What we do, continues to evolve. Every piece of academic literature we read and every conference we attend will bring a ‘tweak’ to improve what spark offers.
spark has advanced over the last three decades to make things easier for everyone involved in meeting the learning and development needs of every child. Therefore, when our spark educators set out, they have consistent guidance in helping children achieve. This all links to the Areas of Learning, Development Matters Statements and Characteristics of Effective Learning. Observations are quick, with the further option to add evidence and a choice of appropriate next steps presented for the practitioner to feed into the child’s interests, themes/topics and routine activities. Likewise, there is a variety of ways to make observations. A quick option and the choice to make them more in depth. The child can be involved in this, perhaps to upload their own photo and ‘paint a thousand words’ or a series of pictures to add to their collection of personal Learning Stories.
The spark Observational Journey is the outcome of substantial experience and thought over many years. An example of this is that undiagnosed colour blindness will not affect the initial opportunities presented for colour matching. Thoroughly researched, spark scaffolds learning to build upon what the child can already do. There have been many influences and these are some of those;-
Mary Sheridan – A Paediatrician concerned about speech and language delay. An area of learning we now know is so important for the prognosis of future learning.
ELKLAN – Our nursery practitioners have completed this training. Therefore, as a consequence, the formation of sounds have been added. Later these were cross-referenced against the ECaT (Every Child a Talker – National Strategies 2008) monitoring tool.
Observations made, are linked to the Healthy Child Programme used by UK Health Visitors’ criteria too.
More recently, other aspects have complimented the Observational Journey and inform the educator and provide an effective training tool. Examples of which include, Schema and Learning Style recognition, Sustained Shared Thinking Strands, plus Well-being Signals and Involvement Scales (Leuven Scales). Additional resources that support the Observational Journey map out links to British Values and therefore, supports the practitioner’s understanding, whilst also satisfying Ofsted scrutiny.
Through spark, equal importance is given to the educator, whatever their title, the ability to be both a facilitator and teacher as appropriate. In considering the Enabling Environment, there are flexible tools for Planning (including In The Moment Planning). spark fully supports deep learning through play. School Readiness opportunities are delivered through a developmental approach and Letters and Sounds (Department for Education 2007), numerals and currency (if required) are available.
Although historically, there wasn’t a curriculum framework before 1996, there was spark! When asked to explain where our Observational Journey came from, I was reminded of the Early Years Developmental Journal, this was funded by the Department of Education at the time and produced by the National Children’s Bureau with the help from the National Portage Association. Back then, our nursery children began school in the term of their fifth birthday, and we thought that was quite soon enough, we added some of the National Curriculum, to extend opportunities for children who excelled. The old early years ‘frameworks’ (Desirable Learning Outcomes, Birth to Three Matters, the new Early Years Foundation Stage as was, revision of the EYFS 2012 and updates) were all interwoven into the Observational Journey as appropriate at the time.