Tag Archives: EYPS

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Sustained Shared Thinking and your Pedagogy

Listening
My new online course on Sustained Shared Thinking is now available. You can get it at a special price here…
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In a previous post on Sustained Shared Thinking I spoke about how important Sustained Shared Thinking is to good practice. Since that post in 2009, the EYFS has been updated and Sustained Shared Thinking now appears on page 7 of Development Matters (2012), the EYFS guidance from Early Education.

Sustained Shared Thinking still appears in the new Teacher’s Standards (Early Years) (Sept. 2013) in Standard 2.4, a replacement for Standard 16 in the Early Years Professional Status (EYPS).

It would seem that Sustained Shared Thinking is here to stay – which I think is really good news. However, that now leaves the question of “How can I ensure Sustained Shared Thinking is  part of my pedagogy?”

Pedagogy, in its simplest form, is the way that we teach, educate or scaffold children’s learning. It is the way that we, as  practitioners, create an environment that encourages children to learn for themselves, to solve problems and extend their own thought processes.

It is more than just what we teach, it is how the idea is embedded into everything that we do, from our own personal approach to the environment.

So how can we ensure that we are both engaging  in Sustained Shared Thinking AND giving children the environment that encourages it?

One way is to make sure that all the practitioners in your setting (whether that is the Teaching Assistant, Childminder’s assistant or your setting manager) are aware of the powerful learning that is taking place when you are talking and actively listening to the children.

There should be areas in the setting where extended conversations are encouraged, for example, quiet, cosy areas; dens; outdoor corners and during small group time. Even simple activities such as nappy change time is an opportunity to chat to your child – to encourage the good eye contact and taking turns in ‘talking’ – that will create masterful conversationalists.

Sustained conversations may take place whilst waiting for snack or lunch or on the carpet after story time. They may happen equally outside, whilst looking for mini-beasts or playing a circle game.

Secondly, wherever, and whenever, these opportunities present themselves, you and your fellow practitioners should grasp them with both hands. You don’t know when, or if, your child will what to explore that particularly idea again.

Carefully observe your children and note when they are the most likely to want to talk, then make sure that you have some time to meet their needs on that occasion. This could mean cutting short a circle time or allowing extra time to get coats on – but Sustained Shared Thinking is so important that these are worthwhile sacrifices.

Finally, and most importantly, make sure that all practitioners value and support conversations with the children, making it a bedrock of your pedagogy.

My new book on Sustained Shared Thinking is now published by David Fulton. Find out more about supportive environments for Sustained Shared Thinking in Chapter 6.

My new online course on Sustained Shared Thinking is now available. You can get it at a special price here…
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And to read my ultimate guide to Sustained Shared thinking, click here:

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References

Early Education (2012) Development Matters London: Early Education

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EYPs – Providing the very best for our children and their families

It was just over 18 months ago that I posted an article entitled A Teacher by Any Other Name

The thrust of the original article was that when working with young children, they don’t care about your job title, they will learn from you in deed and word, so if the practitioner (or educator, teacher, nursery nurse or EYP) is loving and caring, then this greatly increases the chances for the children to be loving and caring. Sadly, the reverse is also true – see Bandura’s experiments for confirmation of this.

But the point of the article was that – it really doesn’t matter what you are called.

So it seems incredibly ironic that there is now a debate raging about the names that EYPs will have from September 2013.

The Coalition Government is proposing to change Early Years Professional Status (EYPS) to Early Years Teachers (EYTs). Now, you don’t have to know me for very long before you find out that I am passionate about EYP Status I was one of the first in the country to achieve the Status and have subsequently mentored and assessed on the course.

Even with some of its flaws, I still believe it is important to have this career step after degree level, for those who wish to progress.

Most significantly the EYP was a ‘change agent’, a term much discussed and variously defined.

This had significance for me because it demonstrated that the EYP wasn’t only doing a good job themselves, but the EYP was also leading, supporting, encouraging and demonstrating to others how to raise the quality of their practice too. Changing practice for the better.

However, the new, proposed Early Years Teachers’ (EYT) Standards do not have that aim. Change agent does not appear anywhere. The proposed Standards are a direct trickle down from the Teachers Standards agreed with Qualified Teachers in September 2012. There are one or two nods to the fact they are for a younger age group (‘pupils’ become ‘children’ or ‘babies and children’, Sustained Shared Thinking gets a mention) but, in essence, they are the Teachers’ Standards – hand-me-downs, slashed and inadequately re-stitched to cover the bare patches.

And this is where it starts to get messy for me.

One argument is that by being equivalent Standards, under the same authority (Teaching Agency) that there is an equivalence between EYTs and Qualified Teachers (QTS). However, an EYT is NOT seen as being ‘qualified’ in the school system. So you could work as an EYT in the Foundation Stage, but not in Key Stage 1, for example.

Professor Nutbrown clearly stated in the findings from Foundations for Quality that the EYPs were frustrated at the lack of equivalence between EYPS and QTS and the lack of parity in pay and conditions (page 57). This has not been addressed by the Government.

The claim of equivalence simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. And I’m pleased about it.

Professor Denise Hevey very eloquently puts the case for “Different But Equal” with many setiments that I would totally agree with.

It’s time to move beyond the name. Professor Nutbrown called for true QTS equivalency, and the Government have rejected this. I doubt they will take the consultation on the new Standards any more seriously.

EYPs/EYTs already have a long, hard road ahead of them. So let’s concentrate on doing what we do the best and let’s do it together, bound by a common goal.

Providing the very best for our children and their families.

Note

Since then, there have been a number of updates to the Standards, requirements and Government policy.  The Early Years Professional Status has been replaced with a new Status – Early Years Teacher Status – which still has 8 Standards, but you now have to hold GCSE maths, English and science to do the course.

In addition, you have to pass the professional skills tests. You can find out more information from the Government website here

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A Glimmer of Hope for EYPs

The EPPE report (Sylva et al. 2004) concluded that the best quality settings had a graduate led workforce.

The Graduate Leader Fund (or Transformation Fund) was set up in 2006 to support settings in achieving this aim. The idea was that settings could ‘home grow’ a graduate, by supporting their studies at University, whilst still working in the setting, or to assist a setting to recruit a graduate.

This would then enable graduates to go on achieve to the Early Years Professional Status (EYPS) – the gold standard.

But has spending all this money (£555 million) achieved anything in the last 5 years?

In July 2011, the Department for Education (DfE) released the Evaluation of the Graduate Leader Fund, researched by an eminent team and supported by the CWDC, Oxford University and the National Centre for Social Research.

Because the EYPS is still in its infancy (although there are now 7,500 EYPs), the research has used EYPs who have achieved the Status for 6 to 24 months. The two main questions to be investigated were:

  • Does having an Early Years Professional improve quality?
  • If so, which aspects of practice (and of quality) are most closely associated with EYP status?

(Evaluation of the Graduate Leader Fund p. 16)

I’ve done a couple of small scale research projects to explore the same questions and have found it incredibly difficult to unravel the Status from the person (see ‘Value your EYP’ on this website).

Similarly it is impossible to ignore the environment in which the EYPs work, physical and emotional. If there is already an ethos of implementing improvements, an openness to changes and a strong team, then the EYP stands a much better chance of making a positive contribution.

In the Evaluation of the Graduate Leader Fund, Mathers et al. have chosen to use the ITERS-R, ECERS-E and ECERS-R Environmental assessment tools (available from Amazon) which neatly side steps some of the issues.

These are a method of quantifying the quality of the setting and one that I always recommend to settings who know that there is something not ‘quite right’ but can’t put their finger on it. These audit tools enable practitioners to put a fine tooth comb through their practice and environment to identify which parts are functioning well and which need closer monitoring.

There are a myriad of findings and analysis from all the information gathered over the two year life of the project, which have been categorised into – The impact of gaining EYPS; Other predictors of quality; Improving practice in settings; Factors affecting improvements and Parents’ views of improvements, qualifications and their involvement in their child’s learning.

I was particularly drawn to the impact of gaining the EYP Status, the key findings of which were that:

  • Gains were seen in overall quality
  • EYPS provided ‘added value’ over and above gaining a graduate in terms of overall quality
  • Improvements related most strongly to direct work with children, such as support for learning, communication and individual needs
  • EYPs were more influential on the quality of practice in their own rooms than on quality across the whole setting.
  • There was little evidence that EYPs improved the quality of provision for younger children (birth to 30 months)

(pages 6 and 7 – Executive Summary)

In addition, it was found that few EYPs were working in baby rooms, which mirrors my own experiences with EYPs. It seems to be felt that EYPs are best used in pre-school. Maybe because they will be expected to talk to teachers, write leaving reports or liaise with multi-professional teams?

I would suggest this is an area ripe for research and discussion with settings. If this can be analysed successfully then EYPs may be used more effectively and efficiently in settings.

EYP networks have plenty of support in the Report: “EYPs valued having access to continuing professional development opportunities through EYP networks established within LAs. These networks provided the opportunity … to share best practice. Networks also provided additional training, for example on specific elements of provision.” (page 99) and “Local networks were seen as a valuable resource for training and for keeping up to date with new developments” (page 100) and “EYPs identified both CPD and the role of EYP networks as key facilitators for ongoing development.” (page 106).

This is very encouraging. Currently networks are struggling for funding and EYPs are having to justify their time away from the settings. This research clearly shows how valuable the benefits are.

In conclusion, I would strongly recommend anyone in childcare to access the report on the DfE website because I have only picked out a very few of the findings and their possible implications here. The report is thorough, interesting and very relevant – just as you would expect from these authors.

Now let’s hope the Coalition Government take the time to read and understand it.

References

Sylva, K. Melhuish, E. Sammons, P. Siraj-Blatchford, I. and Taggard, B. (2004) The Effective Provision of Pre-School Education (EPPE) Project: Final Report A Longitudinal Study Funded by the DfES 1997-2004

Mathers, S. Ranns, H, Karemaker, A. Moody, A, Sylva, K, Graham, J, and Siraj-Blatchford I. (2011) Evaluation of the Graduate Leader Fund Final report. Research Report DFE-RR144

Note

Since then, there have been a number of updates to the Standards, requirements and Government policy.  The Early Years Professional Status has been replaced with a new Status – Early Years Teacher Status – which still has 8 Standards, but you now have to hold GCSE maths, English and science to do the course.

In addition, you have to pass the professional skills tests. You can find out more information from the Government website here

Image by Jenny

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Value Your EYP

With Early Years Professional Status (EYPS) in the news again for good reasons (supported by the Tickell Review) and not so good reasons (Providers lose their licence), the debate has once again opened on the value of the Status and its role in Early Childhood Education.

Early Years Professional Status was conceived after the Effective Provision of Preschool Education (EPPE) research found that a ‘graduate led workforce’ gave demonstrably better outcomes for children in preschool settings. However, since then the authors of the EPPE research have produced a book (Early Childhood Matters, evidence from the Effective Pre-school and Primary Education project, 2010 Sylva et al.) which clearly states that they had intended the Early Years to be led by qualified teachers (pages 19/20). They declare the current situation a ‘muddle in provision’ being followed by a ‘muddle in training’.

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A Teacher by Any Other Name

I’ve just seen the most marvellous quote tweeted:

“All adults who come in to contact with children contribute to children’s education and are teachers whether or not they are called by that name.” Tweeted by Linda R at Beyondplaydough.

Coincidentally, I commented today on a forum about Teachers and Early Years Professional Status (EYPS), so this was already on my mind. The discussion had meandered into the treacherous waters of EYPS versus teachers. Teacher status is well recognised by parents and carers. They understand that teachers have usually gone to University and have had specialist training in effective teaching. Few parents and carers understand that the EYP Status is also post graduate and covers the full age range Birth to 5 years.

The reason for this could be that the EYP Status is still new, particularly compared to teaching.

It could be that EYPS hasn’t been advertised well enough by the government and CWDC.

It could be that parents and carers just want their young child to be happy and cared for by someone who loves and cherishes their child, as they would do themselves, whatever their qualification or Status.

And really that is the reason why the tweet made me smile. From the child’s point of view, they don’t care. Children are natural learners, investigators, scientists and explorers. That’s why babies love peek-a-boo games, why toddlers love to hear the same story over and over again and why pre-schoolers are fascinated with mini-beasts. Children just enjoy having adults who are interested in them, who are willing to engage whole heartedly in their play and have new experiences to share with enthusiasm.

The important thing for the adults is that they are aware that they are being teachers – like it or not! When a practitioner refuses to touch a worm, when the adults wont go out in the rain, when the children aren’t allowed to choose their favourite story – what is that ‘teaching’ the children?

On the other hand, there are those adults who will spend hours picking up the toy and putting it back on baby’s high chair, crawl into a den to read the story or spend time hearing both sides of the dispute between friends.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big, big advocate of EYPS and a graduate led early years workforce, whether that is called Teacher, Pedagogue or Directoress.

However, I’m also a big fan of young children being surrounded by interested, loving, caring, enthusiastic ‘teachers’, whatever their name is.

What do you think? Leave a comment below to share your view.
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Image by Pinkstock photos

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The EYFS Review – part two – The Impossible Curriculum

This is part two of the posts about the Tickell, or Early Years Foundation Stage, Review. In part one I have looked at the quantitative and qualitative data which was gathered during the consultation phase. Here in part two I’ve considered the 46 recommendations in detail and how these might affect practice in the Early Years. The report can be found here.

Arguably the biggest change recommended is “that personal, social and emotional development, communication and language and physical development are identified as prime areas of learning in the EYFS.” (page 21). Note that CLL has lost Literacy, which would appear as one of the “four specific areas in which the prime skills are applied: literacy, mathematics, expressive arts and design, and understanding the world.” (page 27). Problem solving, reasoning and numeracy has been re-replaced with mathematics. I feel this is a shame. To most people “mathematics” inevitably means numerical calculations rather than the much broader areas of spatial awareness, patterns and shapes.

Three characteristics of effective teaching and learning are recommended: “playing and exploring, active learning, and creating and thinking critically” (page 27) This is so children’s learning can be supported effectively by all practitioners, whether that is a play worker or childminder. This highlights one of the most thorny issues of the EYFS. It is a generalised curriculum trying to be ‘one size fits all’ which is very difficult. Make it too woolly and it will be open to misinterpretation (intentionally or otherwise). Make it too prescriptive and risk excluding sections of the childcare community. Whether defining characteristics of effective teaching and learning will solve this remains to be seen.

In part one I highlighted the fact that the EYFS doesn’t call for extra paperwork – it’s a perception that ‘everyone else’ has, from Local Authorities to Ofsted representatives. This is recognised on page 28 and on page 31 it is recommended that the paperwork should be “kept to an absolute minimum”. Who will be brave enough to be the first to buck the trend and ditch meaningless forms which don’t inform practice or support the child?

It has been recommended that the number of early learning goals (against which a child is assessed at the end of Reception Year) be reduced from 69 to 17. These are to be judged using a “simple scale” (page 31) of emerging, expecting and exceeding and link more closely to the National Curriculum. These do seem to contain a lot of statements for one early learning goal (page 72), but they have been grouped together in a sensitive and sensible manner.

Another very sensible decision is to allow mobile phones to still be used in settings (page 39). The vast majority of settings already have policies about mobile phones. After all, it is the way in which they are used which is the problem, not the phone itself.

The second recommendation (page 13) is that the framework remains statutory across the early years. The argument being that if it isn’t statutory then the areas of greatest deprivation, and therefore greatest need, will suffer the most. Having worked with a number of children’s centres around the country I would whole heartedly agree and think this is a thoroughly laudable recommendation.

Interestingly, when referring to independent schools opting out, Dame Tickell has suggested that they should not be exempted, and that the argument that all independent provision is superior to other provision is still to be proven (page 14).

Hopefully the recommendation on page 17, that the EYFS is available in more formats, more easily, will mean that we can get paper copies again. I sincerely hope so! My final copy of the EYFS separated from its spine during training on Saturday.

It is very encouraging to see parents and carers getting special mention (page 18). When Dr Margy Whalley spoke at the North West EYP Conference in March this year, she had plenty of good reasons for why this is good practice. Dr Whalley enthusiastically encourages home visits and has multiple examples of their benefits. At the moment I am reading Kate Wall’s book ‘Special Educational Needs and Early Years’ where she emphases the ‘partnership’ being a joint decision making one, including planning and assessment, if it is going to be truly beneficial.

However, I feel a little sad that there has to be a specific recommendation to give parents an overview of the EYFS when they start (page 18). I had imagined that this was good practice and would be happening as a matter of course in most settings.

The recommendation for a 24 – 36 month summary of a child’s development – written in conjunction with the Health visitor – screams “extra statutory assessment” and ” more paperwork”. In addition there is the question of access to health visitors and how parents will view this, particularly if they already have some concerns, but don’t want their child ‘labelled’. The hope that the practitioners will be allowed to exercise some judgement in this matter is optimistic. Adding an extra page to the ‘Red Book’ is a good idea, but this set of recommendations are best suited to parents who are engaged with their children’s learning and development already. Are they going to reach those families who are difficult to engage already and are sometimes the most disadvantaged?

Although the praises of the children’s centres and their work is truly sung on pages 25 and 26, the Review falls short of actually giving any recommendations, which is an opportunity missed.

It is recommended that written risk assessments be removed (page 41) – is this too much other way? This appears to be in response to childminders concerns that they are under the same regime as large childcare companies (see part one of EYFS review) and doing written risk assessments every day is clearly too onerous. Hopefully this wont tempt settings ‘not to bother’ with risk assessments, because they only have to be produced if asked for.

The 1:30 teacher to child ratio in reception classes is to be re-reviewed (page 30) because there is not enough ‘clear evidence’ to say this ratio is too high. Is the lack of evidence a demonstration of the hard work teachers have put in to ensure children aren’t penalised? For children to go from a ration of 1:8 to 1:30 in a matter of weeks, as well as coping with a change of setting, change of key person, change of routine and going from being the ‘big boys and girls’ to being the smallest in the setting again must be incredibly difficult. Maybe this should be reviewed from the child’s perspective first?

Overall the Dame Tickell appears to have listened carefully to the practitioners and educators who have been involved in the Review of the EYFS. There are lots of common sense recommendations and I can certainly recognise some of the dilemmas, such as Ofsted requirements sometimes being at odds with the EYFS. The bigger challenge may be that producing one curriculum for such a diverse set of child care situations – and pleasing everyone – may be impossible.

The summary of the recommendations start on page 56 of the Review report.

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The EYFS review – part one – much ado about nothing?

So, the long awaited EYFS Review is out and being pored over by one and all. I thought it might be interesting to see what line of attack the media had on this one. Supportive? Derisive? Outraged?

The TES decided to go front page here and then misunderstood Dame Tickell’s view on phonics here. The Times went for the “nappy curriculum”, as did the Guardian, who focused on the exclusion of independent schools here. The Sunday Times (News Review, page 9) has a reasonably balanced overview, although I’m not sure that prior to the EYFS all “little ones would stay at home, having stories read to them, being taken to the playground and having friends over to play”.

Certainly in the media there have not been many objections or calls for a petition to stop the Review. So all in all, has it been Much Ado About Nothing?

I’m going to approach this by looking at the two aspects separately. First the statistics and information from the online questionnaire, literature review and qualitative study. The next post will look at the recommendations that have been made from these. This is because I think its important to understand where the recommendations have come from and the sort of things that practitioners (whether that is a play worker, teacher, childminder or early years practitioner) have asked for.

The EYFS Report on the Evidence (2011) can be found here and the Tickell review (2011) can be found here.

One of the impressive things is that over 3,300 people responded to the online questionnaire. That is a lot of people. However, it is still only 0.7% of the total workforce (DfE, 2010). Not even 1% of the early years childcare staff have had their voice heard.

Chapter one gives a brief overview of the situation so far. Chapter two deals with the welfare (mandatory) requirements of the EYFS and how these have already affected practitioners. The views reported here are diverse and many ‘depend upon the situation’. So, for example, doing a risk assessment for a setting which has an annual trip is very different to a risk assessment for a childminder who is out every day. But both situations are governed by the same piece of legislation.

The thorny issue of transition is dealt with at the end of chapter 3, highlighting the sorts of ‘top down’ pressure that many reception classes feel.

On page 35 (Chapter 4), 4.18 the biggest myth of the EYFS is laid bare. The EYFS does not call for extra ‘paperwork’. It asks for observation based assessments and planning. According to the review, the demand for paper comes ‘other sources’, for example the inspectorate or Local Authority. This is something which I have challenged practitioners on many times. “Where does it say in the EYFS that you have to fill out A4 folders of observations every week?” and, more importantly, “How does the child benefit from this?” Thank goodness this issue has been explicitly stated in the review.

The EYFS Profile is criticised by practitioners for being too bulky and time consuming. It is suggested that the results are not used by the Year 1 teachers (although, in my personal experience this is an educational law – “no educator will trust the summative reports of the previous key stage”) and that only a third of parents receive them. Combine this with the “highly subjective” and “wide variation” (page 37) that headteachers report and you can see why this has been targeted for change.

The key person, which was controversially included as a mandatory requirement, has been accepted by practitioners and parents alike. Although, understandably, teachers who have 30 key children are not so keen!

Chapter 6 deals with training and development of the workforce. The good news is that training levels are rising and more nurseries have level 6 (degree qualified) practitioners. Even better is the finding that Early Years Professionals (EYPs) are improving the quality of care and education that children are receiving. The biggest complaint was that training was patchy and not of a high enough quality. In many ways this is really good news. It means that practitioners are demanding more in depth, challenging courses and are really recognising the benefits that these courses bring.

What does this tell us about the sorts of things that practitioners have asked for? The underlying theme appears to be that, in general, the EYFS is well used and well respected. The additional ‘paperwork’ is more a demand from other sources than a requirement of the EYFS. There are some accepted good practices, such as key person. Levels of qualified practitioners has risen and is continuing to rise. The EYPS has been shown to improve outcomes for children.

What has been asked for is clarification in some areas, such as the EYFS Profile and smooth transition between settings.

In general this is a balanced Review, albeit based on the views of practitioners who had internet access and felt strongly enough, one way or the other, to respond. So maybe not ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, more ‘As You Like it’.

References:

DfE (2010) Childcare and early years providers survey 2009. London: DfE

Brooker, L., Rogers, S., Ellis, D., Hallet, E. & Robert-Holmes, G. (2010) Practitioners’ experiences of the EYFS. London: DfE.

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Reflective Practice and the EYP

EYPS, reflective practice and how this can improve outcomes for children at a setting
Reflective practice is one of the tools which can be used by Early Years Professionals to fulfil their role as ‘change agent’, which is at the heart of the Early Years Professional Status (CWDC, 2008). By structured reflection on current practice the EYP can identify what change is valuable, worthwhile and improving.

Methods vary from setting to setting. Practitioners may have personal reflective log books which are then reviewed regularly. Reflection can be done as a team in staff meetings. Documents such as the Self Evaluation Form (SEF) and the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) are valuable starting points.

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