Are observations still important since the EYFS reforms?Sponsored
Monday, June 26, 2023
SPONSORED CONTENT Since the new early years guidance and the EYFS 2021 framework was released, the question ‘do we still need observations?’ has been asked many times. However, the practice of observation in the early years is so much more than a means to record assessments.
What does the EYFS Framework say about observations?
In the important shift away from collecting data, the EYFS 2021 Framework says that educators should not be required to evidence children’s progress ‘through excessive paperwork’. But it also emphasises the central role that observation plays in early years practice: ‘In their interactions with children, practitioners should respond to their own day-to-day observations about children’s progress and observations that parents and carers share.’
There is no doubt that early years educators have to hold onto a lot of information. Occasional observations, whether by a quick note or media snapshot act as excellent memory jogs when you are considering a child’s progress, helping you to monitor and share the learning stories of your children.
‘Team members use Tapestry to aid the recall of vast amounts of information they are having to process daily. Keeping an accurate track of each individual child’s holistic learning journey can be extremely challenging as a practitioner, so it assists them particularly when performing reflections and reviews. At this time of year it also assists with the preparation of transition documents and liaison with schools.’
– Peter, Dolphins Pre-school
Supporting partnership with parents/carers
Child-centred practice revolves around a two-way communication between early years educators and families, maintaining that all-important connection. Sharing a photo or short video observation of a child with their parents/carers reassures, provides a focus for talking with their child later (great for language development) and can offer ideas for interactions at home.
In partnership, everyone’s input is valued, and hearing and seeing families’ observations of their children strengthens a practitioner’s understanding of each child. Using a visual format such as photos or video can help to reduce barriers to engagement for families.
At Dolphins Pre-school, observations on Tapestry support partnership with parents/carers:
‘We utilise observations extensively as a means to strengthen and develop parent partnership. Tapestry is incredibly beneficial for engagement of our parents/carers many of whom are increasingly time poor. It is not uncommon for grandparents/childminders to perform drop-off’s/collections. Retaining solid connections with parents/carers can reassure and inform parents/carers in relation to progression as well as provide valuable talking points in the home.’
– Peter, Dolphins Pre-school
When planning for in-house professional development, educators can learn a lot from the observations they make. They provide a focal point for discussing child development or exploring pedagogical approaches. Watching a short video observation of a child can support early years practitioners to learn more about them. It is an opportunity to look more closely at their play, their verbal and non-verbal communication, and the connections they are making.
Looking back through a child’s learning journal with them offers opportunities for them to use talk to explain their ideas and practice new vocabulary. This can support their metacognition skills as they tell you about their thinking, as well as allowing the practitioner to ask focused questions that will further support the child’s development.
A key reflection for early years educators is ‘why am I making this observation?’. The why is the most important question, and the answer is simple: ‘to benefit the child’. Child-centred assessment means noticing what a child can do, what skills and knowledge a child already has, and planning provision to help them to build on that. Whether an observation records an important milestone, celebrates with a family, supports transitions, or informs future provision, it is about having a positive impact for each child.
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