Does it set the curriculum?
Our intent. sparkPRO embeds the EYFS curriculum by working with the EYFS Areas of Learning, the aspects within these and the Characteristics of Effective Learning. This learning begins, with sparkPRO from birth through to seven years old and sparkPRO uses the broad EYFS stages and Development Matters Statements (sometimes called Early Years Outcomes).
The software encompasses parents with the aim that they will convert to be equal partners by using spark@HOME. The EYFS states that educators work alongside each child’s parents. Research recognises that children do much better where parents are involved. Carefully crafted, sparkPRO offers a curriculum, via a range of features, that ‘gets it right’ for the child by assisting all adults to do so, regardless of their child development knowledge, pedagogy skills, training, qualifications, disposition or attitude. Each child with sparkPRO is monitored carefully as an individual and as an individual in a group. These features promote an ambition to ensure no child is left behind; which is an important EYFS component of curriculum execution.
With sparkPRO, adults can self-scrutinise and are monitored, so they are continually engaging and, or, improving their curriculum delivery; to meet the child’s and group’s learning needs.
The culture and language that children are immersed in while growing up influence them in different ways all around the world. The opportunities offered to them, directly and indirectly, to learn also varies widely across the environment and societal expectations. However, they all play, they all learn via their play and they all gravitate towards what interests them; what they want to learn about – wherever they live.
So, sparkPRO software sets a curriculum of learning and development objectives from birth into Key Stage One of the English National Curriculum; breaking these into manageable parts. For each child, there is a choice of these next learning steps. These suggestions will all be developmentally appropriate for the particular child, for the educator and parent to choose what is most appropriate. This appropriateness based upon the child’s current interests (could be dinosaurs, baking, the local park etc.) and how the adult (parent and professional educator) can integrate resources/playthings to extend skills and knowledge (scissors, sticky tape, books about mammals, a different kind of climbing frame). Planning features in sparkPRO make it easier to organise the EYFS enabling environment and activities, so they are linked appropriately to the children using the room.
The software is not prescriptive; spark allows differences in ethos and varieties pedagogical practice. Nurseries, kindergartens, schools and pre-schools will define their repertoire of activities alongside their EYFS enabling environment which will mirror the curriculum journey within sparkPRO. The software doesn’t tell you how to deliver your EYFS, so sparkPRO works well with Montessori, Regio Emilia, Curiosity Approach etc. It also works cohesively where In the Moment Planning is followed, although we call this “observing and planning on the go”.
Supportively, sparkPRO facilitates implementation. The EYFS is predominately child-led within a play orientated curriculum where educators observe and adjust the children’s environment (learning opportunities) and step in to extend children’s knowledge and support skill acquisition. The EYFS appreciates that every child is unique and that each child learns in different ways, in different subjects and develops and learn at different rates. The younger they are, the more diverse the differences are.
Although every child is different, most children follow the same pattern of development. They sit before standing, they babble before talking, turn-take before sharing … they are all at some point possessive of attention or a favourite plaything, concerned about strangers and have ‘temper tantrums’. Again, wherever they live unless they have an underlying difficulty. For example, a child paralysed, may never sit unaided or stand, that is perhaps obvious. Less apparent to detect could be an insecure child: they may be possessive of an adult’s attention for longer and toys may add to their feelings of security, so turn-taking and sharing are difficult.
sparkPRO measures curriculum impact; measuring progress and re-evaluating following interventions. Problems highlighted early, by using the easy to decipher graphs and charts in sparkPRO, ensure steps to help the child/children can happen briskly and any disadvantage (as the curriculum is not accessed) minimised. In our nurseries, sparkPRO highlighted a baby of six months was not babbling but making unusual screeching sounds. We immediately called in external expertise and embarked on organising extra support for babbling. We also helped her move forward in other communication and language skills too. Had these milestones been overlooked and no interventions made, her communication skills would be less developed and a larger difference between her stage of development and expected stage. Progress with language and communication is recognised as an important Area of Learning before school.
Children’s progress also reflects the skills of teams or the strategies (pedagogy) of individual early years educators. Again important; sparkPRO helps to identify this and pinpoints where training required. Therefore, sparkPRO also equates to a continual improvement tool.
Ofsted – Education Inspection Framework (EIF). Scenarios identified by the provider, whether they be directly child/staff/staff training/resource/environmentally related or maybe as a result of something going on in the child’s home, can be relayed to Ofsted during the Learning Walk to illustrate your provision’s intent, implementation and impact (3I’s). Links to the children’s Characteristics of Effective Learning and where innovations (child/staff/staff training/resource/environmentally) relating to the 3I’s have also reflected positively on children’s behaviour can also be included. Users of sparkESSENTIAL and sparkPRO in England have all gained or maintained their good/outstanding Ofsted grade (Jan 2020)