I am really pleased that Jo from St John’s C of E Primary has agreed to write me a third blog post. You can find the others here and here. It is great to see a play based approach to learning having such a positive impact.
My third blog leads to the subject I am most frequently asked about. A subject which I tend to avoid as it is often steered towards data, data, data…I like to ‘practise what I preach’; value the journey rather than the outcome’, but that is not to say that the children ‘s progress and ultimate end of Key Stage assessments are not too far from our minds as we plan the provision. Outcomes, in the form of hard data, will always be a part of our children’s learning journey but it isn’t the definitive in terms of how we appreciate the progress the children have made as they reach the end of our Key Stage. We value the whole child and measure our impact in terms of their uniqueness and individual potential, rather than placing them along a scale, based on outcomes alone.
Not all progress can be measured; this is something we firmly believe. Unfortunately, we are all too aware that some of our children, who have made huge leaps in progress, would not have done so had they not been given the opportunity to play. Play is therapeutic; it takes the pressure of time away from those children who need it the most. Rates of progress don’t fit ‘the system’, the ‘Literacy Hour’ or the number of weeks in the academic year but within our play-based provision in Key Stage One, children are given the time they need to process what they have been taught, make connections and subsequently embed their new-found skills within a meaningful context.
As a result, our children make rapid progress in areas which they may ordinarily have found difficult. Writing is a perfect example of ‘less is more’. Our children take part in two adult-led writing sessions each week as part of a small group. Two pieces of work in their English book doesn’t often sit comfortably with people we speak to- ‘How do you collect enough evidence when they only do two pieces a week?’ The fact being, our children write all the time!!! They never stop writing, even those children who would have been considered ‘reluctant’.
The pressure of a piece a day turned them off writing and in reducing this, they suddenly realised that you can write for pleasure! Whether they are writing stories, books, cards to their family or rewriting their favourite song lyrics, our children have a passion for writing and with passion comes progress! They are the best writers they can be and that’s what matters.
Our visitors always comment on how relaxed our children are in their environment and how loose and free flow our provision appears. Although this is an accurate observation, underpinning the provision are a number of rigorous systems which ensure our children are assessed regularly and accurately, gaps are identified, provision planned and adapted and teachers held to account.
We are part of the whole school and therefore follow the whole school’s assessment timetable. We see this as an opportunity to prove the impact of a play-based curriculum and evidence the progress all of our children. Their wellbeing is at the heart of everything we do and as a result, they are such wonderfully confident individuals who are not fazed by assessments and also see it as an opportunity to show us what they are made of.
‘We want to take our provision into Year Two but what about SATs?’
This is always a burning question and probably the reason why most schools feel safer formalising their Year Two settings; I know we once did! We know children learn best through play and it is our passion to harness their drive to do so. The provision has allowed us to identify gaps quickly, implement interventions and provide them with the time they need to keep practising until they master their craft.
We firmly believe that the Early Year’s Characteristics of Effective learning should run throughout school; we refer to these constantly through our interactions, building the children to believe they can! This is never more present than when we sit them down for their End of Key Stage Assessments; they show such resilience, confidence and self-belief. The proof is in the data as our Key Stage One SATs and Phonic Screening results have improved since we moved towards a play-based approach, the latter significantly.
‘Our Year Two children are bright so they don’t need the provision anymore’. Striving for ‘Greater Depth’ is something I read a lot about. It is all too often assumed that a ‘bright’ child doesn’t need to play anymore and this makes me sad. We have found that the number of children achieving beyond the ‘Expected Standard’ has risen since the start of our journey as they are given endless opportunities to embed their reading, writing and maths skills through their own passions and fascinations.
Not only this, but our staff are skilled in identifying and maximising opportunities to push children forward in their learning, in that moment; there are no ‘glass ceilings’.
We are very proud of the fact that all our children make progress, most significantly, our SEND children. Because the provision meets the needs of all, they are able to access the learning environment all day every day and any interventions can take place through their play. Speech and Language specialists have commented on the speed of progress our children make because they are able to talk all day! Once again, our staff are able to deliver the Speech and Language interventions throughout the day, without the need to remove them from class; inclusion is a strength of our setting.
‘How do you evidence progress and outcomes?’. Meet our children! All our visiting schools are blown away by how confident, passionate and truly wonderful our children are. They love coming to school each day because they know that learning is a magical journey and each of their journeys are unique.
They recognise and can tell you, all about what they enjoy, what they feel confident in and what they need to do to make that next leap. They can talk you through the learning that took place in their books because their teacher was present every step of the way, constantly giving feedback and suggesting next steps- being able to teach groups of six children at a time ensures no time is wasted in moving these children forward.
Physical evidence can be seen all around the environment; it belongs to the children and showcases their learning. We cannot record every moment of every day but our displays, scrap books and the children’s own personal provision folders are evidence of the progress they make.
On an individual level, their English and Maths books highlight the speed in which they make progress from their starting points and our assessment procedures track each small step our children make.
In short, our children make amazing progress, our SATs and Phonics results have risen but we don’t take all the credit! Children don’t need us to teach them each and every moment of the day in order for them to learn; just sit back and watch-they’re amazing! And back to my previous point…with passion comes progress; we all do better at the things we enjoy…and what child doesn’t enjoy playing?!
Exactly! Thanks for another brilliant blog Jo.