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A Guide to sparkPRO

“I find it hard to believe how everything is made so simple” – a nursery in London

sparkPRO provides a 360° approach to the delivery of the Early Years Foundation Stage in a dynamic way to provide a balance between observation, planning, progress evaluation (including teaching) and partnerships. It has been created by a nursery owner and manager with over 40 years’ experience in the sector. Formulated in her nurseries in 1997 and then rolled out to others by 2011; it is continually evaluated and improved; recently with new features and design (2017).

Keeping the software current and with a company, vision to “support all adults to ‘get it right’ for every child,” it is paramount to positively affect significant progress with learning for individuals and groups. Also believing only a strong business can deliver quality education; sparkPRO also is proven to save time, save money and improve relationships with families; while it improves a consistent and effective delivery of the curriculum despite a team variation in natural abilities, experience and qualifications. All current sparkPRO users have later achieved a UK Ofsted rating of ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ and sparkPRO is used in six countries.

“It’s cleverly designed software which saves us a lot of work. We can send photo-reports which parents can forward to grandparents. In the past, we would have had to take pictures, print them out and paste them in a book.” – a bilingual Montessori nursery

Tracking, Planning and Recording

sparkPRO keeps tracking, planning, observations, evidence, reports and ‘next steps’ all in one place. This means that all staff can access the record for a child at any time, add an observation or learning story and immediately have a choice to guide them to plan for the child’s/group’s next step that are appropriate for each individual. sparkPRO does away with long daily forms, bulky folders and time spent searching and cross-referencing, while simultaneously streamlining the planning processes. sparkPRO does this automatically, making it an indispensable early years resource. It makes links to the Characteristics of Effective Learning and Sustained Shared Thinking Strands through a carefully researched bespoke observational journey that supports the expected curriculum outcomes. Staff can also produce full reports quickly and easily; Progress Checks, Room Reports and Equality of Opportunity monitoring. This facilitates an in-depth all-inclusive approach without being complicated.

Building a Stronger Business

The software is not focused solely on recording and reporting but plays an active role in the time available and the work early educators and parents do with children. Accessed from a computer, laptop, tablet or phone, everything can be done ‘in the moment’. This means that, for example, if a particular activity is presented to a group of children, the educator does not need to recall an appropriate learning intention for each individual and can differentiate accordingly based upon the information instantly available. This can include where a child might need extra help, resources required and what to extend the learning to next. The learning outcomes can be immediately recorded which updates the aims.

All of this means that educators are spending more time with the children making more accurate effective observations and owners and managers spend less money on staff cover; staff are not office-based, tied up with paperwork. Providing less stress to all stakeholders, increased job satisfaction and efficiency impacts the bottom line. If allowed, sparkPRO eliminates the need to take work home – positively supporting life: work balance.

To complete the 360° approach, sparkPRO encompasses the notion of improving teaching strategies of those involved in the child’s education; both the ‘educational team’ in the setting and improving the level and understanding of parental inclusion for their child’s education.

“The system allows us to monitor children’s progress with ease and is extremely user-friendly. It is also a great tool to help monitor practitioner participation and highlight areas for both practitioners and children that they may need to help children achieve to their full potential.” – a nursery in Leicester

Built upon the sparkPRO structure, a range of opportunities are available for self-assessment linked to children’s outcomes. sparkPRO guides your staff in how to evaluate and to set personal goals. These include, how to put a plan together to improve a child’s well-being, in considering a change of approach to support children acquire learning strategies, build their concentration, apply interventions and to write reports to parents and external agencies. These require only minimal quality assurance from senior staff, allowing them to use other features to advance ‘continuous improvement’ for the setting. Therefore, all involved within the setting can accurately work to improve practice in their job role and subsequently measure it.

Improving Partnerships

Lastly, but not less important, as we appreciate even more about the importance of this stage in regards to neuro-science and the impact on adult life chances and quality, engaging parents in their child’s education is crucial. sparkPRO has integral systems to aid communication with parents about their child’s learning; shared learning stories, next step suggestions and more formal reports where all those involved can participate off/online. (You can learn more about spark’s differentiated approach for working with families here).

Through sparkLINK, families have a ‘communication jotter’ with supporting prompts (fascinations, home scenarios, outings, progress, achievement etc) with a few suggested learning aims for the family to embrace. This allows cohesion between a setting and home life; both parties share, linking home and ‘school’ as a perceived one entity for the child and build upon learning and confidence in how to do that. This makes using sparkPRO a truly unique approach; ‘getting it right’ for every child.

Testimonials and Support

sparkPRO has had excellent feedback from users, parents and UK regulatory body Ofsted in the 20+ yrs it has been active, but as early years people ourselves, we will further evaluate and build to continue to help ‘get it right’ with our current users.

Change doesn’t come easily and we appreciate whether moving from paper or an IT generated system that emulates paper models, something new can be a worry and a challenge. Free demos, a 60-day full money back guarantee, ongoing training and support (in ‘working hours’, evenings and weekends to suit), will give you the confidence to make the most of the varied features, thus supporting standards and best practice. The new features for planning, partnerships, evaluating ‘teaching’ and for/with parents, plus the rollout of our new design all helps ‘get it right’.

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