Forward by Kathy Brodie as featured on her blog

Whenever I visit settings to do training or ask practitioners what would make their job role more satisfying, the usual response is “less paperwork”. I have been discussing this with Catherine Lyon, an experienced nursery owner, who has developed her own solution for this problem.

In this guest blog, Catherine explains the rationale for her software as well as its benefits.

Can We Get it Right to Give Great Life Chances?catherine lyon 1

There is some urgency within me to help others to deliver an appropriate curriculum to young children.  After all, their learning in the formative years sets out the potential for their future.  Research is clearly indicating that progress before school (yes, in the Early Years!) impacts on teenager’s exam results – particularly in Maths and English.  These results then, of course, impact on the amount and quality of choices that will be available in later life.

Practitioners at all levels of hierarchy, therefore, have SUCH a responsibility to be able to get it right for every child!

Getting it right, starts with where the child is ‘at’ and their ‘next steps’, supported by all sorts of additional information that will help the practitioners to assist in a successful learning journey for that particular individual.

Practitioners often have many key-children.  That can be a tall order.

The components to promote that ‘successful learning journey’ starts with really knowing the child and the context in which they live, to build a whole picture.  Spending enough time with the child, engaging in their play, listening and watching them is paramount to this process.  Important too is the initial relationship with the parent/carer, outside professionals and carers, all of whom bring extra information to the practitioner with regards to the child’s relationships, other interests and the current scenarios affecting daily life.  It is then necessary to grow these relationships, networking with all involved to share information, and to then give opportunities for the child’s personal learning needs.

Catherine Lyon 3All this takes time, knowledge, skills and dedication.  Is that all adequate and available?

Owning and managing busy nurseries I set about to find ways to crack my own dilemmas in my quest to ‘get it right’.  I designed a practical solution: software spark Early Years that supports that ‘successful learning journey’ from many angles ‘to inspire and aspire’ and ‘to prove and improve’ curriculum processes.  I also wanted to give the practitioner more time to BE with the child, rather than cutting & sticking into scrapbooks, attending planning meetings or taking down long observations (because it is that week) that they may need more time to map across to Early Years Outcomes.

Observations, on sparkPRO may be recorded immediately and planning tools allow everything to be continually relevant.  As always in-situ, the practitioner is able to consistently align opportunities that meet the child’s learning needs.  The child is able to absorb the next part of the journey easily and naturally, as it is totally appropriate to their stage and adults enjoy facilitating and acknowledging the journey too!

sparkPRO, the provider’s software, has evolved over the years. It is not about re-inventing paper and pencil but about adding quality and systems to promote the very best for children while relieving the related stresses where a ‘pencil and paper’ system cannot easily relieve. sparkPRO is not about reproducing the learning journey as stated by the government, but a tool to assist practitioners in achieving those learning objectives in a staged and appropriate manner while considering individual interests, learning styles and schemas.

Catherine Lyon 2sparkPRO automatically creates an observational journey between what is specified in the government framework and produces professional graphs and reports for parents and professionals.  These need little/no checking by supervisors or management. sparkPRO also gives opportunities to develop the team.  It is also important that practitioners and management can evaluate adult and setting effectiveness, rather than just checking how the children are doing.  Approaching the curriculum from every angle to enable all to ‘get it right’.