Because our preschool is a mixed age setting, we don’t teach a “class”. There is no fixed unit of children in the way that you get in primary and secondary schools. The children arrive in dribs and drabs from when they are two years old. Some children will be in most of our sessions for two years, while others will just do a morning or two from when they are three years old. When you don’t teach a “class”, you don’t have to (or indeed want to) plan for a “class”. With very high ratios of staff to children, you have the space and time to assess and plan for each individual. You can align your provision around the child. This may sound like a child centered nightmare to any readers of a traditionalist persuasion, but seriously, don’t mock it if you haven’t tried it.
The bedrock of assessment in an early years setting is observations. Practitioners watch the children as they play together and then they react to what they see and find in a fluid way. Planning is about understanding individual needs, via observations, and noting them down in a planning document for everyone to share, and in a learning journey folder for each child. We plan by finding the resources and the activities for the children’s next steps. These next steps can be many things – words, numbers, language, confidence, strength, balance, space, routine, independence, knowledge, joy. These next steps can be found in many places – indoors, outdoors, in the mud, in a forest glade. Yes, the curriculum lets us know what needs to be covered, and helps us touch all the bases. But we don’t start with the curriculum, we start with the child.