EYFS 2021 and Tapestry
by Ben on September 1
6 min read:
September 2021 sees a new EYFS framework being introduced, and whilst there are many changes, there are also lots of similarities to the previous version. The changes have been brought about with the aim of improving early language and literacy outcomes in 5-year-olds, as well as looking at reducing paperwork, especially around ‘tracking’, which didn’t always go back to supporting children.
Whilst there has never been an expectation for children to be monitored across age bands from Development Matters (2012), it was certainly common for progress to be recorded in this way, and quite often it became a numbers game where children were placed in an age band to satisfy the percentages on a spreadsheet, rather than because it met their developmental needs.
A question I’ve seen lots of people asking recently in the light of the changes to the EYFS is, how do we monitor children’s development now? This is especially true for those looking at the new Development Matters guidance materials as it no longer has age bands, but has 3 pathways for Birth to 3 years, 3 years to 4 years old, and Reception. The important thing to note is that this, and the new Birth to 5 Matters document, are to be used as guidance materials for your provision, and not assessment documents. This was always the case with Development Matters 2012 as well, but it became more than that over time.
Going back to the question of how to monitor children’s development now, first I think we need to look at what assessment is and what it can be used for.
Dr Julian Grenier says “Assessment is about noticing what children can do and what they know. It is not about lots of data and evidence.” (Working with the revised Early Years Foundation Stage: Principles into Practice, 2020).
With this in mind, when you come to assess children, it is better to think of a child as a whole, instead of trying to assess each and every observation that you collect. In an article for the FSF, Helen Edwards said, “The aim of observation is to know each child sufficiently well so that you can provide a developmentally appropriate curriculum, rich in resources and interactions with their peers and with interested adults.”.
Moving away from assessing each observation allows the practitioner more time for teaching and learning with the child there and then. This might be supporting a child so that they are able to access the provision, or it could be providing them with appropriate next steps to help them develop further.
You might be wondering whether you need to be making observations if you no longer need to assess them. There is no expectation for you to create observations, however, I know as a teacher if I had been asked about a specific child in a specific area, I would have struggled to give a confident answer without something to refer to. Therefore, I would still be looking to collect observations but with the focus of them being more of a memory jog rather than a bank of evidence. I would also be thinking about my team, and how having observations as memory jogs about children’s learning and development will help them as they think about what they are providing for each child, or if they are in conversation with colleagues, parents/carers, or inspectors about a child.
I would also be looking to create observations for relatives to view and comment on, building those all-important home/setting links. They do not need to be long and detailed notes – if a photo or a video shows what the child was doing, then that would be more than enough. If you did need a few notes to help jog your memory in the future, try to keep them short and simple. Remember – using the time with the children to support their learning is worth a lot more than creating an observation that won’t help you too much later on.
Grouping your observations, in a way that you find most useful, will help you when you come to review everything altogether. On Tapestry, using the flags for EYFS 2021 will help you to group observations by the areas of Development Matters 2021, and the aspects from Birth to 5 Matters. You can then use filters to view observations by those areas and aspects when considering the development of the child.
Thinking about the provision that you have in place for a child, you can also use these memory jogs to remember what the child was able to do and where they possibly needed a bit more support. You may need to adapt your provision to meet their needs and respond to any gaps in their development. This is where the “Areas of Concern” screen on Tapestry is really useful. If you have previously flagged observations with the EYFS 2021 flags, these observations will pull into the Areas of Concern screen so that you are able to look back over your collection whilst thinking about how the child has accessed the provision.
If you have any children that did need more support, you can mark them as a ‘concern’ which highlights them to all staff so that they are aware of those children who might need a little more support, as well as thinking about how their provision could be altered to do this. The word ‘concern’ here is used to indicate the care and consideration staff have for each child in their areas of learning.
It is important to remember that when considering a child’s development, you are doing so against the provision that has been put in place for them, and it is not necessarily a sign of a child being ‘on track/not on track’. For example, you may have a child with learning differences who is accessing the provision you have put in place for them as expected, and therefore you do not have a concern for them – you would mark them as ‘no concern’. Whereas you may have a child who you have previously identified as being ‘high ability’, but they are struggling to access the provision you have for them, so you may want to mark them as a ‘concern’. You can then adapt your provision to ensure they are continuing to make progress in their development.
Having somewhere such as Reflections to discuss what adjustments you have made for a child, what has worked well, what could be improved and what the impact has been, is an important part of supporting each child’s development. This doesn’t need to be a written discussion if you are in a position where you can meet with your team and other adults, but if this is not possible, a space to share notes about your discussions and thoughts would be good have.
However you choose to monitor the development of your children moving forward, the main point to take from the new framework is to make sure that you are doing this monitoring against your own provision and not trying to assess against guidance materials that are not designed to be used in this way. The guidance materials, no matter which ones you refer to, are there to support your provision planning, and by using them to do so you will ensure that your children are experiencing the best possible start to their education.