New EYFS guide helps parents support learning

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Counting with children as you put their socks on and talking about the sounds you hear on a trip to the park are just two tips from a new guide to help parents support their children's learning.

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What to expect, when? gives tips for parents from a child's point of view

The first in-depth guidance on the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) aimed directly at parents is called What to Expect, When?, and is written from the point of view of a child at six different points in their early years.

The new guide, developed by 4Children from talking to parents, is designed to help parents understand their child's learning and development at different stages from birth to five.

It looks at how to support parents with their child's learning using simple ideas for different ages and stages of their development.

It comes ahead of a series of key policy changes, including the introduction of the Early Years Pupil Premium (EYPP) from next month, and the expansion of the integrated review from September, which merges the health visitor check that children have at the age of two with the EYFS progress check.

Sue Robb, national head of early years at 4Children, said it had been 'incredibly interesting' doing the fieldwork and talking to parents - who had been very clear about what they didn't want - to develop the materials.

The guide was designed in response to a need from parents for a simple and accessible document, setting out clearly what they should notice their child is doing at six different overlapping developmental stages, acknowledging that children do not grow and develop at the same rate.

These are mapped against the seven areas of learning in the EYFS, showing what parents might notice at each particular stage with some suggestions for how parents can help their child with their learning. 'Many parents that we speak to say being a parent doesn't come with a manual. We want to support but don't know how,' Ms Robb said.

'Parents don't want to feel patronised, or feel that they are failing their child, and want quick things to help their child that fits in with everyone's busy lifestyles.

'A number of parents we spoke to said "we know there's something that our nursery uses, that our childminder uses, and we think it's called Development Matters, but we can't access it.' She added that even when parents did manage to access the document, they felt it wasn't in their 'talk'.

The guidance is also to help practitioners to work with parents, clearly aligned with the principles and commitments of the EYFS, and drawing on their knowledge of children's development.

Ms Robb said, 'We see this as a really vital tool to support quality improvement. We now have a tool to help parents with putting the child at the centre.'

What to expect, when?

The six age bands are: birth to 11 months, eight to 20 months, 16 to 26 months, 22 to 36 months, 30 to 50 months and 40 to 60 months.

Speech bubbles from a picture of a child express what parents might notice their child doing, split across the three prime areas - Personal, Social and Emotional Development; Physical Development; and Communication and Language - and the specific areas of Literacy, Mathematics, Understanding the World, and Expressive Arts and Design.

Dr Jacqui Hardie, an early years consultant who helped to draw up the guidance, said, 'Every statement written into the guidance is very clearly from a child's perspective, from a child saying to a parent what you might see happening, what I might be saying or doing, and very much based on those daily routines that you might use at home -opportunities to play together, going to the shop or park, for example - and what you can do with them.'

So, for example, at 16 to 26 months in a child's physical development, 'I can walk upstairs when a grown up holds my hand.'

Tips on the following page then give ideas for how parents can help their child develop further in this area: 'Give me a little bag to carry something in when we go shopping', or 'Let me try to put my boots on by myself.'

Dr Hardie said that parents felt more involved and that they said, 'I can talk about what my child can do because I see it written there and that's the kind of thing I see my child doing at home.'

  • Download the guide here

Early Years Toolkit

Another key resource newly released is Education Endowment Foundation's Early Years Toolkit, which is designed to help early years settings hone in on the most effective ways of improving children's learning ahead of the introduction of the EYPP, which will provide early years settings with an extra £300 for every three and four-year-old eligible for free school meals.

It assesses the effectiveness and cost of different learning strategies, by weighing up the findings of educational research.

It provides guidance for early years professionals on how to best use the funding to improve the learning of disadvantaged children, and also estimates the cost of implementing each strategy in a group of 25 children, from 'very low' - less than £80 per child a year - to 'very high', more than £1,200 per child.

Produced with academics from the School of Education at Durham University, led by Professor Steve Higgins, the toolkit covers 12 topics and summarises research from 1,600 studies.

New rating scale assesses quality

The Sustained Shared Thinking and Emotional Well-Being (SSTEW) scale for two to five-year-olds has been developed by a group of leading academics - Professor Iram Siraj and Denise Kingston from UCL Institute of Education, and Professor Ted Melhuish at the University of Oxford and Birkbeck, University of London.

The SSTEW scale will build on the Infant/Toddler Environment Rating Scale and the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale, which consider adult-child interactions alongside the planning and organisation of learning spaces, to provide a deeper focus on the adult role.

Read the article by Professor Iram Siraj and Denise Kingston on the development of the SSTEW scale and how to use it in early years settings.

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