In my previous blog I introduced the idea of Next Steps planning, exploring the rationale behind it and how it works in my setting. It provoked various questions and requests for more information so I thought I’d use this week’s blog to explore Next Steps planning a little further.
The beauty of Next Steps planning is that in one document you are recording initial ‘baseline’ skills, tracking progress and then using it as a direct talking point with your team, if you are lucky to have one, or senior leaders who want answers and information behind data. Instantly you are reducing your paperwork since one document is all it needs. You aren’t having to transfer information across several sources and this has the added bonus that it creates a sense of depth to what is ultimately a Microsoft Word table file. It sort of brings it to life. And if anything needs bringing to life it’s paperwork.
So let’s unpick Next Steps planning:
1. Decide why you want to use Next Step planning.
Do you want to have a working document that enables the children to make real, noticeable progress? Do you want to have a simple piece of paper that enables SLT to understand that play has a deeply enriching power? Do you want some of your own life back? Do you feel that your existing planning is tired and is too focused on activity ideas and topic-led thinking? Do you want to make a significant impact on the children in your setting, not just through an enriching environment, a skilful teaching team and positive relationships but also by having worthwhile documentation that actually supports these? If the answer is yes to all or just one of them then perhaps Next Steps planning is worth exploring.,,
2. Decide what development areas you want to ‘track’.
Is it all areas of the EYFS or are there specific areas you want to record? Most school settings would be requesting data regarding Reading, Writing and Mathematics so these you’ll almost certainly want to include, Now comes the crunch: what else do you truly need paperwork for? Do you REALLY need to record Personal Social And Emotional Development, Expressive Arts Or Understanding The World and Communication And Language? By recording any of these are they truly helpful in enabling you? You are the one who is going to be using the document so you need to decide. Arguably Communication And Language might help you but it comes down to making a decision about what you know in your heart, what you can talk about to others, whether you KNOW. A piece of paper doesn’t evidence that you know. If while reading this you can think about the children in your own setting and list all the children who you know are struggling with aspects of Personal Social And Emotional Development and most importantly why then adding a table to record this on serves little value...
3. Decide what skills you want to track.
Next Steps planning is all about skills. It focuses your mind on the set of skills that you think children will need as they move through your year. Written very clearly to the right hand side of Development Matters it states that it is not a checklist. Yet how many EYers spend their time getting bogged down with trying to shoehorn each statement into successive weeks whilst avidly seeking x number of examples so they can highlight it or tick a box on a commercial Early Years software package? Decide for yourself what it is that you think are the steps that children need to take to get to the end point of Meeting or Exceeding by the end of their Reception year. There is an example for Writing in the back of Can I Go And Play Now? and I’ve included it at this end of this blog. I’ve based mine on some of Development Matters but also included some Communication And Language and Physical Development elements too.
For the sake of the document you will record these skills as headings working from left to right, all the while reminding yourself that children don’t always acquire skills in a linear way.
You are not restricting yourself or your children here. You can plot next steps as far forward as you wish! Remember it’s not what they have to do that you’re most interested in, it’s the skills that they need to do it. If you work in a team, creating the table is a really powerful exercise since it brings everyone incredibly close to the understanding that it is skills that are the most important thing that they should be focused on.
4. Carry out an initial health check
I really like the word ‘health check’. It’s more holistic and loving than ‘assessment’ or ‘baseline’ which I often feel carry connotations that they are something done to a child and not alongside them. A health check just feels positive to me but of course you can call it what you like! Ultimately you are attempting to establish what skills your children seem to be presenting, what their starting points are with regards to their skills. You don’t need tonnes of evidence here - you just need to KNOW.
5. Look at the skills map for your cohort
Reflect on the skills that your cohort appear to be presenting. What needs can you see both as a whole or individually? What patterns can you establish if any? This process needs to involve your team if you’re lucky to have one. If you’re a Lone Ranger then certainly make time to consult a member of SLT once you feel confident to discuss the map. Get them on board, begin the dialogue, share your thoughts, draw them into the thinking process too...
6. Will appear in next week’s blog.
For now, you have some thinking to do. Go back to previous blogs on Pinterest Provision, The Magic Of Children, and Starting With Why. Get a picture in your head of the skills you think you’re children need. What makes a good writer? What understanding does a mathematician truly need? What tools does a confident reader need to be able to encounter books and print around your setting? The biggest question to answer concerns your own personal ‘why’... Why change, why plan a different way, why begin to see children in a fresh or rejuvenated way? Next Steps planning has the potential to transform both you and your children - are you ready for this?
The door to a world of Adventure awaits but who knew it could be opened by thinking what you might type on a planning sheet?!
Can I Go Play Now..? is committed to widening the understanding of the magic of children's play as an educational tool. Child-centred, play-based learning is where it's truly at....