A Balancing Act
In your nursery or preschool, everything is driven by priorities.
Imagine the child in the centre of a huge balancing act – where all needs to be in place ‘to get it right’.
First there is record keeping balanced with planning the right learning opportunities.
Then, evaluating progress and looking at learning and teaching strategies that need to be implemented.
We can easily add, extensions of these:
- Do all children have equal opportunities
- Is the family involved
- Are other providers consulted
- Training considerations
- Topics for supervision …
Let’s start with the first pair.
It can be a struggle to strike that balance between noting progress and informing opportunities for learning.
Time must be made for writing out long observations and mapping to the Characteristics of Effective Learning, for example.
Then, appropriate support should be given to staff with variations in experience and competencies AND your families.
Are all your children gently encouraged, within a play ethos, to thrive in developing strategies in how to learn, extending their knowledge and skills alongside developmental milestones?
Now, I am not advocating data for data’s sake, but you do need to KNOW where you stand.
Where each educator stands – strengths, weaknesses.
Where each child stands – their interests, what they could learn next, their needs
Where each family stands – needs, aspirations, attitude
You need to know this if you’re striving for outstanding EYFS practice and delivery.
So, I do implore you, if you are either returning to paper or never put that pen down, to ensure that records are water tight. Check your practitioner’s work. Have frequent appraisals. Keep details of how often Key Persons speak with parents and what these conversations look like. Have comprehensive handovers in case of unexpected absences.
Having used software for all of this for so long – I feel tired just thinking about all those bits of paper and files!
This is a lot to ‘keep in check’ and a lot of pressure on each Key Person.
BUT, the idea of each practitioner staring into a tablet or phone all day is pretty ridiculous.
Your families would be right to be a bit aggrieved about that.
Think of it this way though – technology doesn’t need to be a barrier between your educators and the child.
A system designed with the child at its core can enhance your practice and increase the time spent in the room, with the children.
- Reduce strain on key persons
- Increase work life balance – no more taking work home
- USEFUL data to evaluate practice, not data for the sake of it
- Uninterrupted learning flow
Allow me to show you what we did to strike the balance…
Removed the need to take time out to write long observations which then need to be cross referenced to Areas of Learning and Characteristics of Effective Learning (CoEL).
Facilitated observations ‘on the go’. They are made quickly, normally onto a tablet, while the educator continues to work alongside the children, just like a piece of paper or notebook on your lap (no typing out information!)
Automatically directed staff immediately to what that each child will probably now achieve, as they have had a selection of great supporting activities (decided by the educator), then recorded formally.
Assisted the adult to scaffold learning forward supported by the child’s unique preferences to discover and learn.
Released new ideas for consideration to scaffold learning forward.
These are appropriate but the Key Person, who increasingly is aware, will know which ideas will be of interest and provide challenge and to motivate to gain a sense of enjoyment and satisfaction. Alternatively, the adult can draw on their instincts and teaching skills to facilitate ways to provide opportunities for learning through the child’s personal interests, schemas and in ways, they like to learn.
spark supports the educator’s understanding of their key children, enabling them to explain the complexities of what makes each child tick.
By sharing enthusiastic information, this encourages other team members to take note and parents to get involved as their professional confidence increases in ‘getting it right’ proven as their focused efforts are successful.
Educators are also supported to ensure the environment and activities are provocative and accessed. As adults led by the child’s needs and interests, they too gain terrific satisfaction, simply recording progress.
Plus, they can quickly track it, evaluate it and subsequently consider reflectively. Building the learning journey, as they go and without the need to take time out or work home, to re-write, cut out and stick and the observations can, in real time, be shared with parents without the need for senior staff checks.
As staff tune into the child and their learning, photos can be taken, uploaded and inserted quickly and simply; documented chronologically, as supporting evidence.
The perpetual circle of events is a continuum and does not need to disturb the flow as staff are continually engaged and tuned in, travelling with each child as they are there, enjoying (not stuck in the office) and taking great satisfaction in seeing children evolve and hopefully become self-motivated, confident learners.