One of the most exciting and new things for me when I became head of a primary school (See here) was the fact that I had children from 3-7 to look after. Apart from worrying that I might step on the nursery children (!), my other concern was that I knew very little about what was done ‘down there’
I feel that educational establishments are quite bad at appreciating or understanding the phase preceding theirs. Secondary schools test Year 7 children as soon as they arrive despite having KS2 SATs results. As a junior school head I put my hand up and admit to wondering if the infants had done very much with the children we received! I soon found out that this lack of knowledge existed between KS1 and nursery.
I spent lots of time in Foundation Stage(FS). What fascinated me was that the whole ethos was based on where the children were rather than where they ‘should’ be. The focus was all on harnessing what they brought with them and setting up opportunities for them to move forward. As the school was in an area of deprivation, poor communication skills were a feature throughout the school for many children. I began to realise that far from being the stage where the children ‘played’, Year N was vital in the future shaping of the children’s school progress and that the description of ‘Foundation Stage’ was most apt.
It became clear to me that many of the approaches used in the nursery would be appropriate in other areas of the school. Nursery experience was not a given to many children in the school so they arrived without having had opportunities to play, explore, take risks. The fact that all of this work was closely monitored and noted made me really excited and I decided that I was going to share my new found knowledge. For those of you who are not Early Years staff or parents of young children, the EYFSP is a statutory assessment for children at the end of Reception.
I was very lucky in having some exceptionally talented staff in FS and arranged for them to lead a series of staff meetings to explain what went on with the littlies. The reaction to all these sessions was utter amazement. All staff were stunned at the amount of recording that was done to note the progress each child was making. They were really impressed by the data that could be produced by the e-profile. The biggest reaction came from the close scrutiny of the FS profile
This consists of 13 assessment scales broken down into 6 areas of learning. These areas are Personal, social, emotional development / Communication, language and literacy / Problem solving, reasoning and numeracy / knowledge and understand of the world / Physical development and Creative development. These areas are broken down to 9 scale points (SP). So for instance under Social development SP 1 is: Plays alongside others moving up to SP 9 which is: Takes into account the ideas of others.
The average expected for good progress through primary school is for children to reach at least SP 6 across the board. Obviously they will peak, scoring higher in some areas but a total of 78+ is what Foundation Stage aim for.
At the staff meeting I asked the staff in years 2 to 6 (6-11 years)to think of a child in their class who, according to all the ‘usual’ judgements should be making better progress. The staff then completed a profile for that child highlighting the SP they were in that area of development. In many examples, the chosen child had areas in SP 3 or 4 highlighted. Those profiles for the children in Year 5 and 6 were staggering. Descriptors within SP3 and 4 had not been achieved (e.g. – ‘Works as part of a group taking turns / Shows appropriate control in large and small movements /Expresses needs and feeling in an appropriate way’).
If our children did not have these skills then it was no wonder they were struggling with the formal curriculum that was presented to them. As a staff we decided to do a profile on every child in the school. Staff were asked not to spend a lot of time thinking about each SP but just to go with what they saw every day. We did this activity in the last weeks of the school year. The findings were passed onto the next teacher. After all, the teacher who had completed the profile had worked with that child for a year. They knew so much about them. It was much better for this information to be passed over than just test scores.
We then had to look at the curriculum we were offering. We needed to ‘fill in the gaps’ for those children who really had missed some of those foundations. However, that’s another post!
Head Teachers – Do the different phases in your school work closely together? Does your curriculum ‘fill in the gaps’?
Teachers – Do you get the opportunity to find out how your class did last year?
Parents – Are you aware of the skills your child needs to go into ‘formal school’ and the National curriculum?