Question of improvement
This substantial A4 file is attractively presented and illustrated with photographs which give a positive picture of children's activities. It starts with the familiar and necessary messages about celebrating children's previous learning and goes on to promote such laudable aims as careful observation and a commitment to working with parents.
But all this should be commonplace by now and we need to ask if the photocopiable record sheets, formats, check lists and profile sheets justify the high price of the pack.
There are some curious discrepancies. The materials are described as being "for school and other early years settings . . . any place outside the home where children aged three to five receive education and care". But the photocopiable sheets suggest that the writers do not really believe this. The reception and entry profile has space for "number of terms in local authority nursery" and "number of terms in other local authority provision". Given that Leeds has so many active and excellent pre-schools (playgroups), this is a very narrow grasp of what an early years setting can mean. Similarly, the formal observation record, with headings such as Context of Observations, belies the earlier commitment to direct contributions from parents.
Another surprising lapse is the file's uncertain grasp of English. Sentences such as: "Observation requires staff who value and believe that it is important." or "Analysis will identify significant learning, the progress that has been made and will inform what should happen for the child" should not feature in a document which aims to raise educational standards.
The most impressive feature of the document is the self-evaluation material. The sections on observation ask excellent and challenging questions leading practitioners to consider their work and find ways to improve. Staff who work through these sections, building on their own self-assessment, will be in a position to produce much better photocop-iable materials than those offered in the folder. This publication is more useful for in-service training than as a source of photocopiable management documents.
Ann Henderson is publications and research manager of the Pre-School Learning Alliance