Following on from our Staff Training and Development Day on Monday, 6 September the Kidzrus Group Senior Leadership and Management Team attended the virtual Ofsted Big Conversation on Saturday, 2 October 2021 by Zoom.

A warm welcome from Elaine and Racheal Buckler from the OBC steering group both founder members followed by a lovely introduction a brief description of the mornings agenda.

Elaine White, Ofsted’s Senior Inspector for the North West Region led the event which aimed at supporting Early Years Educators to go from strength to strength in response to the introduction of both the Education Inspection Framework in 2019 and revised Early Years Foundation Stage which came into effect on 1 September 2021.

These two key documents have a shared aim – to raise the standards of education in early years and to remove the barriers that previously hindered progress; i.e. excessive collection of assessment data, unclear planning of education programmes and assessment of progress.

The revised EYFS maintains overarching principles of the unique child, promoting positive relationships, enabling teaching and learning environments and the importance of  high quality learning and development programmes that are inclusive for all learners.

The changes to the EYFS are clear. There is a focus on developing strong Language and Communication skills, promotion of equality of opportunity in life chances afforded to early years children, the need to tackle an increasingly excessive workload and an emphasis on supporting healthy lifestyles for our cohort children via fitness and positive oral health routines.

These changes mean that programmes of study will still incorporate the seven prime and specific areas of learning, but with the emphasis on acquiring a wider range of language, communication and vocabulary skills that will improve children’s development.

Early Years Providers are supported by a range of key documents including the revised Development Matters and Birth to 5 Matters and alongside others these act as non-mandatory guidelines that set out milestones for children to achieve within age and stage categories.  The revised Development Matters breaks down milestones by age; Birth to 3, 3 and 4 year olds and children in reception class.

It was made clear that Ofsted don’t advocate any one particular document and that these are available to merely support in planning education of programmes by Providers.

By consulting these documents Early Years Providers are able to shape their Local Offer for the provision of education and parents and Ofsted can clearly see what is available in each setting and how it impacts on equality of opportunity, inclusive practice and positive progression.

One of the big shifts is the reduction in the collection of data.  Previously it had been top heavy took Practitioners away from their primary role of educators and distracted them in continual assessment and recording of outcomes.  That placed unrealistic expectations on them and vastly increased their workload, thereby resulting in a much narrowed curriculum and a reduced capacity for children to enjoy their learning experience and make progress… to be school ready.

Ofsted Inspectors will now ascertain how well children are making progress by speaking to Key Persons about individual children by asking what they are doing and how and why they are doing it.  This is commonly known as Intent, Implement and Impact. Educators know their children best and they can introduce internal and external support to fill in gaps of knowledge for some children and also stretch and challenge the more able.  They can plan programmes of fun activities that meet both the needs and interest of children that will deliberately teach them ‘hands on’ the desired skills in all of the key areas.

Learning will focus on what children already know and show progression from A to B using a wide range of methods and resources that suit the needs of our cohort and inspire them to persevere and succeed.  To put it bluntly, education providers will put the meat on the bones so that children can know more, remember and do more.  In real terms they may recall and repeat the sounds of farm animals, know that an oven gets hot, the meaning of certain words, how to use scissors, take turns, dress and undress including putting their shoes on, hold a book and turn pages and speak to people in a sociable way.

We know that they are making good progress in their learning journey as they will be able to participate in a range of well planned activities that follow a logical sequence.  They will be exposed to a wide range of appropriate vocabulary so that they are able to communicate effectively and this will ensure that the most disadvantaged children will receive the best support to achieve their potential.  This is in line with Kidzrus ethos of ‘Every Child – Every Chance!’

The key message from the chief inspectors presentation was that the EYFS is a skeleton that has the programmes of study (curriculum) and the way that we implement teaching and learning experiences as the meat on those bones… it needs to be instructive and stimulating with routines that help children to develop with next steps and how they can be realistically implemented and achieved. The session ended with an open Q&A from participants joined by two additional Ofsted inspectors.

Going forwards, assessment will still be by noticing what a child can or cannot do, plan and deliver activities that promote development with any additional support that is required and the removal of excessive and lengthy observations that are laborious for Practitioners to complete. In short, assessment must be useful and not just for the sake of it.  Programmes of study help us to see what children know now and need to know in future – teaching is focusing on how we can deliver vital skills, knowledge and behaviours and the end assessment is to enable us to check what they have actually learned.

The Senior Leadership and Management Team at The Kidzrus Group are totally committed to high quality teaching and learning experiences for our cohort children, to ensuring that our daily practices promote equality, diversity and inclusion and to continually promote and support active professional development of our colleagues to ensure that they not only meet our robust standards but exceed them.

Over the coming months, in line with The Kidzrus Quality Improvement Plan and in response to changes in legislation and guidelines, we shall deliver a wide range of internal and external training opportunities that will have a direct impact on teaching, learning and the progression of your children.  We look forward to building strong relationships with our cohort children so that they are supported in their learning journeys, and also in strengthening our partnership with you as parents and carers as, after all you are actually your child’s first teacher, we at Kidzrus are their second teacher and the environment that they learn in (the nursery and it’s resources) are the third teacher.

Let’s work together to give our children amazing opportunities to play, learn and develop and reach their true potential!

The Big Conversation wasn’t just about changes in policy and procedure – as Guest Speaker, Dr Andy Cope (aka The Doctor of Happiness) gave a really insightful presentation about how we, as educators must take care of our own mental and physical health and wellbeing.  He did this by taking us on a trip around the world with counties representing different supportive methods, tasks and activities that we can adopt and engage in so that we don’t burn out.

This was especially relevant and appreciated given that we are just returning to a new normal in the United Kingdom and more so in the small world that our children and their parents and carers inhabit; i.e. The Kidzrus Community.  We are playing an active role – our setting managers have an open door policy and now that you are able to be present in the settings in person, please do discuss any concerns that you may have regarding your child with his/her Key Person or the setting managers.  Additionally, our Quality Manager for Teaching, Learning and Staff Development is sharing important information that will support you in your day to day lives as families.  This is from respected partners including childcare.co.uk and NDNA.  As usual, should you require extended or specific advice and guidance please consult your Health Visitor or General Practitioner. Dr Andy Copes session was particularly apt especially as we enter Early Years Wellbeing Week beginning Monday 4 October to promote our mental health and well being with a programme of activities throughout Kidzrus Nursery Group.

A huge thank you to the organisers of the #NWOBC as we look forward to the next face to face meeting in February next year to take place at Anfield football ground, Liverpool.

Also to our Management team who made time to attend the online event on Saturday morning.

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