Early Years Teacher: Standard 2- Help their minds to grow

Karen Hart unpicks Standard 2 of the Early Years Teacher criteria and suggests how practitioners might best demonstrate it.

Standard 2

An Early Years Teacher must:

2. Promote good progress and outcomes by children

For this standard - as well as finding strategies to promote and support a progression of learning - it will be necessary to find ways to collect and manage information to show a progression, and also develop a good working knowledge of child development throughout the full early years age range.


2.1 Be accountable for children's progress, attainment and outcomes

The challenge here is in finding suitable methods for observing and obtaining information on children in your setting, which can then be used in a practical way to support each child as an individual. Information should come from a mix of observation and communication with the child during normal day-to-day interactions in a natural way, plus information from additional sources such as parents/carers, special educational needs co-ordinators and other professionals involved in a child's care.

The manner in which you make and record your observations will depend on both personal preference and the methods employed by your setting, but some additional ideas to include with formal written observations giving a broader picture could be:

  • Photos - most settings will have access to a digital camera, and by taking photographs of children and working on various activities you can build a good record of progress. Try using photos in sequence to build a fuller picture, and use the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework to pinpoint progress and forward planning.

  • Filming a child - this allows you to watch specific behaviour patterns at leisure, away from the setting, where it can be hard to concentrate. As with photographing children, film can be a good way of sharing a child's progress with parents and carers.

  • Information-gathering techniques - to build a 'progress book' for each child. Place samples of work, observations and photographs in a named folder to build a record of progress and achievement.

2.2 Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of how babies and children learn and develop

In covering this section of the standard, Early Years Teachers need to draw on their knowledge and experience of witnessing children learning through the provision of child-centred, active learning opportunities tailored where possible to a child's individual interests.

Denise Reardon, programme director for faculty of education at Canterbury Christ Church University, offers the following suggestions for specific teaching areas on which to concentrate:

  • Your knowledge and understanding about how children (0-5 years) learn and develop in the EYFS.

  • Your knowledge and understanding about the continuum of early learning into National Curriculum Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2.

  • How you share your knowledge and understanding of how babies and children learn and develop with others.

2.3 Know and understand attachment theories, their significance and how effectively to promote secure attachments

Caring for such young children obviously calls for a very sensitive approach. Consistency is key to building happy, confident children. Also think about ways of bringing parents into the process.

Ms Reardon suggests looking at the following areas:

  • How you use your knowledge and understanding about attachment theories to promote secure attachments.

  • How you take account of individual attachment needs - for example, during settling-in periods, change of routine and changes in personal circumstances.

  • Your role in the key person approach and supporting others to understand theirs.

2.4 Lead and model effective strategies to develop and extend children's learning and thinking, including sustained shared thinking

Thinking about how to create effective strategies to promote thinking and shared thinking may at first appear a daunting task, but this is something that happens naturally in a lively, stimulating environment.

Do consider all the senses when devising ways to extend learning; a multi-sensory approach will help to fully develop a child's naturally explorative nature, as well as producing many avenues for communication between adult and child. For example, let children help prepare snack time fruit. How does it feel, smell and taste? How does it look inside?

Ms Reardon suggests reflecting on the following points:

  • How you model and support others to develop babies' and young children's thinking skills through both planned and unplanned play and learning opportunities.

  • Times that you have engaged in sustained shared thinking with babies and young children and 'tuned in'.

  • Periods when you have engaged in the thought processes connected to the activity that the child is engrossed in.

  • How you share a genuine interest in what captures babies' and children's imagination.

  • How you support young children to clarify their ideas, ask questions and be creative.

2.5 Communicate effectively with children from birth to age five, listening and responding sensitively

In covering this area of teaching, consider how you pro-actively model caring and kind behaviour in your setting. The adult as role model is the best form of communication there is, and seeing you taking delight from reading books, drawing pictures and painting, for example, will communicate a love of learning.

2.6 Develop children's confidence, social and communication skills through group learning

Although children frequently learn well on a one-to-one basis while having an adult's full attention, learning in small groups allows children to build and develop social and emotional skills such as sharing with others and benefiting from other children's ideas.

By reflecting on positive group learning experiences and initiatives, and proactively modelling these experiences in the setting, early years teachers can demonstrate their knowledge in this area of Standard 2

2.7 Understand the important influence of parents and/or carers, working in partnership with them to support the child's well-being, learning and development

Good communication skills between practitioners and parents/carers is vital in early years, as without a knowledge of a child's life away from the setting no true picture of their needs can be drawn. Always make time for a parent to share concerns.


Denise Reardon shares her thoughts on Standard 2

'While recently participating in a planning meeting for the Teaching Standards Early Years with colleagues from Best Practice Network, early years author Marion Dowling suggested a possible definition for group learning to be "a sofa full".

'This conjures up images of children huddled together on a big comfortable sofa reading a much-loved story, delving into a feely bag or story sack or just chattering away to each other in a role-play situation,' she says.

'Promoting learning really covers just about everything that takes place in a nursery, and there are numerous ways to demonstrate how you personally think this is best practised -after all, learning in this age group covers every type of skill, from toileting to reading, from making friends to catching a ball. Think about how you create an atmosphere where learning is both fun and all-inclusive.

'Also, when considering outcomes, think outside the box. Not all outcomes are so easy to pigeonhole. A child who has settled into their nursery, or who is looking forward to the interactions of the day ahead, are among the best outcomes practitioners can hope for.'

She suggests some points for reflection:

  • How you foster a culture of parents/carers as partners in their child's well-being, learning and development, progress and achievement.

  • How you develop and sustain respectful relationships with parents/carers.

  • How you provide a welcoming environment for parents and carers.

  • The way you provide formal and informal opportunities for parents/carers to exchange a two-way flow of information

  • The way that you handle information sensitively and make a constructive response.

  • How you support parents who are in need of support for their child.

  • How you demonstrate an awareness to others about the importance of engaging parents and carers as partners in their child's learning.


Maureen Lee, director of early years at Best Practice Network, advises thinking about the following:

  • How can you make links from your practice to the Unique Child in EYFS?

  • In what ways have you been involved in progress checks for two-year-olds?

  • How do you demonstrate your accountability for children's progress?

  • What are the formal and informal situations in which group learning takes place in your setting?

  • For children who are going to school the following year, in particular, how do you plan for group learning that challenges them and supports a wide range of learning?

  • How do you demonstrate your awareness of the importance of the family in supporting the well-being and learning of children?


Early Years Teachers Standards


Part 4 of this series in Nursery World on 2 December will look at Standard 3.

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