"Inclusion is a process of identifying, understanding and breaking down barriers to participation and belonging"
Early Childhood Forum (2003)
The observation of individual children is key to the success of inclusive practice and the implementation of the EYFS framework, especially the principle of A Unique Child. To meet all children's entitlements to care and learning, we need to be able to plan for the full range of abilities and to know how we can best support individual children in developing their potential. To promote a sense of participation and belonging in our settings, we also need to take account of the barriers that children may face, and be able to overcome them.
For this purpose, observation is best defined as a way of seeing that is informed by experience and professional knowledge. In early years practice, it is a systematic way of observing the external behaviour of children, usually involving sustained viewing. We do this to become more aware of children's development and abilities and how they view reality, and to understand how we might support and extend a child's learning.
Observation can contribute to our understanding of the personal, social and emotional needs of children by enabling us to record the different persona and ways of being that they adopt in response to the different contexts and relationships in which they find themselves. It can thus enable us to give all children a voice, especially those who for some reason or another cannot verbally communicate their own needs effectively. Regular observations of individual children can enable staff to share and demonstrate the validity of the child's experience and learning.
In addition to enabling us to monitor progress of children's allround development, this process can help us to evaluate our provision and practice and help to determine staff development needs.
As well as more formal observation processes, all practitioners should use their available senses to find out and learn more about individual children's development and needs.
- Mary Dickins is an early years consultant (All Together Consultancy/London Met. University)