By now, most early years practitioners in reception classes throughout England will have attended training on the foundation-stage profile, the new statutory assessment. The profile differs from the baseline assessment it replaces in that it will be completed in the final term of the foundation stage rather than at the beginning of reception.
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about how the new scheme is intended to work.
lHow will we find time to observe children in a busy classroom?J It is important to realise that you will be observing children undertaking everyday practical experiences and going about their daily routines, rather than participating in planned tasks similar to those used for baseline assessment. You will not need to spend time planning and organising adult-focused assessment tasks and so will be able to use the time interacting with the children and observing them in self-chosen activities.
lIf we observe different children at different times how can we be sure that we are gathering the same information about all of them?
Gathering the same information is not the object of the exercise. Children are individuals, progressing at differing paces, with unique preferences and different learning styles. Practitioners will be observing their individual progress towards the early learning goals. Children can be observed in more natural play situations, perhaps while pursuing a personal interest or a self-chosen activity. If children's interests differ then it follows that the observations will be different too. The more natural the experience the more accurate the results will be; there will be no pressure on children to conform to any expectations of the adult conducting the assessment. Observations made over time will reveal individual learning styles and enable practitioners to plan appropriate experiences that will help each child to progress.
lMy experience is confined to setting up tasks for baseline assessment. How can I learn to make effective use of the time I will spend observing, and how do I know what to observe?
The Foundation Stage Profile Handbook and the CD, Seeing the Foundation Stage Profile, from the QCA, feature short video sequences and detailed written examples of everyday scenarios for every point on the scale for each of the six learning areas. These examples should provide guidance until you become more familiar with the profile system.
lI often receive folders containing written observations and records from children's pre-school settings. I always look at the contents, but should I make greater use of this information as evidence towards completion of the profile?
The profile shows what a child can do at the end of the foundation stage in all areas of learning, so evidence from other settings will be invaluable in informing your judgments. You will need to make these against the profile statements using a range of accumulated evidence: your own observations, pre-school records and discussions with parents and children.
QCA: www.qca.org.uk. Ideas on assessment in general can be found in Assessment Activities, by Jean Evans (Scholastic, pound;12.50)