Children who may struggle in their
early learning are not ‘low ability’.
We do not know what their
potential might be. Every child can
make progress with the right
When children are at earlier stages
of development than expected, it
is important to notice what they
enjoy doing and also find out
where their difficulties may lie.
They need extra help so that they
become secure in the earlier
stages of development. It is not
helpful to wait for them to become
Children learn and develop more
from birth to five years old than at
any other time in their lives. If
children are at risk of falling
behind the majority, the best time
to help them to catch up and keep
up is in the early years. Every child
can make progress, if they are
given the right support.
A child with an autism spectrum
condition is assessed in the 0-11
month band for communication
“There is a strong consensus across America and England that a structured process of formative assessment is a sound
logic model for identifying, and then addressing, learning needs. The process needs to be repeated regularly as pupils’
development is not linear and pupils’ needs will vary in patterns of development over time.“
3. The curriculum: what we want children to learn
• The curriculum is a top-level plan of everything the early years setting wants the
children to learn.
• Planning to help every child to develop their language is vital.
• The curriculum needs to be ambitious. Careful sequencing will help children to
build their learning over time.
• Young children’s learning is often driven by their interests. Plans need to be
• Babies and young children do not develop in a fixed way. Their development is
like a spider’s web with many strands, not a straight line.
• Depth in early learning is much more important than covering lots of things in a
4. Pedagogy: helping children to learn
• Children are powerful learners. Every child can make progress in their learning,
with the right help.
• Effective pedagogy is a mix of different approaches. Children learn through play,
by adults modelling, by observing each other, and through guided learning and
geared to the curriculum
• What are the small building blocks
(components) we want children to
learn in the curriculum?
• Assessment that supports
• Assessment to check if a child has a
longer-term individual need/SEND
A balancing act
• It’s easy to focus assessment work on
something which is a ‘performance’ of
lots of different component parts e.g.
an Early Learning Goal.
• That doesn’t help us to see why a child
might be having difficulties in their
• Over time that can lead to ‘cumulative
• Lots of later learning problems in the
primary phase can result from insecure
foundations in the EYFS
• On the other hand there is a lot of
important early learning which we
can’t easily break down into smaller
Children’s interests and fascinations
Irresistible talking and learning points
Building on children’s strengths and also widening
their experiences and horizons
Child-led AND adult-guided – with more adult-
guided learning as children get older in the phase
• Smith (1999, p.86): “models of
development which emphasise the
child’s natural and spontaneous
development from within or of
development as being shaped entirely
through learning processes have been
• Achieving good results in the end of key stage assessments is of
crucial importance to schools. Consequently, there is considerable
pressure on practitioners to ‘get children writing’ whether or not they
are developmentally ready. One casualty of this pressure is the effect
on learning and practising the movements for each letter family.
Many children enter Year 1 of the National Curriculum with letters
• Source: https://nha-handwriting.org.uk/handwriting/help-for-teachers/development-of-handwriting-in-the-eyfs/
• Dylan Wiliam argues (2006, p.
287), citing Bailey and
Drummond, ‘early years teachers
can generally identify which
students are struggling, but are
less skilled at identifying the
causes of the failure to progress.’
Scaffolding up or
• Where young children are seen
to be struggling, practitioners
do not focus their attention on
helping them to take part in
the mainstream curriculum.
Instead, they offer them a
different curriculum, with more
focus on activities to promote
personal, social and emotional
development, and more
• EPPSE Project (Sylva and
The diagram below summarises some scaffolding techniques. These can help children to de
independence and become more powerful learners.
Figure 5: Scaffolding techniques in the early years3
• Getting to know children
• Precision: what barriers to learning might
the child have?
• Most needs are temporary: children can
overcome them with the right support
• Whether needs are short-term or longer-
term, early identification is key
• ‘Levels’ or ‘overcoming barriers’?
• Continuous improvement e.g. using the
Inclusive Classroom Profile
• Laurence works as a customer
• He talks about the importance
of inclusion from his early
years and throughout his
Children with SEND are 10 to 15
months behind other children
by the end of the Early Years
Foundation Stage, according to
the Education Policy Institute’s
The Early Years Toolkit
Presents 12 approaches for improving
teaching and learning summarising:
its average impact on attainment;
the strength of the evidence supporting it.
Good starting point for professional
• Does our assessment focus
effectively on what we want children
to know and be able to do?
• Where appropriate, does it focus on
the essential building blocks rather
than the bigger ‘performances’
(counting, for example)?
• Does this help us to celebrate what
children can do, and also see where
they are struggling to make
• Have we thought about diagnostic