Guest author: Annelouise Jordan MCCT
My career in education spans 12 years and most of my experience has been in Key Stage 1 and 2 (most of that in KS2), so I am well versed with a variety of assessment and planning across the whole of Primary. I am passionate about professional development and even more passionate about having ownership of that myself; I have never been one to like it when CPD has been given to me by my leaders and, as a result, I never performed very well on their ‘scales’! In addition, I have trained to be a mentor for NQTs and PGCE students, completed Middle and Senior Leadership courses and a Master’s Degree focusing on support for bilingual children who have additional needs.
For me, education should be accessible to further enhance inclusivity – and ‘equitable’ rather than ‘equal’. Most importantly, I believe that all of this starts with me. In one of our weekly @newtosltchat Twitter chats, @SarahDavies wrote, “If you’re not prepared to learn, you’re not prepared to teach”, which I wholeheartedly subscribe to!
Mind the gap
We need to learn from and with one another about education as a whole and not see each stage in isolation. Early Years, Primary and Secondary educators cannot work separately from one another; they need to step into one another’s shoes and experience one another’s ‘domains’, if you like. This might be through learning walks, observations, peer mentoring, making connections through social media or even drastic measures like, dare I say it, a change in year group? Yes, there are some educators out there who like teaching their preferred year group, but I am not a massive fan of that school of thought for a number of reasons, the main one being that we can bridge the gap between each phase and stage more effectively with educators who have worked across the board, who have a clear understanding of either where the children have come from and/or where they are heading to.
Here are some of my thoughts on how we can make stronger connections between EYFS and Primary, particularly KS1. That is not to say the ideas cannot be transferred further onto KS2 – they most certainly can!
Assessment in EYFS
Learning is part of who I am as a professional educator – without learning, I cease to grow and I think that children are inherently the same. They want to learn and most importantly, show what they know. I came across an article from the Chartered College of Teaching called “Assessment Beyond Levels in the EYFS” which outlined what I had been seeing for the past few years in education. I saw the tick boxes, I saw the iPads constantly in teachers’ hands and, even worse, I saw the staff not being with the children. As a SEND Coordinator, I saw teachers having to try to get evidence of pupils with additional needs meeting ‘age-related expectations’, when what should be happening is teachers and other children learning what the child needs and providing them with the access to their right to learn.
Here is an infographic I put together to outline the main points of the article regarding assessment in EYFS.
By developing an open-minded view of each child as a capable learner, we can see their potential and use our skills and knowledge to simply guide them. There can never be any ceiling for the child, as we simply remove the barriers (e.g. developing fine motor skills through tracing lines on a piece of paper). We can truly begin to see young children’s potential for learning and their growth into relational capable human beings. By giving them the space to be nurtured and to take ownership of their own learning, we can see in great detail just how much they have learned.
What can KS1 learn from EYFS?
What I have learned from the new assessment guidelines in EYFS is that in KS1 we need to focus on curriculum (not assessment), the aim of the learning and how the children are demonstrating this every day. As practitioners, we need to be able to allow children to construct meaning from their experiences and, in turn, we need to make better links between child development and the learning process. We must move away from ticking boxes and progression maps and instead work on making curriculum planning as deep as it is broad.
Spend your time with the children you are most concerned about, develop everyone’s skills in supporting that child and that child will come to feel valued and accepted as a learner. We need to see the whole child. When using strategies like Sustained shared thinking which could involve Talk for writing, research has shown that, among the most disadvantaged learners, there can be as many as 90% of children with SEND making mid- to higher rate of progress than for a control group.
Focus on progress not attainment, stage not age, and equity not equality. These are the words I think about most in my daily role as teacher, SENDCo and Deputy Head. In the early years of education, we are more likely to see development in terms of what age a child is, their background and their interests. Early years practitioners really know how to see the whole child and they spend a lot of their day playing alongside them, listening to them and guiding them. KS1 teachers can, and should, do this too. Look at the children in your class, what stage they are and how this makes a difference to how you adapt your teaching for them. Are you ensuring your lessons allow for each individual to make progress and are you giving each child appropriate access to learning?
Connections between Reception and Year 1
I once completed a series of learning walks with my Head Teacher with a focus on Continuous and Extended Provision in Year 1 at the beginning of Term 1. By the time it was mid-October, the Year 1 children had ‘ticked off’ every objective on the Term 1 Science Curriculum. It was obvious how much the children had achieved and explored in those first few weeks of school. Why? It could have been because we applied an EYFS way of thinking. We also had experienced EYFS practitioners in our Year 1 class who understood the value of child-led learning and were very knowledgeable about Continuous and Extended Provision. They had experienced first-hand how to involve the children in their own learning and tailor each and every lesson to suit the experiences of the children within it. The most interesting finding was that each class took their learning in a different direction, but the outcome of the curriculum was still the same.
Then you have the question of ‘where to next?’ The ‘old’ way of thinking was ‘cover the rest of the curriculum objectives and move on’; however, we now know that’s not the case. Instead, you need to dive deeper into the learning, explore and navigate the many trains of thought that come out of discussions and start to spin many, many different webs of learning all connected by one concept, topic or theme.
And do all of this with the children, no matter what their age.
About the author
Annelouise Jordan MCCT
Deputy Head, SENCO, Music Specialist and Year 1 Teacher
Annelouise is from Glasgow, Scotland but currently lives in Madrid, Spain. With experience in education spanning 12 years, she is dedicated to ensuring that each child has the right to an education that is ethically designed with them at the centre. She is co-host for @newtosltchat as well as regional leader for @WomEdESP and supports the WomenEd network to connect women across the globe to assist them in their leadership journeys. She is also the creator of @SimplyEdu4U where she shares resources on teaching and learning, and blogs through her website www.simply-edu.net
 Research has been conducted over the years on this from Teacher Development Trust (2003), and the Education Endowment Foundation (2019)