The Early Years Profile is to remain statutory for the time being. However, following the decision to abandon on-entry assessment of children entering reception classes last year there has now been a consultation: Primary Assessment in England which invited views about the perceived need for a form of baseline assessment. And, not unexpectedly this was endorsed so, it is now in the offing. Meanwhile, the government is to review its approach to the early assessment of young children, focusing on PSED, PD and C&L together with mathematics and literacy – possibly abandoning assessment of EAD and UW – as predicted in the last chapter of Facilitating Learning in the EYFS (2014).
We know that when parents and practitioners in the early years work together what a direct impact it has on children’s development and learning. Both partners have much to learn from one another and a great deal to share with each other. Working together to really understand and meet a child’s individual needs begins with valuing and respecting the different roles that each partner plays. It is a process that involves sharing information and skills and building relationships based on mutual respect and trust. Open two-way communication is vital to make sure that knowledge and expertise are shared between partners. Central to all partnerships is the child who remains the priority.
Observation is referred to in several places in the revised Early Years Foundation Stage.
Put simply observation is the practice of looking at and listening to children to find out how they are developing, what they like doing and what they are learning through their play and the experiences on offer. It is important that parents and practitioners share what they know about these three things so that they can decide whether the child’s development is at the expected stage, whether the resources such as toys and equipment are suitable for the child and to focus them on what to provide in future to support the child to develop new interests, learn new skills and acquire new knowledge.
Observations of children are vital. Because each child has a unique set of abilities and talents, observations in different situations capture these first hands. The starting point is always with the child. Observing what children choose to do, what their interests are and who and what resources they enjoy playing with, provides adults with reliable information about children as individuals. The Observing What a Child is learning approach in the Development Matters in the Early Years Foundation Stage document can support developing systematic observations. Observation also provides opportunities to gauge children’s needs and so more accurately plan the next steps in their learning. Observations take place on a regular basis as part of daily routines. Discussing these with the child, their parents and team members give a starting point for a holistic approach that will ensure that the child is always central to what is planned.
Assessment in the EYFS is of two main types – on-going assessment which is what practitioners do on a daily basis to make decisions about what the child has learned or can do already so as to help the child move on in their learning – this is sometimes called ‘formative’ assessment because it informs the next steps that are planned with the child and the parent. Another type of assessment known as ‘summative’ assessment takes place twice in the Revised EYFS. Firstly when a child is between 24 and 36 months – outcomes of this assessment are recorded and parents and practitioners use the information gained to identify a child’s strengths and their learning needs; the second assessment takes place towards the end of the Early Years Foundation Stage when children are in the final term of the reception class. This ‘sums up’ all the different information from on-going assessments that have been made about the child. This information is added to a record of children’s achievement which is related to the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP) – showing the levels different children have achieved in the seven areas of learning and development in the Revised EYFS.
NB: The EYFSP is not a test.