Kathy Brodie: Free CPD for Early Years Professionals

Kathy Brodie is an author, Early Years Professional and Trainer specialising in online training and courses. She is the founder and host of the Early Years Summit and Early Years TV, weekly Professional Development for Early Years practitioners and educators.


Guest post

A Gender Gap in the Early Years?

Posted on October 21, 2020.

A guest post by Verity Downing (MEd Open) – Master of Education

Qualified Early Years Practitioner and Independent Academic


Within this reflective opinion piece, I refer to ‘female students’ and ‘girls’ and ‘male students’ and ‘boys’ as a matter of reflecting the phrases used in the government data, although, I respectfully acknowledge that gender and sex are deeply personal states of being that everyone expresses differently.


This title is ambiguous, I grant you. But what I’m referring to is the gap between the success of female students and male students across the EYFS that has remained a constant from 2013 to the present (DfE, 2019). This may come as a little bit of a shock, especially as I think it’s fair to say that we’ve become accustomed to describing our EYFS as ‘gender neutral’.

While it is an absolute positive that we can see, from information published in October of 2019, that the “gender gap continues to decrease” (DfE, 2019), it has only done so by “0.6 ppts from 2018” (DfE, 2019). This translates to girls still exceeding the success of boys with regard to “a good level of development” (DfE, 2019) by “12.9 ppts” (DfE, 2019). The biggest consistent gap between the success of boys and girls can be seen in reading and writing, however, in recent years, gaps are becoming worryingly evident in “self-confidence and self-awareness […] and the world” (DfE, 2019).

These gaps lead me to think: are girls outperforming boys, or are these gaps showing themselves because there is a disparity between what practitioners expect from boys and girls, or perhaps, looking farther afield, do the ELGs and Development Matters statements lend themselves towards stereotypically feminine strengths? I will stop myself from going down the rabbit hole of theoretical comparisons and the fundamental underlying principles of EYFS’ culture, and instead, concentrate on how we can tackle this disparity and ensure that no child is being disadvantaged as a result of their sex or gender expression.

My concerns with there being a gap between the success of boys and girls at this early age are;

  • that boys may not be being supported to reach their full potential,
  • that girls are seen to be over-achieving in the EYFS and are consequently being set-up for a fall in their future education (due to teachers’ expectations being too high of them as they were seen to be doing so well in the EYFS) and,
  • that these gaps could continue into later life.

It is our responsibility to liberate children from the “deleterious impact of gender-stereotypes” (Wolter et al., 2013, p. 64) and support them as they develop confidence and capabilities across the social and educational spectrum. A wide-ranging set of skills and interests will serve them well in the long-run.

Researchers offer the following explanations for the persisting gap:

  • It is thought that practitioners could fall into adopting traditional gender-based stereotypes of children (Baroody and Diamond (2012), Chapman (2016) and Runions (2014)), which can affect the children’s outcomes (Matthews et al., 2009), Robinson-Cimpian et al., 2014).
  • Sanford (2005) suggests that there is the chance that learning and educational development is happening in the EYFS, but that it is not being recognised. This goes back to my point that EYFS guidance tends to focus on feminine strengths. If, for example, boys are regularly seen playing with the blocks, it is possible that this familiarity closets the learning that is taking place (this example may explain the gap that is evident in “shape, space and measure” (DfE, 2019).
  • This also relates to practitioner’s valuing and recognition of behaviour that fits with their gender-based ideals. Chapman (2016), in her work that delved into how gendered ideas affect play within Australian EYFS settings, details that EYFS practitioners may give varying amounts, and types, of feedback to their students depending on their sex and behaviour.
  • While it goes without saying that all EYFS practitioners strive to ensure that they have relationships with the children that encourage feelings of safety, trust and fun, it is thought that girls are more likely to have better relationships with practitioners than boys, as their perceived superior social skills bias practitioners towards them (Robinson-Cimpian et al. (2014), Runions (2014) and Sanford (2005)). This in turn will influence where the children play and consequently what learning experiences they encounter. It could be concluded that the feeling of safety that is cultivated through these relationships may lead to female students exploring more areas of the setting, and boys not, resulting in the ELG gender gap (Downing, 2020).
  • Children may police each other with regard to behaving within gender stereotypes. Prioletta and Pyle (2017), who spent a considerable amount of time observing EYFS children at play in settings in Ontario, Canada, found that “in 70% of the videos, girls and boys played separately” (p. 398). This data also showed that the predominantly girl-only play happened at “the art/writing centre” (p. 398) and the boys-only play was mostly observed at “the blocks centre” (p. 399). I imagine that this will be relatable to many. This peer-on-peer policing based on understandings of gender can restrict the breadth of learning experiences that the children have. The writers go on to detail how at the girls-only play centres, the opportunities for literacy learning experiences were abundant, yet this is not the case for the boys-only play (Prioletta and Pyle, 2017). There is probable cause to think that this trend could be partially responsible for the gap in outcomes that are presented in the government data.

What can we do about this?

The smallest changes can make the biggest of differences.

  • Invite as many different people into your setting as possible. Sometimes there is nothing more influential than for a child to meet a ‘real-life [insert job title]’. Additionally, think carefully about how you interact with your visitor and the language used about them as the children will follow your lead. This then leads into ensuring that your setting represents people defying gender stereotypes in society. Also, if a female/male comes in to visit and is in a traditionally feminine/masculine job, ensure that this is as equally represented and appreciated as someone who is working outside of gender stereotypes.
  • This leads on to ensuring that we are mindful about the language and phrases that we use when around the children. “Matthew, can you please hold the door open as you’re a big, strong boy” may seem like a harmless phrase, but this is conveying all sorts of messages to Matthew and the other children who are listening in.
  • Think critically about how you assess your children. “Dominic is playing with the blocks again. I’ve already got an observation of him using positional language”. Don’t overlook this; what else is happening there? Is he sharing and taking on his friends’ ideas? Is he persisting when that top block wont quite stay still? Is he making a garage just like the one that mummy took the car to on the weekend for it to be fixed? Sometimes we have to look beyond what is right in-front of us and recognise the children’s play for its variety and value.
  • We need to get to know our children. The more that we talk 1:1, in small groups and in bigger groups with our children, the better. This immediately nips in the bud any chance of us falling into gender stereotypes if we can value and understand our children for their special, individual, little selves. Also, choose a topic to discuss with your key group. Let’s say ‘People who help us’. Brainstorm it together and model using inclusive language. If an unhelpful gender stereotype comes up, address it. Handle the situation gently and ask lots of questions. “Girls can’t be firemen!” “Why do you think that? Have you seen this book where there are lots of pictures of girl firefighters? Heather, would you like to be a firefighter when you grow up? It would be great to help people, wouldn’t it?”. These conversations allow us to open the children’s horizons.
  • Let’s encourage the children’s ownership of the resources. If you notice that one area is dominated by boys which could potentially alienate girls, or vice-versa, address it! Ask the boys why they don’t play with the playdough. “We like to play outside”. So, take the playdough outside! “We like the building area”. Incorporate little diggers and signposts into the outdoor playdough area. The results can be astonishing! Plus, think of all of those opportunities for incorporating fine-motor skills and mark-making skills into that play. I can sense the reading and writing gap narrowing as I type!
  • This then opens up the wonderful world of the role-play area. Building on from your brainstorming, “Perhaps we could turn our role-play area into a fire station?” Facilitate the children to have an input into creating this area. The opportunities for encouraging inclusive play in this area are endless. Oh, and get involved! Model playing different roles. This is a great way to build and strengthen your relationships with the children that will encourage them to see you in a whole new light. Prioletta and Pyle (2017) say “becoming involved in children’s play can be a useful way for practitioners to encourage […] alternative ways to be a girl or boy” (p. 405). We mustn’t underestimate our competences, versatility, and adaptability, and instead should push ourselves and capitalise on it because we can be incredibly influential in showing the children that everything is available to them.
  • In an ideal world, there would be a more balanced EYFS workforce, with more men joining the profession. However, when reflecting on their research, Wolter et al. (2013) said:

“it is not the biological gender of the kindergarten practitioner per se that has a differential effect on girls’ versus boys’ competence. Rather, our female practitioners were just as effective in supporting individual learning in boys as in girls as long as they took care not to provide predominately feminine gender-typed activities but offered masculine gender-typed activities to the same extent” (p. 64).


I have written this piece, chose to focus on it for my Masters research, and hope to continue researching it during future Doctoral work, because I really believe that we owe our littlest learners the best start to their education; a start that is free from the restraints that society puts on sex and gender expression. We want our learners to develop skills and interests in the widest reaching range possible. We want our learners to take these skills and interests on into the big wide world and change it for the better. We want our learners to be whatever they want to be, and we as practitioners can support that. And it’s wonderful.

(Please note, statistics for the 2019-2020 period were due to be released this month, however, due to the pandemic, the scheduled release will not be going ahead


Baroody, A. and Diamond, K. (2013) ‘Measures of preschool children’s interest and engagement in literacy activities: Examining gender differences and construct dimensions’, Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 28(1), pp. 291-301.

Chapman, R. (2016) ‘A case study of gendered play in preschools: how early childhood educators’ perceptions of gender influence children’s play’, Early Child Development and Care, vol. 186, no. 8, pp. 1271-1284.

Department for Education (DfE) (2019) Early years foundation stage profile results in England: 2019, [Online], Data Insight and Statistics Division, Department for Education. Available at (Accessed 5 October 2020).

Downing, V. (2020) ‘The stronger the bonds, the greater the chances of success: Actioning on research to address the gender-based achievement gap in the Early Years’, Impact: The Journal of the Chartered College of Teaching, Issue 10, Autumn 2020, pp. 34-36.

Matthews, J. S., Cameron Ponitz, C. and Morrison, F. (2009) ‘Early Gender Differences in Self-Regulation and Academic Achievement’, Journal of Educational Psychology, 101(3), pp. 689-704.

Prioletta, J. and Pyle, A. (2017) ‘Play and gender in Ontario kindergarten classrooms: implications for literacy learning’, International Journal of Early Years Education, vol. 24, no. 4, pp. 393-408.

Robinson-Cimpian, J., Ganley, C. and Copur-Genctruk, Y. (2014) ‘Practitioners’ Perceptions of Students Mathematics Proficiency May Exacerbate Early Gender Gaps in Achievement’, Developmental Psychology, 50(4), pp. 1262-1281.

Runions, K. (2014) ‘Does Gender Moderate the Association Between Children’s Behaviour and Practitioner-Child Relationship in the Early Years?’, Australian Journal of Guidance and Counselling, vol. 24, no. 2, pp. 197-214.

Sanford, K. (2005) ‘Gendered Literacy Experiences: The Effects of Expectation and Opportunity for Boys’ and Girls’ Learning’, Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 49(4), pp. 302-315.

Wolter, I., Gluer, M. and Hannover, B. (2013) ‘Gender-typicality of activity offerings and child-practitioner relationship closeness in German “Kindergarten”. Influences on the development of spelling competence as an indicator of early basic literacy in boys and girls’, Learning and Individual Differences, vol. 31, no. n.a, pp. 59-65.


Guest post

The Parent Representative

Posted on February 27, 2015.

Partnership with parents is a crucial part of every setting’s daily life. 

So, I was fascinated when Kim Benham, Senior Manager at Sparkles and Millies Pre-School in Croydon, told me they have a Parent Rep at her nurseries. Here, she shares the story behind the creation of the Parent Rep, as well as their role in the Nursery.

Click here for more »


In the News

Children’s physical development

Posted on January 20, 2015.


Physical development is one of the Prime Area of learning and development in the English Early Years curriculum – the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). These Prime Areas are ‘fundamental’ to children’s development.

Sometimes the idea that practitioners can influence physical development, beyond healthy eating and exercise, seems a little alien. After all, we can’t MAKE children grow taller or change their physical attributes.

Click here for more »



Good, Quality Documentation

Posted on October 23, 2014.

Simona McKenzie has posed another interesting question for me: “What should good documentation contain as a summary of children’s learning, that is focussed and shows exactly what the learning journey a child has taken?”

My first thought was that there are certain statutory, legal requirements that all childcare professionals need to fulfil. Namely:

The Department for Education’s Statutory Framework (DfE, 2014: 13) calls for on-going (or formative) assessments based on day-to-day observations of the children, without ‘excessive paperwork’ that is ‘limited to that which is absolutely necessary’. This is incredibly vague and open to interpretation, both by practitioners and Ofsted.

Click here for more »


Recommended Resources

Characteristics of Effective Early Learning

Posted on May 11, 2014.

This week I have been reading all about the different aspects of the Characteristics of Effective Early Learning, in a book of the same title. This is an excellent book, edited by the very knowledgeable and enthusiastic Helen Moylett.

The book has 8 very different chapters, based around the Characteristics of Effective Learning as described in Development Matters (the underpinning knowledge of child development for the EYFS in England). There is a chapter on each of the 3 characteristics: playing and exploring; active learning and creating and thinking critically.

Click here for more »



EYPS New Standards and Reviews

Posted on April 21, 2014.

The new EYPS Standards have been unveiled.

The 39 have been reduced to 8, with subclauses. They can be found here

On the whole, they reflect the previous Standards, but without the confusing overlap and repetition. There is a logical progression (almost Bronfenbrenner-like) through the Standards, culminating in the all important leadership aspect. Most satisfyingly they are NOT just a rehash of the QTS standards!

Click here for more »



Ofsted inspections 2012

Posted on July 15, 2012.

Ofsted Inspections 2012

**Note that the latest inspection document came out in Sept 2014 and can be found here: Early Years Inspections, Ofsted  Please do go to Penny’s blog to see an update on her latest experiences with Ofsted inspections. The post below was initially published in July, 2012.

The new guidance for Ofsted inspections that will be used from September 2012 is now out. It makes for interesting reading, not least because the emphasis is on direct observation of practice.

But what is it like to actually be inspected under the new regime?

Penny Webb is a highly experienced childcare professional, who has worked across the spectrum of childcare and is an ‘Outstanding’ Childminder. I was very excited when she agreed to write about her experiences of a pilot inspection, along with some recommendations to make the most of the inspection.

My name is Penny Webb and I am an Ofsted Registered Childminder, in my last inspection in October 2010, I was graded Outstanding. I have a wide range of other experiences including working for the National Childminding Association and Worcestershire Early Years and Childcare Service, lecturing and assessing for child care courses and carrying out quality assurance scheme assessments.

In January 2012 I took part in pilot inspections for the revised EYFS and Ofsted inspection framework. I was phoned on the Thursday and asked if still willing to take part, phoned again on the Friday to be told the inspection would take place the following Tuesday and received the paperwork to support the inspection on the Saturday. So all in all not a lot of time to get my head round what was then the draft revised EYFS, the inspection process, and all the changes.

I admit that panic did set in over the weekend as I hurt my leg and spent most of the weekend in a lot of pain with repeated trips to Primary Care, and as a result any hope of ‘preparing’ went out of the window. However I went ahead with the inspection, (which was a full inspection without any corners being cut) and was delighted to be told that if it had been a ‘real’ inspection I would have been awarded Outstanding.

It is therefore because of my experiences with the pilot that I am writing this blog as I feel I have an advantage point from which to comment.

Ofsted Inspection Framework for EYFS Inspections from September 2012
Last week Ofsted published their ‘Evaluation Schedule of inspection of registered early years provision. In everyday language this is the document that inspectors should consult when making judgements (and therefore giving grades) during inspections as from 3rd September 2012.

My personal thoughts are that although there have been changes to the wording of the EYFS 2012 and the inspection framework documents since the draft documents, the guiding principles and changes to inspection that I experienced in the pilot remain in place. Therefore I am confident that my reflections are valid and an accurate ‘heads up’ as to what inspections will be like from September 12.

So let’s start to put the new inspection evaluation schedule document into context, it says in the introduction on page four:

Point 4 The evaluation schedule must be used in conjunction with the guidance set out in Conducting early years inspections, the Statutory framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage 2012 and Development matters in the Early Years Foundation Stage.

This is important because it means that all these documents mentioned above must be used together – none of them give all the information on their own.

Point 3 The outline guidance is not exhaustive but is intended to guide inspectors on the range and type of evidence they might collect.

Again important, because it means that inspectors may still gather ‘evidence’ in other ways – so some personal interpretation is possible. However it is very clear that inspectors must gather their main evidence from direct observation (Page 7 – point 14) and must take account of the context of the provision inspected, in particular children’s ages, stages of development, the amount of time children spend at the setting each week, and the length of time children that attend for (page 5 – point 7).

The evaluation document is 16 pages long and needs to be read in full by all early years practitioners, and will be looked at in more detail in a future blog. As a starting point I will reflect on the things that stood out to me as being ‘different’.


The inspector for my pilot inspection hand wrote her notes, this was brilliant as the inspector moved freely around my setting and was able to directly observe activities and ask myself and the children questions throughout the inspection. I understand some pilot inspectors did use laptops and this personal choice about laptops led to much debate during feedback about the pilots. Everyone felt that it was better if inspectors did not use laptops but it was pointed out that some inspectors would prefer to use laptops in the settings.

The observations (including a 30 minute detailed observation) were central to the judgements made – during feedback the inspector referred constantly to her observations, and therefore it was quite easy for me to see how she reached those decisions. I think that in cases where the practitioner wanted to query the judgement made, it would be possible to discuss evidence used and judgements made.

I was very reassured by the inspectors constant reference to ‘age and stage appropriate’ as on the day I had 4 children who were either just 2 or almost 2, and I had worried about how the inspector would be able to judge the progress being made by the children (a key factor for judgements). The inspector was able to identify progress made by referring to ‘starting points’ both from my written records and through discussion, and took on board the fact that one child is bilingual so speech development was slightly delayed.

Personally I think it is very important to give the inspector as much information as possible about the children on the day – even little things like as in my case you have twins in your care.

On the subject of providing information to inspectors, I think it is very important that you give a verbal explanation about the environment provided – especially if like me you do not forward plan in detail or have changed the environment to meet the needs of the children – but the changes have not yet made it to the recording paperwork.

In childminder settings it is common practice to set up an environment with continuous provision and / or resources to support stages of development and interests – but then throughout the day to ‘go with the flow’ making changes as needed, which get recorded at the end of day.

As an example I informed the inspector that the duplo was provided because I had observed that the children were starting to construct two and three piece models, that one child had an interest in tractors (some in duplo collection) – and I was supporting sharing and development of small world play.

The other main difference that I noted was the lack of checking of paperwork – yes the inspector did look at documents – but she only spent minutes not hours doing this. She was not that interested in my certificates but wanted to discuss how my training had been put to use and the impact on the children / setting.

She glanced at risk assessments but asked lots of questions about how I kept the children safe – and had observed incidents of this aspect. She looked at learning journeys but was more interested in discussing interests and next step plans with me – using her own observations of the children to access my knowledge and skill.

In summary I found the pilot inspection very positive, it was focussed on the children and their progress, evidence was based mainly on observations and discussions and paperwork was used as secondary evidence rather than primary evidence. My understanding is that my experiences should be the ‘norm’ for inspections from September 12 – I hope this is the case.

Conducting Early Years inspections

Statutory framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage 2012, DfE, 2012; .

Development matters in the Early Years Foundation Stage, DfE, 2012;

Penny’s website can be found here and her LinkedIn profile is here


Many thanks to Mike for the image


Archived material

The Revised EYFS 2012 – some thoughts

Posted on April 17, 2012.

The Department for Education has published the Revised Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage.

It is available on their website, but, disappointingly, is only downloadable. The Framework becomes statutory in September 2012, so there’s not much time to become familiar with it (certainly less than when the EYFS was originally introduced).

From first reading, there seems to be only minor tweaks, the most obvious being the reduction in the number of pages (31 from beginning to end, down from 55). Another tweak being the seven areas of learning and development, which have been divided into prime areas (communication and language; physical development) and specific areas (literacy; mathematics; understanding the world; expressive arts and design). I feel the differentiation between prime and specific has been dealt with more eloquently in the development matters (practice guidance) on the Early Education website..

In general, it is what was expected. However, there are a few elements which worry me.

1. The ‘preparation for more formal learning’ (page 6, 1.9 penultimate paragraph). I had thought we’d left that behind long ago. Children should be doing what is developmentally appropriate for where they are NOW, not where they may be in 6 months time. Reception teachers, who are already struggling against the inappropriate top down pressure from head teachers, may well feel that the rug has been pulled out from under them.

2. The guidelines for the progress check at age 2 (page 10, 2.3 onwards). These seem very woolly, which may be good for those confident in completing this new piece of paperwork, but I feel the Framework should have been more prescriptive here. The requirement is for a ‘short written summary of their child’s development in the prime areas’, identifying strengths and any areas where progress is less than expected. How short is short? What sort of areas would need highlighting?

This section also indicates that any identified Special Educational Need should be identified. I would sincerely hope that practitioners would not wait until the progress check to highlight a child’s possible SEN, but I can see that the temptation would be to do just that.

There had been much discussion prior to publication of how the progress check would be shared with Health Visitors. However, on page 11, we find that it is down to the parents/carers to share the progress check with the health visitor. Unfortunately I fear this will either just not happen (creating an obsolete report) or will only happen where there are no concerns, so the very children who need help will slip through the net again.

3. Training and qualifications. There is a worrying phrase used on page 17, section 3.22. ‘providers should consider supporting’ staff to obtain level 2 qualifications. I feel this leaves a massive loophole for unscrupulous providers to not bother with training because its been ‘considered’ but nothing has been actually done about it. The original EYFS says ‘In particular, those staff with no qualifications should be supported in obtaining a relevant qualification at a minimum of a full and relevant level 2 qualification’ (Original EYFS, page 31) which I feel is a much stronger statement.

4. Risk assessments. Page 25 says that ‘providers must determine where it is helpful to make some written assessments’ and that it ‘does not necessarily need to be in writing.’ I would advise all providers to check the legality of this for their particular setting on the Health and Safety website. The Health and Safety laws may require written risk assessments, even if the EYFS doesn’t.

5. Record retention. The original EYFS demands that records must be kept for 3 years (page 40), whilst the revised version suggests a ‘reasonable period of time’. This is dangerously vague and could allow records to be destroyed before a child has transferred to school (6 weeks may be considered a reasonable time?).

And this really is a good example of my main doubt about the revised EYFS.

By reducing the quantity, I feel that it has created a number of areas which are open to interpretation. Although it could be argued that it makes the Framework more flexible, I’m a little worried that inexperienced or less confident practitioners may not find the support they have had in the past.

Similarly, it may not be helpful when the Ofsted inspector calls!

Overall, the revised EYFS is not a big change to the existing Framework.

It will be how nurseries and settings choose to implement it which will make the difference.

with thanks to Ryk Neethling at for the image


Archived material

EYFS Consultation document

Posted on August 16, 2011.

Having just completed the EYFS consultation document at the DfE website. I have serious concerns about some of the document.

1. The qualifications required are the bare minimum – Level 3 for managers and half of the rest at Level 2 – despite all the research (EPPE, REPEY, Tickell Review) confirming again and again that a graduate led workforce results in better outcomes for children.

2. “School Readiness”. Apparently the Early Years is all about ensuring the 5 year olds of England are “ready” for Key Stage 1. This has replaced play and emotional development as being key for children. In addition the Literacy Early Learning Goals have been altered.

The original EYFS required children to “Link sounds to letters, naming and sounding the letters of the alphabet. Use their phonic knowledge to write simple regular words and make phonetically plausible attempts at more complex words.” (EYFS, P.53) and “Attempt writing for different purposes, using features of different forms such as lists, stories and instructions… begin to form simple sentences, sometimes using punctuation.” (EYFS p. 60).

However, the new EYFS requires children to “read and understand simple sentences in stories and information books, using phonic knowledge to decode regular words and read them aloud accurately… children write their own … simple stories which can be read by themselves and others.” (EYFS Consultation document, p. 9). This is a significant difference. Is the hope that by asking 4 year olds to write their own stories that the level of literacy will be raised?

A brief look at the research from around the world ( unicef vexen) shows that starting children’s literacy earlier doesn’t mean better results at age 11. In fact the later children start formal training, the better the long term outcomes for literacy. You would think the Year 6 teachers would be screaming for less literacy in the Foundation Stage.

3. Babies seem not to get a mention, except to say they must be segregated from other children. This is a massive shame. There is lots of research from many years to show that there are a range of benefits to mixed age groupings, including keeping siblings together, social development, nurturing, peer learning and emotional development (Cohen, 2002, Derscheid, 1997, Di Santo, 2000, Gmitrovaa et al. 2004, Goldman, 1981)

I know it wouldn’t be suitable for every setting, but to require that there is segregation removes all the learning opportunities which may be available for children in mixed groups.

This is why it is so important for everyone to complete the consultation form. These are my concerns and I’m pleased that I have the opportunity to voice them.

Make sure your voice is heard too.

The consultation ends on the 30th September 2011.


Cohen (2002). How the child’s mind develops. Hove: Routledge

Derscheid, L. (1997) Mixed-Age Grouped Preschoolers’ Moral Behavior and Understanding Journal of Research in Childhood Education Vol. I I. No. 2

Di Santo, A. (2000). Multi-age groupings in early childhood education: The affordances and opportunities of a multi-age child care model. Ottawa:National Library of Canada

Gmitrováa, V. and Gmitrovb, J. (2004) The primacy of child-directed pretend play on cognitive competence in a mixed-age environment: possible interpretations Early Child Development and Care Vol. 174(3), pp. 267–279

Goldman, J. (1981) Social Participation of Preschool children in same versus mixed-age groups Child Development Vol. 52 p. 644 – 650

McClellan, D. and Kinsey, S. (1999) Children’s Social Behavior in Relation to Participation in Mixed-Age or Same-Age Classrooms Early Childhood Research and Practice Spring 1999 Volume 1 Number 1

Image by sabianmaggy



What does Assessment mean?

Posted on March 2, 2011.

An interesting article caught my eye this week, based around a mother’s conversion to the EYFS.

There a few things which also raised an eyebrow – “every setting in the country” should be “the majority of settings England”, for example.

But the sentence which really intrigued me was that children should be allowed to be children and not “endure a continuous stream of observations and assessments”. The word that was particularly discordant was “endure”.

In my experience most young children thoroughly enjoy having an interested and motivated adult watching and taking part in their play. There are many adults who enjoy being a part of children’s lives, which naturally involves noting the children’s likes and dislikes.

So where does the “endure” or suffering come from? One explanation could be that the process of observations and assessment hasn’t been made clear.

The dictionary tells us assessment is an evaluation or judgement. This doesn’t mean we restrict children’s freedom or play or natural inquisitiveness. A good practitioner will give the children all these opportunities and then take the lead from them to extend their interests – or evaluate, ‘assess’ their play.

The assessment is not about labelling or pigeonholing children. However, if a practitioner can spot schematic play (for example), then this can help support the child’s interests and learning in a way that is the best for the child. Or, put another way, really understands what makes that child tick.

Who wouldn’t want that?

When first looking at the EYFS (2008 and 2012) it may seem to be artificially contrived statements about children just doing what children do best – being themselves. But these have been crafted by skilled and respected educators in the childcare industry, based on some of the most in depth research in Europe (Effective Provision of Preschool Education, 2003).

The strength of the document is that it takes the child’s incredibly complex patterns of learning and makes them accessible, makes it look easy, even. This ensures that the ‘assessments’ we make about children are relevant and accurate.

The EYFS (2012) does have many ‘categories’, against which assessments are made, although few than the EYFS 2008. But the fact remains that, somehow, you have to detail how children develop and learn. If you don’t, how do you know if their development is within ‘normal’ limits? How do you evidence Special Educational Needs, for example? Or gifted and talented?

Without having this information you may not be providing the very best for the children in your care.

Assessment isn’t about sitting children down to be tested or labelled. It is about taking an interest in their development, and then using this to give them an enjoyable and challenging childhood.

Early Years Foundation Stage, EYFS (2008) DCSF
EPPE (2003)