Learning & Development: Progress Check at two, Part 1 - In focus

Ruth Thomson
Friday, September 20, 2013

In the first of a series on the Progress Check at Age Two, Sue Chambers looks at what you need to know now and what to expect in the future

The Progress Check at Age Two has been in place since the introduction of the revised Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) in September 2012 and already practitioners are becoming used to carrying it out. However, there are still some concerns about it, and it is all set to change again in 2015. So what is the check, its challenges, the proposed changes to it, and the essentials of best practice when carrying it out?

BACKGROUND

In The Early Years: foundations for life, health and learning, Dame Clare Tickell recommended that all children aged between two and two-and-a-half should be given a short developmental check to identify those children with developmental delay and enable early interventions. She wanted parents to be fully involved and to be able to share this information with the health visitors, via each child's 'red book'.

She said, 'I recommend that the EYFS should include a requirement for practitioners, including childminders, to provide on request to parents and carers, at some point between the ages of 24 and 36 months, a short written early years summary of their child's development in the prime areas.'

WHAT IS THE CHECK?

The Statutory Framework for the EYFS 2012 says practitioners must:

  • review the progress of the child when they are aged between 24 and 36 months
  • provide the parents with a short written summary of their development in the three prime areas (PSED, PD and C&L)
  • in the written summary, identify the child's strengths and any areas where progress is less than expected and describe the actions the provider intends to take to address any concerns
  • discuss with parents how the child's learning and development can be supported at home.

The check currently sits alongside the Healthy Child Programme Two Year Review, carried out by health visitors and introduced in 2009. However, in 2015 both these will be replaced by the planned Integrated Health and Education Review at two to two-and-a-half years.

AIMS

The check aims to:

  • review a child's development in the three Prime areas of the EYFS
  • ensure that parents have a clear picture of their child's development
  • enable practitioners to understand the child's needs and plan activities to meet them in the setting
  • enable parents to understand the child's needs and, with support from practitioners, enhance development at home
  • note areas where a child is progressing well and areas where progress is less than expected
  • describe actions the provider intends to take to address any developmental concerns, including working with other professionals where appropriate.


BEST PRACTICE

The check should:

  • begin with high-quality observational assessment
  • be based on what the child can do independently and consistently, led by their interests
  • incorporate the views of parents, other practitioners and where relevant other professionals working with the child
  • be carried out by a practitioner who knows the child well. This should normally be the child's key person.

CHALLENGES

  • There are gaps in the current Healthy Child Programme, with a shortage of health visitors leading to a patchy service across the country. Some children have little or no involvement at all with a health visitor.
  • Some settings have no direct contact with a health visitor, so parents are given the nursery assessment and may or may not choose to share it with other professionals. This can result in no follow through of concerns.
  • Although the EYFS encourages practitioners to work with other professionals, this can only happen with parental permission - so what happens if the setting has concerns and parents refuse to share information?
  • Parents receive only partial information about their child's development from a particular professional's viewpoint.
  • There is confusion further along in the system - for example, in referral to services, about who is best placed to provide support.
  • The EYFS framework doesn't tell you: exactly when to carry out the check, what format should be used, what and how much information should be included and what kind of evidence needs to be collected before the summary should be written.
  • The recommendation that the key person should be the one who carries out the check assumes that all practitioners are confident and competent at feeding back information to parents. Research has shown that Early Years Professionals are more likely to be working with the over-threes and this raises the issue of whether practitioners working with two-year-olds have received appropriate training to deal with the more challenging parents.
  • Practitioners report that during the pilot they saw a significant increase in the number of two-year-olds with additional needs. This raises the question of whether early years staff receive sufficient training and support to deal with more needy children.


PLANNED CHANGES

It is proposed that when the planned Integrated Health and Education Review at two to two-and-a-half years is introduced, it will bring together the Healthy Child Programme health visitor review and EYFS Progress Check at Age Two in a more coherent way.

The integrated review will aim to:

  • identify the child's progress, strengths and needs at this age in order to promote positive outcomes in health and well-being, learning and development and offer appropriate support
  • facilitate appropriate intervention and support for children and their families, where progress is less than expected
  • generate information that can be used to plan services and contribute to the reduction of inequalities in children's outcomes
  • ensure parents receive information about their child's development and health review that incorporates the professionals who are working together and encourages parents to include their views
  • provide a clearer pathway for referral and monitoring and support to promote the best possible outcome for that child
  • give health visitors professional accountability by allowing them to take the lead during the process.

Key to the success of the Integrated Health and Education Review will be whether the Government's drive to train more than 6,000 new health visitors by 2015 is successful. The National Children's Bureau is leading on a research project to examine the implementation and effectiveness of the integrated review in five local authorities - Islington, Leeds, Medway, Norfolk and Northamptonshire. They will begin to pilot the new system in 2013 for one year, after which it will be reviewed and implemented nationally in 2015.

Health visitors will be using the Ages and Stages Questionnaires, also known as ASQ, which are designed to be filled out by parents. In section one, they will be asked questions about the child's skills, including:

  • communication
  • gross motor
  • fine motor
  • problem solving
  • personal and social.

In section two, parents are asked questions about their child's development and concerns they may have.

The Progress Check at Age Two, currently completed in settings, will continue with few minor changes to the process - adding parental consent to share information and moving the completion of the progress check to between two years and five months and two years and six months instead of as close to the child's second birthday as possible. Other changes in the pilot study will be:

  • The progress check and parents' health questionnaire will be returned to the health visitor's team. If information regarding a child gives cause for concern, the health visitor will ensure that there is a clear care pathway planned and communicates appropriately with relevant agencies
  • If parents make clear that information must not be shared with the health visitor team, the setting will notify the health visitor team, who will follow up
  • Where children are not seen as 'universal' but are in an early years setting, the health visitor team may conduct the review in the setting, with the setting contributing to the process, if parent and setting agree
  • Nursery nurses working within the health visitor team will complete the Healthy Child Programme aspects of the review (for example, weight and height check), by arrangement with the setting
  • Health visitors and early years settings will communicate with each other regarding referrals
  • Any more serious issues regarding less than expected progress for children must be alerted to the health visitor, recorded on child's record and followed up.

 

ABOUT THIS SERIES

This series aims to clarify some of the challenges associated with the check, look at examples of best practice and prepare settings for the next set of changes. In forthcoming articles, we will be addressing current concerns and looking at the training needs of staff carrying out the check, with a particular focus on:

  • working with parents, particularly those who may present as challenging, and helping them to develop home learning
  • the planning process - the process, the paperwork and effective methods of recording, focusing on the challenges and essentials of best practice
  • good practice guidance for each of the Prime Areas: C&L, PSED, PD.

MORE INFORMATION

  • Child Benefits: the importance of investing in quality childcare by E C Melhuish (2004). Daycare Trust
  • Early Learning for Two-Year-Olds: trials - learning and case studies, DfE (June 2013)
  • Healthy Child Programme: the two year review, Department of Health (October 2009)
  • Supporting Families in the Foundation Years, DfE (2011)
  • The Effective Provision of Pre-School Education (EPPE) Project: findings from pre-school to end of Key Stage 1 by K Sylva, E Melhuish, P Sammons, I Siraj-Blatchford, B Taggart. (2004). Institute of Education, University of London; University of Oxford; Birkbeck, University of London; University of Nottingham
  • The Early Years: foundations for life, heath and learning by Dame C Tickell(2011).

Sue Chambers is a senior LEYF associate

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