By Jackie Maley, HM Inspector and Lead Officer for early learning and childcare
This is an exciting time in Early Learning and Childcare (ELC). Planning for the expansion programme is well underway as we look ahead to what this may mean for our future inspections. There is much for practitioners to be reflecting on in their current practice to ensure this continues to improve and that they provide high-quality learning experiences for all children, including under-threes.
The recently published report, ‘Quality and Improvement in Scottish Education 2012-2016’ (QuISE) highlighted a number of key areas of strengths and aspects for improvement from ELC inspections. You can read the ELC chapter from the QuISE report on our website.
Inspectors found that the quality of children’s learning experiences continues to be an area of strength. Staff continued to promote children’s engagement and motivation in their learning. Strong relationships with children and their families were also identified as being a strength in many ELC settings.
A common aspect for development which was highlighted was the need for settings to improve their approaches to self-evaluation and, in particular, methods for monitoring and tracking children’s progress. When such approaches are robust and consistently applied by all staff, we observe children making the best possible progress while engaged in appropriately challenging learning experiences.
In the current academic year, we have inspected a number of ELC settings. It is pleasing to observe staff engaging well with ‘How Good is Our Early Learning and Childcare?’ to support them in reflecting on and improving their practice. In the best examples, we also see staff making use of ‘Building the Ambition’ guidance to support their self-evaluation activities. We know that staff engage well with the case studies included in this document to help them plan for future developments.
Over this session we have also found that staff continue to ensure that they foster strong relationships with children and their families. In a few of the settings we have visited, staff have developed their understanding of attachment to support children well. We have also noted that staff are now making more positive attempts to improve outdoor learning experiences for children. In the best examples, we see children with regular access to high-quality outdoor learning which promotes their skills in curiosity, investigation and creativity.
It is settings’ approaches to planning and assessment that still remain areas for improvement. Children need to be more involved in talking about their own learning and progress. By doing this, children will have increased motivation and development of key skills to support them in making continuous progress in their learning and development.
While we see staff keen to capture and document children’s progress, it is not always done in a consistently effective way. It is important that staff are skilled in making observations of children’s learning. It is not necessary for everything to be recorded, only those parts of learning and development that are significant for individual children.
As practitioners become more confident in documenting children’s progress, they will find they are able to plan learning better for the differing needs of the children in their care. This will also enable practitioners to provide appropriate challenge as necessary. We are now observing children engaging better with their learning profiles and, also, staff developing new approaches to involve parents more in their child’s learning. Parents joining their children in the playrooms for shared learning sessions is becoming a regular feature in many settings. We look forward to seeing how staff continue to take a creative approach to involving parents in their children’s learning as we complete this year’s ELC inspections.