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Top Tips from EYFS Early Adopter Rack House Primary

This series of articles has been written by industry experts help you to understand changes to the EYFS Framework. In this blog, early EYFS adopter, Rack House Primary, give their top tips for adapting to the changes.  

Posted on Friday 03rd September 2021

This series of articles has been written by industry experts help you to understand changes to the EYFS Framework. In this blog, early EYFS adopter, Rack House Primary, give their top tips for adapting to the changes. 

Rack House Primary School is a two-form entry school in Wythenshawe. We have a 32-place provision for 2-year-olds, a 60-place nursery and two 30-place reception classes.

Rack House Primary staff:
Sarah – Teaching for 20 years, 9 years in EYFS, Assistant Head for EYFS for 7 years.
Michelle – Teaching for 20 years, EYFS 6 years experienced in both Nursery and Reception.
Nat – Teaching for 12 years, 6 years EYFS, experience as EYFS lead.
Sam – TA in EYFS 13 years across years and Year 1, HLTA in charge old 2 year provision for 3 years.
Ashley – Teaching for 2 years in Reception, previously a TA in Reception for 1 year.

What were your initial thoughts on the reformed EYFS before you began the Early Adopter year?

We were hoping that the new curriculum would be ready to start this academic year, giving us time before September to grasp the changes. Unfortunately, we didn’t have everything that we needed to plan for September under the new framework. So, we began September with the 2012 framework. In hindsight, this gave everyone some security and familiarity after a difficult time for children and staff.

We were aware of an outcry about certain aspects of the new framework, and this did cause us some reservations. However, after much deliberation, we decided to go ahead with the Early Adoption. We were curious about the changes to the framework and supportive of the people that were involved in its creation. We knew that, as experienced practitioners, we could interpret the framework in such a way that would benefit the children in our school.

How did you plan for the change?

It was impossible to plan for the change as it didn’t arrive until week 2 of Autumn term. We immediately began working with our online tracking system to convert observations that we already had in order to get a true baseline of each. This involved a lot of extra work. But, as we already had a bespoke sequenced curriculum in place, this meant that no matter which framework we used, as a school, we were always ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’.

The next step was to update the bespoke sequenced curriculum to acknowledge the new non-statutory and statutory documents. We made sure to include everything that we felt the children in our school needed. This included how we were going to ensure ICT ran through all areas of learning, progressively, for all age groups. It also included matching texts for ‘People, Culture and Communities’, ‘Past and Present’ and PSED with Literacy to the appropriate age groups.

As a team of 14 practitioners, we looked at each of the age ranges and the suggested assessment statements from the new Development Matters. We married these up with the bespoke sequenced curriculum that we had previously developed, under the 2012 framework. This enabled us to use it in our daily practice because it linked to what we already had in place. This exercise gave us a greater knowledge and understanding of the new framework.

This also had an impact on how we set out provision for each age group. It also impacted how we timetabled adult-led sessions to ensure the appropriate balance of adult-led and child-led learning was taking place. We were very keen that it didn’t become overprescriptive and that there was still the creative space for both adults and children to learn in the moment.

What have you found easiest? Is there anything that has surprised you?

Any change to something used every day can be challenging. Initially, the new curriculum just felt very unfamiliar, and it took much longer to find things. However, very quickly we found that the areas of learning made more sense. The statements were so much more specific than previously.

As a school, we have always had communication and language at the heart of what we do. This especially true in our Early Years setting. It has been wonderful to see the increased focus on this area of learning in the new curriculum, and feel it is more in line with what we do at Rack House. Our pre-school and nursery practitioners have found the ‘Observation Check Points’ helpful, particularly if they are having concerns about a child.

What was most challenging and how did you overcome/work through it?

There were some concerns at the beginning about the omission of Space Shape Measure, but we soon realised that it was a transformation rather than an omission – it transcends other areas rather than being discrete – and is still very much a part of our curriculum. The Early Learning Goals in comprehension has been welcomed greatly by our Reception team. They feel it has made this area clearer for planning and organising the children’s next steps.

Initially, we found it was difficult to show the progress of our pre-school children using the statements and our tracking system. It was difficult to show progress, as the pre-school statements are so few and vague without the broad phases of development. Sam and Michelle had to work closely to put the statements into an order which showed progress, with the knowledge of previous cohorts in mind. In addition, the statements for each area are not broken into aspects until Early Learning Goals. We found it more beneficial to work out which aspect correlated with the final Early Learning Goals, for assessment purposes.

When doing an observation where previously there would have been lots of statements to attach to it, we found that there weren’t any that fit under the new framework. It’s made us look deeper at the Characteristics of Effective Learning and see value in those observations from that perspective

What are your three top tips?

  • Do not disregard what you already do.
  • Ensure your learning programme is tailored to the needs of your own children – each cohort is unique.
  • The experience of your team members is vital and working in collaboration really helps each year group to understand the children’s previous experiences and the experiences they will move on to, within our setting.

It is difficult to measure the impact after one year, when the crucial Spring term was missed due to lockdown. No amount of virtual learning could ever make up for the hands-on experience of Early Years. We feel that this framework has given us a better starting point for our bespoke sequenced curriculum. We had this before, under the previous framework, but this one feels like it gives even more scope to work on a programme of learning to suit the children, which is not overly based on assessment statements.

Thank you to the staff at Rack House Primary School for the content in this blog.