How Do Nurseries Assess Children?

how do nurseries assess children

As parents, we all make our assessments of our children as they grow and develop. These are not formal, written assessments; more a collection of achievements and progression measured against milestones.

You may not realise it at first, but when children embark on their early years’ journey at nursery, you will become much more tuned into their learning and development.

Building critical relationships with our staff, taking their first steps, and developing their communication are all things that we sometimes take for granted.

As early years practitioners, we observe children in the nursery environment. We follow and support their interests while ensuring they develop in all of the required areas.

The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)

The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) is statutory guidance which Ofsted-registered childcare providers follow. We use it to support practitioners in making valid assessments about children’s progression.

The EYFS comprises seven areas of learning: three ‘prime’ and four ‘specific’.

Prime areas

  • Personal, Social and Emotional Development
  • Physical Development
  • Communication and Language

The Prime Areas are the main focus for our youngest children. Children need to make progress in these areas to make progress in the Specific Areas.

Specific areas

  • Literacy
  • Mathematics
  • Understanding the World
  • Expressive Arts and Design

Observing children at nursery

An observation in a nursery setting is the process of watching and listening to children to find out how they are developing. Observations help nursery practitioners to see what children are enjoying doing and what they learn through their play.

These observations further enable practitioners to identify what children need extra support with so that they can make further developments. Practitioners will record some observations digitally alongside accompanying videos and images which parents can view on ParentZone.

Observations happen all the time at nursery. They help us to make decisions on how best to shape and improve the nursery environments in a way that children will gain the most benefit, and plan for their next steps in their ongoing development.

Are there any statutory requirements when it comes to assessments?

There are only two statutory assessments that take place under the guidelines of the EYFS (more on them later).

Generally, assessments happen on an ongoing basis. Practitioners are continually making decisions about what children are learning and how best to support their progress.

In addition to ongoing assessments, nurseries like ours undertake one of the two statutory assessments required under the EYFS guidance. Between the ages of 24-36 months, all children will have a two-year check, which is formally recorded against the prime and specific areas.

The two-year check highlights children’s strengths and where they are excelling as well as areas of further development. This information is made available to parents on ParentZone.

The second assessment occurs at the very end of the EYFS when children reach their final term of Reception at primary school. This assessment provides a far more detailed summary of children’s development and progress throughout the EYFS.

Are there any plans to change how nurseries complete observations and assessments?

There are lots of discussions currently happening across the early years’ sector regarding the level of paperwork practitioners have to complete. Increasing paperwork means practitioners spend less time being in the moment with children.

According to the EYFS:

“Evidence doesn’t need to be formally recorded or documented. The extent to which the practitioner chooses to record information will depend on individual preference. Paperwork should be kept to the minimum that practitioners need to illustrate, support and recall their knowledge of the child’s attainment.”

With this in mind, Tommies is undergoing a full review of how we conduct our observations, assessments and planning processes. The review will help practitioners strike a balance between paperwork and what we already know about the children in our nurseries.

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