primary schools.

Watch this space.  I am going to comment on the Tickell review next and would appreciate getting feedback and discussion from others interested in early years issues.

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