Joanne Clements, headteacher at Bearpark Primary – an early adopter school
‘There’s never a good time to implement something new, or adopt a change in the way of working, and a global pandemic certainly hasn’t helped us to respond to the reforms in full. However, it has given staff time to think carefully about the process and to plan with greater clarity.
I believe, when approaching a new framework, time needs to be taken to evaluate current practice. What is working well? What takes a lot of our time but has little impact? What, if anything, needs to adapt or change? We discussed these questions through our regular early adopter workshop meetings with other schools. The best continuous professional development is reflecting on your own practice and these meetings allowed us to do this, shaping our ‘implementation journey’.
My first step, as a head teacher, was to ensure that all staff were aware of the reforms and the requirement to partake in any changes that lay ahead. We watched the Department for Education Early Adopter webinar together ensuring that we all received the same messages and could reflect on them as a team. The webinar was informative but not inspiring and on reflection we would have accessed one of the other available webinars and a Local Authority introductory session.
As a team, we explored our own practice in relation to the statutory guidance- our provision had many strengths, but we agreed that we were too reliant on Development Matters in supporting assessment, and that workload was unmanageable. The backlog of observations and evidence never got smaller, we wanted to address this. However, it’s difficult to change something that you have been doing for years and to move away from something that you know so well – but we did, with positive results. We now love the fact that we have stopped referring to the age bands. We have implemented a termly checkpoint that is now being used to guide judgements, with teachers noting who is on track and who requires additional support. Development Matters is no longer used to support a tick-sheet, a plan nor an assessment grid. Reducing the workload burden of mass highlighting and over-evidencing has been the greatest improvement for staff. I am delighted that staff now use their professional judgement to assess, sequence learning and follow what effectively enables their children to progress, without the need for mass evidence. More time is now spent with children.
We also realised that our assessment was only as good as our curriculum offer and that we needed to review our curriculum intent and implementation to ensure it reflected the needs of our children and community. We approached this by exploring the Educational Programmes, highlighting key words and phrases and developed these into our core curriculum offer with our children in mind – questions throughout the process were: what would this look like? what were our priorities? what did we want our children to know and be able to do? what did we need to offer beyond the Educational Programmes? This has been an enlightening step forward but is just the beginning of our journey.’
‘Top tips for schools embarking on the new Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework:
- reflect, evaluate and respond with the whole team – with the head teacher at the helm
- implement any changes in a measured way
- remember (and keep) what you already do well’
Joanne Clements, Bearpark Primary School
If you would like further information on the Early Years reforms or would like to request support please contact us at email@example.com.