Public Speaking

In my experience, people generally hold irrational fears concerning public speaking; in a recent survey, I think some people feared death less than talking to their peers. As educator public speaking is part of our daily role, most teachers won’t bat an eyelid about speaking to a class of 30 or in a whole school assembly. It’s the same thing.

 

But Pran the pupils aren’t judging you!

 

Er, I hate to tell you this but they are. The difference is through practice you’ve shielded yourself from their judgement.

All leadership involves interacting with followers when engaging people outward-facing leadership, that delivery and words are as crucial as the message and vision you are propagating. Remember, these followers are not part of your organisation, so, do not know your day to day, see who you are as a person or what you live and breath. 

I struggled with the concept of deliberately influencing, those of you who have shared my journey will know that my aim was never to climb the leadership ladder, my core purpose was solely around being the best teacher I could be. As time goes on for a multitude of reasons things change.

 Early, while in middle leadership, my line manager told me that all leaders have to be Machiavellian, that I had to work on being manipulative, that you had to get people to do what you wanted by these means. I was repulsed. I felt that my leadership style would always be around the propagation of my vision and being a person of integrity, being who I said I was and walking to the walk.

It took time to realise that this ‘vision propagation’ and the nobility around integrity were while fundamental parts of my character are were also forms of manipulation. Even typing that now it makes me shudder. The negative connations around those words still don’t sit right with me. Let me rephrase; leadership is about charm. 

To charm followers, you have to become adept at influencing. A blog on the influence framework is here.

Delivery – Reducing Anxiety.

 

Get your content right; Live and believe what you say. If you value what you have to say, so will the audience. I rarely write a word for word script for a keynote, workshop or a lesson, mostly because I treat each session like a huge classroom, and I feel the room, let it be organic and let yourself be yourself.

Try and rationalise your fears; Why are you scared? What in particular? Is it that your message isn’t good enough? Or your delivery won’t be good enough? It usually is the latter, and this is just another form of imposter syndrome. Please own your message and part of the delivery should come as a consequence or the imposter will own you.

 

Improving your Practice.

 

‘You’re a great speaker Pran’.

 

My response to this statement is always a short and curt ‘thank you’; I have spent hours practising. I’m not just saying that I mean thousands of hours. Like everything in this world, nothing of value comes easy, and everything can be learned. 

Record yourself and listen to the way the words sound and flow, decide what you want your style to be.

 

I need Powerpoint Slides and Notes

 

Going ‘naked’, no notes, no props, and no PowerPoint slides. 

Advantages to going ‘naked’ are that it is more human, it invites people in, it allows you to interact more naturally and adapt as a result of the audience. Some of you may be cringing reading this; speaking is difficult if you see these aids as crutches, are you using them to mark your timings or place holders? There is generally no need for any props of any kind. Before using props, including PowerPoint slides, ask yourself the acid test question: does it add to the experience of the audience? If your answer is no. Drop them.

Memorising two hours plus worth of material can be daunting. Various speakers use different techniques. Split your talk into sections and instead of using slides as place holders use associations,

Saying to teachers’ we have work to do!’ (no matter how much energy I put into those words) – It’s like asking footballers to juggle as they run. We are flat out already. I get it. The BBC have literally interviewed me about the anxiety, sleeplessness and depression that seem to come with this amazing job. Like a whole range of anti-bonuses!

To memorises the above content from my TEDx talk, my brain goes through the following processes,

  1. Teachers work hard, so lots of energy is needed.
  2. Then I picture footballers juggling on BBC’s match of the day.
  3. This takes me to my BBC appearance.
  4. Finally, footballers get massive bonuses, and teachers get anti bonuses.

Do not ever use someone else’s material, apart from the plagiarism and inauthenticity, and your brain will fight those words.

Volume, Tone, and Silence 

 

In the main, talk like you are talking to a standard room, a class of pupils, if you have a microphone, especially if you have a beard, hold the microphone at 45 degrees and a couple of inches away from your mouth. Sometimes the raising of voice can mean that you are pouring more energy into those words; sometimes, the lowering of volume can also feel the same. You and only you are the judge and master of the way you choose to come across.

Silence is a seldom-used tool in public speaking. In everyday interactions, silence is typically illicit people to fill the uncomfortableness with words, the social constructs around public speaking mean that instead of words people ponder and ruminate. When you want people to think, pose a point or a question and stop and wait.

Final Checklist – Work Out…

 

  1. What do you want to say?
  2. How do you want to be perceived while you say it?
  3. The words can be secondary to the delivery and vice versa. Listen to and be critical.
  4. Enjoy it.

 

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The College Years – Race

Guest blog from @HalilMrT1

I remember that office so vividly that if I were to close my eyes I could tell you almost every detail of the room. I could tell you about the paintings on the walls, the colour of the walls, the paraphernalia on his desk, the books on the shelves and the ridiculous curtains that were still allowing (in my opinion) too much light through – what was the point of them?… I was having to shield my eyes from the sun coming through the thinly veiled window.

What was the point of the meeting? Why had I been summoned to his office? To the heads office! My college headteacher has called ME into his office!

I was outside a few minutes before just chatting with a friend – we were talking about very important issues – “man what are you going to wear to the end of year ball?” – I mean what’s more important!? Then, out of nowhere, my form tutor walks over and tells me that the head would like to see me in his office. Sandeep (the friend I was talking to) put his hand to his mouth and took a sharp intake of breath “ooooyah!” – he didn’t have to say anything else.

The head was looking directly at me, I was looking everywhere else but at him. He proceeded to speak…

“Halil we have noticed your attendance has slipped, this is unacceptable. There are other people who would love a place at this college” I knew what he was implying – my place at the college was under threat.

They knew why my attendance had slipped, but they didn’t understand. They knew my mum was unwell.

What they didn’t know or understand was what it is like to be the older (male) sibling in a Turkish Cypriot family. The expectation on my shoulders to support my father in the kebab shop that we had at the time. My Baba never asked me to help, I made the decision to. I felt I had to. My duty. I suppose it’s all linked to the stories my father used to share with me about how he used to help my Ali Dede – pronounced deh deh (grandfather)-  particularly through the spring and summer months, selling watermelons around the other villages near his own in Kıbrıs. Family first. Son helping father. Family responsibilities.

What they didn't know or understand was what it is like to be the older (male) sibling in a Turkish Cypriot family. The expectation Click To Tweet

I mean how could I watch him struggling to look after my mum who couldn’t work because of her illness (another blog for another time) and running a business that had just been set up?

“You don’t understand what it’s like for me…what family means to me. I’m not you, someone else can have my place I don’t care, you don’t understand!” my response was swift.

What I really meant was –  “you don’t understand my culture/you don’t understand what I ‘have’ to do!”

He looked at me, silent. I am sure he was not expecting the response I gave him…and I was not expecting his.

“Halil, I don’t think I do understand. Come and see me again tomorrow, we’ll work something out. Maybe we can look at adjusting start times for you for a short while – you have a bright future I don’t want it wasted”

Halil, I don't think I do understand. Come and see me again tomorrow, we'll work something out. Maybe we can look at adjusting start times for you for a short while - you have a bright future I don't want it wasted Click To Tweet
That act of understanding, kindness and compassion was so important as I know I would not be where I am now in my career if it had not been for his reaction.

I did see him the following day but I didn’t need a change of timetable as our meeting made me open up to my Baba – he sorted it. My dad had this saying “as long as Baba is here everything will be ok”. He had a way of making everything better no matter how bad things were. He’s not here anymore – and for a short time, after he was “taken” everything was bad – he wasn’t here to make it better. But I’ve come to realise that he is here (I’m holding hand to my chest) and I take great comfort in that.

It is so important to look at each situation on an individual basis. Take time to understand the whole person.

At my school the stories, backgrounds and lives that make up each child is taken into account – our children know they are cared for.

As long as we are all here for each other everything will be ok ☺️.

#belong #care #persevere #succeed

Leadership Journeys- What’s your USP?

This leadership gues piece is from Dr Jess Mahdavi-Gladwell.

So, today someone asked me a question, ‘What’s your USP?’

It stopped me in my tracks, I’ve often thought that I could be described as unique, or at least unusual but this question really made me think.

My unique selling points, perhaps there isn’t only one! I have a doctorate which predates my primary teaching career, it focussed on school bullying and also gave me cause to learn and teach (UG and PG) about typical and atypical development. My experience from the end of my degree to the start of my teacher training set me up to understand and support those children with whom I have an affinity and an ability to relate and connect. These days I read about ACEs  (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and being trauma informed and I find myself surprised at responses I read.

Today I took the space to wonder why people dismiss the idea of the effect of traumatic experiences on children, why people wonder if there is such a ‘thing’ as childhood trauma at all. Trauma Informed is something of a trending phrase, one which I’m sure some people hope will disappear along with Deep Dive, Warm Strict, Knowledge vs Skills and other things which people could describe as EduFads. I came to the conclusion that there are a couple of potential contributors.

What have I done?

If I accept the idea of Adverse Childhood Experiences having a lasting negative effect on how children present, how they relate and attach, how they learn and ultimately how they interface with the world then I have to accept that I may have done harm. I may have done harm to my own child, I may also have done harm to a child in my care who needed me to do something outside of the usual pattern (or not do something that was part of my script.) Perhaps the whole school behaviour policy wasn’t fit for purpose for this particular individual (I don’t have a specific child in mind) and I wasn’t brave enough to make that stand.

I simply can’t.

The statistics are deeply distressing. The responsibility that comes with teaching is already immense. If we add another layer of knowledge and understanding, then the weight of our potential to do harm as well as good increases. We are all people, people with homes, families, bills, responsibilities. There has to be time outside of our work to relax, to recharge, to decompress. We do this in many ways, speaking from my own experiences, some of these are more healthy than others. Some are more effective than others. What I feel confident to say is that, as we perceive our responsibility deepens we can become less able to step away, forget and be our non-teacher selves for a little while.

So because it’s challenging, some people don’t want to accept it.

I may be wrong. I am probably right for at least some of us. Some people may have entirely different reasons for disbelieving the trauma narrative (please tell me, I’m always ready to learn.)

Hear these words, what we are able to give is finite. Teachers cannot fix everything that has gone before in the lives of our children. Teachers cannot make up for the negative experiences that children have outside of our classrooms and schools and we cannot shore up those children and young people whom we teach in order to enable them to continue through life’s battlegrounds unscathed. We will try, give our best and a bit more no doubt. Lose sleep, lose peace.

To all who try, we stand together, we strive for the best for those pupils we teach. I stand on the shoulders of many as I write this. People who have believed in me, trusted me, challenged me. I hope I can play those roles for others.

School Funding. Time to Act. Do Your Bit.

School funding has been neglected for too long, Now is the time to restore funding to our schools and colleges, Get a FREE SchoolCuts banner!

From recruitment and retention to Ofsted, league tables and marketisation, those of us working in education are all aware of the conditions leading to a narrowing of the curriculum and the growing crisis in student mental health.

The Government’s recent promise of £14billion in funding might sound impressive but this will not return us to 2010 spending levels. 

In reality 83% of education establishments will still be facing real terms cuts under the new funding proposals.

I have always held to the statement that “A well-informed populace can be trusted to make the right decisions, the question is, how well informed are the public? The SchoolCuts website isn’t about telling people how to vote, it’s about ensuring that votes are cast based on accurate information, and as educators, it’s our responsibility to educate.

The NEU and other unions responsible for the School Cuts website have for the past few years offered to provide schools with (FREE) banners detailing the funding data for their specific school and areas.

schoolcutswalthamforest

This is Not Political

There is nothing political about stating the facts. This is the time for parliamentary candidates of all parties to state their promises on education funding, if we dont stand now we run the  risk that budgets will continue to be squeezed. Every party has flaws in their policies, but it isn’t too late for them to reconsider and improve their offer to education due to public awareness and pressure.

I believe that regardless of your political leanings a School Cuts banner outside every school and college is to the benefit of education because it creates a space for discussion that could easily otherwise be drowned out in the noise of a general election. If we don’t make our voices heard now, then we could be facing a five-year wait before we have another opportunity to shape the debate.

Now is the time to restore funding to our schools and colleges

Headteachers and Governors

 

If you are a Head Teacher or Governor and would like a School Cuts banner, then there are several ways to proceed.

 

 

Alternatively,

  • Inform your school union representative (NEU, NAHT, ASCL, UNISON, GMB & UNITE)
  • Contact your local union District Secretary, the full list of NEU Secretaries is available at https://neu.org.uk/listings/district-contacts
  • Or failing that email myself and I will pass your request onto the relevant person bales@neu.org.uk

 

Teachers, Teaching Assistants, Parents and Everyone Who Cares About Education

  1. Send this blog to your leadership team and raise awareness about the FREE resources available.
  2. Download the logos here, print and share them widely.
  3. Share a picture of your logo on Twitter with the hashtags #SchoolCuts #VoteEducation. You’ll be seeing mine stuck to my planner later
  4. Share the youtube link below.
Stand up for education https://youtu.be/Up5qBHFfcOM Click To Tweet

About the Author

This is not an official message from the NEU. Karam Bales is a member of the NEU’s National Executive Committee, Chair of the New Professional and Young Workers National Council, and Youth Liaison Officer for UNIFY: Campaign for a Single Education Union. He works full time in a compressive secondary academy. (edited by Pran Patel)

 

 

 

 

Things EYFS Practitioners Want You To Know: Being Physical

This is third in a series by @Emmccatt

Part One be found here

Part Two can be found here

Physical Literacy

An important part of the EYFS is purposeful play through physical means. Children are encouraged to be physically literate and should be encouraged to access situations where they are able to manage risk via energetic play.

The International Physical Literacy Association describes Physical Literacy as:

“the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge and understanding to value and take responsibility for engagement and physical activities for life.”

Simply, instead of children recognising letters and sounds as they would in literacy terms (which ultimately leads to reading development); children instead build up a bank of movement. This starts first with learning simple actions which then progress into how those actions relate to each other leading to the creation of a vocabulary bank of movement and development of their own physicality.

This is another form of purposeful play which is explained in more detail in a previous blog. Engaging in physical activity via purposeful play provides opportunities for children to access activities that stimulate physical learning and enhances capabilities so that children become more confident movers, both gross and fine.

Primacy of Movement

Toddlers and young children take part in all manner of physical movements as they learn to navigate the world. These movements allow them to explore both their own movement possibilities and how objects in the world respond to them. This exploration is a key aspect of their physical development. The urge to move is natural and is something EY practitioners seek to develop in children in order to encourage independence and increasing control of physical movement and navigation. It is in these initial navigations and movements that we see the roots of communication begin to take place. It is gestures and signing to convey meaning to those around you, it is the beginning of mark making, it is making sense of the world through what we touch, see and do.

Take the above image. At first glance it looks like happy babies lying on their tummies. However, there is so much physical development happening in that position! The back and neck muscles are active, both the arms and core are being strengthened, the position allows for a wider range of the visual field. This early movement is a key part of physical development and will play a part in later skills such as handwriting.

Physical Development

Physical Development is one of the Prime Areas within the EYFS (for more information see previous blog) and is used to develop and assess movement, handling and understanding of a child’s own body. It can be argued that is one of the most important aspects of the framework as it fundamentally links to all other areas of learning.

As adults, it is second nature for us to navigate busy crowds or hold multiple objects whilst doing so. These skills however, have to be learnt by little children who are constantly navigating the world and building upon essential gross motor skills such as walking, balancing and manoeuvring.

Throughout the EYFS they also develop their fine motor skills. Simply, this is using small muscles when moving in a coordinated way in conjunction with the eyes. It is picking up a fiddly object, playing with small items such as lego, eventually picking up a pencil or scissors.

From an early age children generally begin to feel more confident in their bodies when it comes to gross motor skills. They want to run and jump. As they develop these skills EY practitioners re also providing opportunities for them to also develop their fine motor through provision opportunities as can be seen in the images below.

It is important to see the development and learning of both fine and gross motor as sequential. Much work happens before children are able to pick up a pencil in the tripod grip and begin to form letters. Children may begin by using gross motor to create large shapes in the air with their hands. They may use their bodies to make different shapes. They could create letters using their fingers in sand or foam. Their fine motor is continuously developed through a variety of activities such as peg boards, tweezers (as in the images above), weaving, cooking skills such as chopping, using clay, cutting, tracing. All of this happens before and alongside a child physically writing and is fundamental to their development in this area! This is a quick overview however and early writing will be explored in more detail in an upcoming blog.

Is Equal Fair?

Activity

Two pupils commit the same violation. One is white; the other is black. If the white pupil struck out, and you discover that they are the victim of bullying.

Would you consider that before you decide on the consequence?

Answer honestly, and answer with the whole picture in mind.

Two pupils commit the same violation. One is white; the other is black. If the white pupil struck out, and you discover that they are the victim of bullying. Would you consider that before you decide on the consequence? Click To Tweet

arms bonding closeness daylight

Should we treat black pupils in the same way we treat white pupils when considering sanctions? Click To Tweet

The following is from the testimony of my pupils and my own experience in the United Kingdom.

Society bullies people of colour. Imagine being excluded from most of the community, imagine:

  1. Being told repeatedly that your culture is not as valued as the culture of those in power, society bullies people of colour.
  2. Being told through an education system that your culture is not as valued as the culture of those in power, imagine
  3. Being told that a person in power is going to anglicise your name because they do not value you enough to learn your name.
  4. Being followed in shops by security:

“Because ‘darkies’ commit crimes in the UK, that’s why we’re following you around.”

  1. Being asked (as an adult) if you are a waiter/ security while at the TES awards or queueing for a meeting at Portcullis house.
  2. It goes on.

 

What do you want, Pran?

I am not saying that pupils of colour should or should not be sanctioned. However, there has to be an acknowledgement of the world in which we live. The majority of teachers I have worked with, networked and served under are either oblivious to power structures we live under or acknowledged and accepted it as the norm.

What do we do?

Step one is to acknowledge the differences in the life experience of every pupil. Then we need to incorporate this into your behaviour policy. One size fits all systems serve no one well. The only people who benefit are leaders and educators, as the procedure takes away the work needed to unlearn and the work required to incorporate the whole picture into your decision; Schools do not exist to make teacher’s lives better. More on this later.

This process is by no means restricted to race. Class, gender, colour, sexuality, ableism, etc. all should be incorporated into your big picture while this is hard; this is also fairer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are You Organising An Event?

This is an amazing toolkit from Penny Rabiger.

This toolkit is designed to be a starting point for event organisers. Whether you are part of a grassroots organisation putting together an event as a volunteer, or if you work for an organisation where this is part of your paid work, you will need to ensure that your event is high quality, represents the people and the issues that are important to the sector you serve, and that you are not consciously or unconsciously doing things that may perpetuate a narrow view of the world or that may exclude voices from typically marginalised groups being included in the programme. Similarly, if you are asked to speak at a conference or to take part on a panel, there are proactive things you can do to ensure that you are part of the solution and not part of the problem. Intentions are important, but outcomes are what matter most.

This toolkit is designed to be a starting point for event organisers. Whether you are part of a grassroots organisation putting together an event as a volunteer, or if you work for an organisation where this is part of your paid work,… Click To Tweet

Continue reading at:

https://tenpencemore.wordpress.com/2019/06/22/organising-an-event-a-toolkit/

https://www.bameednetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Organising-an-event_-a-toolkit.pdf

The Leadership of Yourself. 

If you want to be a leader, you have to be a real human being. You must recognise the true meaning of life before you can become a great leader. You must understand yourself first.

Senge 2004 

Leadership becomes a chore if we neglect the personal qualities and solely work on professional attributes. To develop your own guidance, leaders should dedicate time to themselves. The self is the principal aim, through cultivating their ideal self and consolidating by developing trusted relationships.

leadershipofself1

Figure 1 Boyatzis’ Theory of Self-Direct Learning (Goleman, Boyatzis, and Mckee, 2002)

Let start with Boyatzi questions.

  1. My ideal self – who do I want to be within my role?
  2. My real self – who am I currently? What is the overlap between the real and the ideal?
  3. My learning agenda – This acts on question 2 your strengths are within the overlap and your weaknesses in the differences.

Once you have identified a Venn diagram with yourself and your ideal, we act to learn.

Looking back at the Point 3,4 and 5 (on the figure) can be difficult. The leadership of the self is linked to leadership learning in your organisations. Leaders should change aspects of their behaviours, thoughts and feelings and see what works, what brings them towards their ideal and what takes them away? The process described is action research within yourself. The final stage of leadership is cementing that learning through practice.

This all sound very Machiavellian and self-indulgent, without knowing where you are (who you are) and your destination within yourself. The lack of vision will stay static or flounder around aimlessly.

I see real parallels with learning cycles for our pupils. Learning leads to use outside the classroom but also it is intrinsically linked to the learning process within the classroom. This point is echoed by Dennison and Kirk who describe four elements in a learning process, drawing on the model by Kolb and Biggs and Moore (National School Improvement Network, 2002, p1)

leadershipofself2

‘This cycle highlights activity in learning (Do), the need for reflection and evaluation (Review), the extraction of meaning from the review (Learn), and the planned use of learning in future action (Apply). (ibid. p1)

leadershipofself3

(ibid. p1)

Let’s go further with the analogy, in the above learner and teacher (a and b) are the same. We are, in essence, talking about self-directed phronesis led learning, then an adaption process (part c) followed by an evaluation of the outcome on oneself. Redrawing the diagram, emphasising the real power in the figure is how the self, reflection the action and change are all interdependent.

leadershipofselffinal

Leaders become adept at evaluating their actions on the organisation; no leadership can occur without this criticality. However, as leaders, how often do we value our effects on ourselves and within the school context? As well as how do these actions and learning cycles impact on the wider context in this case ourselves? And finally, how do they impact on our personal development.

The act of measuring your growth, analysing your starting point can become extremely difficult.

Further Reading 

Carnell, E. and Lodge, C. (2002) Supporting Effective Learning. London: PCP

National School Improvement Network. (2002). Effective Learning. London: UCL Institute of Education. NSIN Bulletin. [Online]. Summer 2002, 17. Available from: https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/83041.pdf …. [Accessed: 30th May 2019].

https://dera.ioe.ac.uk/5952/1/download%3fid=17238&filename=leadership-development-and-personal-effectiveness.pdf

Your Voice Matters.

I have spent most of my life feeling silenced, unable to utilise my voice for various reasons.

I have found my voice; thousands of people visit this site weekly. 

Now sharing and amplifying our voices feels like the right thing to do.

I have spent most of my life feeling silenced, unable to utilise my voice for various reasons. I have found my voice; thousands of people visit this site weekly. Now sharing and amplifying our voices feels like the right thing to do. Click To Tweet

My topics usually fall into three sections by no means is this constricted.

  1. Race, Equity and decolonisation.
  2. Mental Health of teachers and pupils.
  3. Leadership.

If you* have an idea, a view or story head over to the contact form here and let me know.

stock-photo-wisdom-power-words-talk-concept-behavior-perception-language-influence-9b99a8b8-f540-4ae4-90de-0ccfcf5cb604

*I would welcome responses from people who possess protected characteristics in redressing the balance.

Things EYFS practitioners want you to know: What is the Early Year Foundation Stage? Part 2

This is part 2 of a series by @Emmcatt

Part 1 can be found here.

Early Years Foundation Stage can seem overwhelming to those on the outside looking in. It’s a complex series of documents that places the child at the centre. All schools and Early Years providers who are Ofsted registered follow the EYFS. It is important to remember that this does not just include reception classes but also nurseries, preschools and private childminders. It is also important to remember that EYFS applies specifically to England. Both Scotland and Wales have different standards that can be found here and here. To truly understand the complexities it needs to be understood that the entire Foundation Stage has been informed by essential principles that are reflected throughout the framework. They are:

  • Every child is a unique child, who is constantly learning and can be resilient, capable, confident and self-assured
  • Children learn to be strong and independent through positive relationships
  • Children learn and develop well in enabling environments, in which their experiences respond to their individual needs and there is a strong partnership between practitioners and parents and/or carers
  • Children develop and learn in different ways and at different rates. The framework covers the education and care of all
  • Children in Early Years provision, including children with special educational needs and disabilities, are covered by the EYFS

These principles are fundamental to the framework. They provide practitioners with a set of standard criteria to base learning and delivery upon. Whilst most teachers will be familiar with the Early Learning Goals assessment makes up one part of the framework (and will be discussed in more detail in a future blog). The framework covers:

  • The legal welfare requirements that must be followed to keep children safe
  • The 7 areas of learning and development which practitioners use to guide both their planning and the child’s acquisition of new skills
  • Observation based assessments that track progress through the EYFS
  • Expected levels at the end of the reception year called the “Early Learning Goals” (ELGs)

Obviously, assessment is a crucial tool for teachers and should not be undervalued but it is not the only important aspect of the framework and the framework is so much more than just assessment. An important aspect for me is that within the EYFS there is a set of mandatory welfare regulations. These include the numbers of staff required in a nursery, how many children a childminder can look after and things like administering medicines and carrying out risk assessments. Having clear, comprehensive, cohesive safeguarding checks for all EY settings means that children are kept safe.

The Seven Areas of Learning and Development

Alongside Safeguarding and welfare, Learning and Development is the other key area of the EYFS. Essentially, L&D informs all of the activities provided for children in EY settings. The framework tells us that there must be activities and experiences given to children that cover the seven areas. The seven areas are grouped into two distinct areas – Prime (blue) and Specific (red). They are as follows:

The Prime Areas

The Prime Areas are especially important as they provide the foundations for all other areas of learning. They are fundamental in a child’s life and need to be firmly established in order for the specific areas to be developed well and without misconceptions. EY practitioners focus on the prime areas with younger children with the specific areas being gradually build upon throughout foundation stage. Here is where it is important to reiterate that Early Years is not just the reception year!

The three areas are important to develop from a young age and should be seen as the building blocks that all of their future schooling will be built upon. PSED will allow them to understand their own identity and teach them how to positively form relationships. C&L is early oracy and allows for development in children who lack specific communication skills. PD does just what it says on the tin and is paramount to a child eventually holding a pencil or using a knife and fork. These are fundamental building blocks which will impact a child’s schooling journey.

The Specific Areas

Learning and exploration in the specific areas allows for children to expand their knowledge and skills in each of the four areas. It must be remembered, however, that these skills cannot be built upon in isolation. The skills are developed from the learning that has taken place and will continue to take place in the Prime Areas. Writing for example sits within the area of Literacy, however, without Physical Development (which is a Prime Area) it would be impossible for a child to write effectively as children need to develop the physical skills such as wrist control and the tripod grip. We must also remember that EYFS is from 0-5 and any learning based on the four specific areas will look very different throughout that age range.

Assessment

As with all teaching, assessment is used continuously in EYFS. Formative assessment is used by practitioners to ascertain what the child has learned effectively, any potential misconceptions and how the child can be moved forward in their learning. Summative assessment takes place twice during EYFS. First between 24-36 months and again when a child nears the end of Reception Year to assess what a child has achieved in EYFS. In both cases no testing takes place and all assessment is done via teacher observation.

The EYFS Progress Check at age two 

This assessment is statutory for children who are in an EYFS setting at the relevant age. Providers are required to give parents/carers a written summary of their child’s development when they are between 24 and 36 months old. The focus of the check concentrates on the 3 Prime Areas of Learning and Development. Through this progress check practitioners are also able to identify which children may need additional support.

Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP)

This assessment puts together all of the ongoing assessments and observations that have been made about each individual child. Attainment is assessed in relation to the 17 Early Learning Goals descriptors, (ELGs) together with additional information detailing the individual child’s ways of learning. For each ELG, practitioners will assess if a child is meeting the level of development expected at the end of the Reception Year (expected), exceeding this level (exceeding), or not yet reaching this level (emerging). A future blog will discuss the EYFSP in more detail.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to explaining EYFS but I hope it goes some way of giving brief overview and outline when it comes to understand the framework and how it guides EY practitioners.