Early years detectives
Gareth Betts-Davies explains how he and his colleagues in a Suffolk children’s centre are using evidence to develop meaningful ‘assessment for learning’ in the early years – with a little help from Plod.
Having worked as a Foundation Stage teacher in a school for 10 years, it has been an exciting challenge to begin working within the multi-disciplinary practice of a children’s centre.
I had been waiting impatiently for such an opportunity since completing my Master’s in Early Childhood Education and Care at Pen Green Research Base, Corby, five years ago. There, the holistic practices of including the family and involving professionals across education, health and social services in the ongoing evaluation of a child’s development are central to developing a meaningful assessment process.
When the youngest of my own children left the school where I worked, I decided it was time for a change, and this coincided with the expansion of qualified teachers being appointed into children’s centres in Suffolk.
My first priority within the linked day care setting – a nursery with three
rooms (as opposed to classrooms) and children aged from 0 to five years – has been to establish and develop practices around parent partnership, beginning with home visits. My feeling was that to make them a worthwhile process, they had to be valued by both parents and practitioners.
I persuaded staff to commit significant time to each visit and to find ways to make them positive. With a focus on the child and their background, I introduced techniques such as ‘three words’, where a parent has to think of three words that describe their child and then discuss them. It is often revealing to then have another family member’s perspective in this form. Such conversations are a great start to a deeper level of information-sharing about the child.
The planning process in place on my arrival was based on a ‘next step’ principle. Each observation made by a key person was followed up with an activity designed to promote a step forward developmentally, usually based on ‘development matters’ in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). This led to a new observation for the child, and so on.
The practice, however, was too often superficial. It led to key persons working in isolation and rarely involved parents, although each observation ended up stuck
CONTINUES ON PAGE 5
| Page 2
| Page 3
| Page 4
| Page 5
| Page 6
| Page 7
| Page 8
| Page 9
| Page 10
| Page 11
| Page 12
| Page 13
| Page 14
| Page 15
| Page 16