Our sector has been full of updates, guidance, legislation and changes over the past year or so as a result of the pandemic, all of which we have all adapted to and taken on board, using our own professional knowledge and judgement and following rules and restrictions the best we can in the most difficult circumstances and so it’s no wonder that the announcement of the revised EYFS coming into effect in September 2021 has thrown the sector into turmoil and left many practitioners feeling nervous and apprehensive about what these changes will mean for them and the considerable work they may have to do in order to be ‘prepared’ for these come September.
We were honoured to recently be asked to join a panel of EY Experts for a live webinar hosted by Kinderly to discuss the upcoming changes and what this would mean for our practice as childminders and for those working within home-based childcare.
With over 750 attendees, this evening was a fantastic opportunity to myth-bust alongside the wonderful Dr Sue Allingham and fantastic Liz Pemberton regarding the changes to the curriculum and how this looks in practice.
We feel it is important to re-iterate that this new curriculum is ‘non-statutory’ and as long as you are meeting the welfare requirements, you do not have to formally adopt and change anything about your practice as a result of these revisions.
We wholeheartedly encourage you to be aware of the changes, the differences in wording and what the overarching principles of the document are, but you do not have to change the things you do or the way you teach your children.
For many of the questions posed to us to answer as home-based childcare representatives, our answers consisted of ‘we will do the same’, ‘nothing will change’, ‘we will continue to follow the children’s lead’.
We always have and always will pride ourselves on basing our curriculum, pedagogy and experiences upon the needs of our children and our commitment to providing a curriculum that is varied, based upon their interests and is relevant to their individual and collective needs.
The over-arching messages from the revised documents place emphasis on the need to reduce paperwork and practitioner workload and in our experience, and ‘evidencing’ their practice/pedagogy and children’s development without relying on reams of paperwork, data and physical evidence. This seems to be causing considerable concern for many practitioners, when in actual fact it is meant to reduce pressure and the stress of paperwork and admin.
We would like to re-iterate that we fully support this focus on moving away from paper-based evidence and have always believed that the best evidence you can provide of children’s progress, learning and development is your own knowledge of them and your professional knowledge and judgement of their journey with you and your setting.
By taking the focus away from evidence-based progress, enables and should encourage practitioners to spend as much time playing and getting to know children on a deeper level than if we were to constantly be writing and trying to document their progress on paper.
This is a big change for a significant number of practitioners and will no doubt cause some concern and many may worry whether the ‘professional judgement’ they are required to use to discuss and outline children’s progress is enough ‘evidence’.
We forget very easily that ‘evidence’ isn’t reams of observations, data, spreadsheets and pie charts. Evidence is everything that encompasses the child’s journey with you, ‘Wow’ observations, photographs, children’s artwork and most importantly; children themselves. There is concern that practitioners will go from one extreme to the other amidst these changes and stop recording observations completely, and this is not the case, but we must strike a balance and only record necessary observations that document children’s progress and achievement, rather than recording observations for observations sake which is commonplace in larger settings where there are expectations on the number of observations per child, per week, per term etc….
Many of the changes within the revised documents are changes in wording and an attempt to move away from the paperwork heavy way of working and checklist mentality that is prevalent in our sector and settings at the moment and for us, this can only be a positive step.
Do we feel that the term after a pandemic is the right time to release a revised curriculum for our sector? No we don’t but we can only move and progress and adapt as and when these changes and adaptations occur.
And so when asked what we will be doing differently come September, our answer is the same time and time again, for many questions based around various aspects of the revised curriculum, we will be doing very little, if anything differently.
Our practice always has been and always will be based upon our relationships, knowledge and understanding of our children, their individual needs, lives and interests and this will continue to be the case.
Our pedagogy and the experiences we offer within our curriculum are led, decided and influenced by the children, their interests and their own personal experiences and skills and this will continue to be the case.
We record monumental, important and relevant observations on an online learning journal and share new skills, information and general information daily with parents via Whatsapp and provide a termly summary of children’s learning and development and work with parents to discuss and decide the child’s next steps (important to note these may not come directly from the curriculum, more based upon what the child needs rather than what the curriculum says is ‘next’ in order to progress.)
We are firm believers in professional judgement, professional love and the undeniable relationships you form with children and their families and the importance of this should not be overlooked or underestimated when providing ‘evidence’ and discussing your knowledge of children, their learning, development and their next steps.
Put the pen down, play, spend time getting to know the child, what makes them laugh, their worries, how they play, what they want to learn and put what you learn from this into practice to build a curriculum that inspires, engages and excites the children you are providing it for, otherwise, who is all the hard work for?
You know your children, you know child development, you know why you do what you do and for who, and so be proud, trust your judgement, play and you won’t go far wrong in our opinion!
Whilst the curriculum may change (and it will again after this!) child development and play doesn’t change, and so as long as what you do and provide is based on the child and for the child, you are already a step ahead in your ‘evidence’ and your children will grow, develop and learn better, deeper and have a lot more fun as a result of it.