Celebrating strengths to improve development

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Celebrating strengths to improve development

Tiny Beginnings Day Nursery in Monmouthshire has designed a system to identify priorities for children’s learning, set development targets and track their progression. They also work closely with parents and children so that they know their strengths.

Number of pupils: 18
Age range: 3 - 4 years old
Date of Estyn inspection: November 2013

Context and background to sector-leading practice

Set in the centre of Monmouth town on the Welsh borders, the nursery is registered for 45 children from birth to school age. Children come from a range of backgrounds, drawing from both social and private housing. Two qualified teachers own and run the setting. A qualified teacher also runs the pre-school group.

The cycle of planning, teaching and assessment aligns with Tiny Beginnings’ vision that, “All children should be both supported and challenged at the start of their lifelong journey of learning.” To realise this vision, the nursery recognised the need for a very robust system of establishing:

  • where children are in terms of their learning;
  • the next steps to ensure progression; and
  • a meticulous system to track the progress of each individual child.

Nature of strategy or activity identified as sector-leading practice

The nursery recognise that parents are the first educators of their own children and embrace their input into the planning, teaching and assessment cycle. Through informal discussions, parents help to identify three key strengths of their child and two areas, that they feel are priorities for their child. We agree these with children, who overtime come to know their targets and their strengths. We display these targets as leaves on the “Wow” tree. Children become proud of their own leaf and get a great sense of achievement when we add new “wow” announcements.

A strength of the setting is knowing the children well and having a clear and accurate picture of their different starting points. Staff identify children’s strengths and targets through careful observations of the children at play and the use of digital software to photograph and record notes. In addition, parent’s views help staff complete a comprehensive picture of individual children’s strengths. As a result, staff tailor learning to the range of ages and developmental stages of the children. Planning for focused tasks is separated into three levels: working below a target, working at the expected target and working above the target. Staff use this detailed information to plan appropriate priorities, often linked to an area of learning or a pastoral need. Children’s interests and suggestions are the vehicles that carry the observation, planning, teaching, assessment cycle forward. Focus activities, circle time sessions and other important opportunities (e.g. meal times), are all planned specifically to address the priorities of each child.

The nursery assesses children’s progress in meeting their targets regularly and consistently. Practitioners record children’s developing and consolidated learning through use of a colour-coding system. This clearly shows the amount of progress that individual children are making and is very effective in raising questions in staff meeting about why certain children are doing better than others are. If children are not making enough progress, this leads to discussions about provision and teaching. Staff ask questions such as:

  • Are children responding well to certain resources?;
  • Do a few children require additional support or more challenge?; and
  • Do they need to re-think a certain teaching approach?

Impact on provision and learners’ standards

All children at Tiny Beginnings make at least good progress. The precise and tight cycle of planning, teaching and assessing means that children’s needs remain at the centre of nursery life, irrespective of their starting points. Children’s self-confidence and self-esteem greatly benefit from the cyclical nature of celebrating their strengths and embracing their targets. Practitioners are now skilled at identifying next steps for children’s learning and responding to the question, “what can I do to move the learning along?” Parents have a clear understanding of what their children can do and how, in partnership, we can make learning happen.