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Starting points. It is a subject that comes up a lot. Do you need to do written starting points and when should you do them? What is the difference between starting points and a base-line? What are the official ‘rules’ about starting points?
The EYFS doesn’t directly mention starting points but it does say, ‘Practitioners must consider the individual needs, interests, and development of each child in their care, and must use this information to plan a challenging and enjoyable experience for each child in all areas of learning and development.’ (The Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) page 15.)
The Early Years Inspection Handbook, however does directly mention starting points, ‘The provider must demonstrate how they will . . . identify children’s starting points and ensure that children make progress in their learning through effective planning, observation and assessment, if appropriate.’ (Early Years Inspection Handbook, September 2023 Paragraph 36.)
Therefore you do need to have starting points for each child but you do not have to write them down. However I would strongly recommend at least jotting a few notes for yourself so that if you freeze in front of the inspector and forget everything you have something to refer to. (The inspector will not ask to see written records so even just jotting something for yourself on the back of an envelope is fine.)
You may have also heard the term baseline. This term is more commonly associated with a child’s entry to school where teachers now have to complete a baseline assessment of children’s skills and development when they start in Reception. The Government website states: The RBA (The Reception Baseline Assessment) is an activity-based assessment of pupils’ starting points.‘ (Source: Reception baseline assessment – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)) In other words starting points and baseline mean the same thing it’s just that baseline is the term officially used in schools and starting points is the term favoured for childminders.
This is how I do starting points when I have a new little one in my own setting:
Step One: I like to get parents views when gathering information about children’s starting points. After all they are the ones that know their child best. I get them to complete the ‘All About Me’ form from the ‘Super Summative Assessment and Gap Tracker‘ kit. This has been designed to complement the contract in the ‘Contracts, Policies and Forms‘ pack and has room for plenty of essential details like the child’s doctor and health visitor, dietary requirements, etc. However, it also has sections where parents can share information about what a child likes and what they can do. I find this is a simple uncomplicated way for parents to share information in a way that makes them feel that their input is valued from the very start of your relationship. (And without frightening them with specialised language or technical terms!)
Step Two: As well as parents’ input I also like to observe the child and record my own starting points. I do this from the very first meeting with the family as I always ask them to bring the child with them when we meet for the first time. I don’t necessarily write notes when the family is there but I sit on the floor and play with the child, observing what they do. If a child is very young I concentrate on the three prime areas. I also have an informal talk with the parents – they will often share things about their child with you this way that they would not feel comfortable writing down on official looking paperwork. I then jot myself a few rough notes so that I don’t forget anything when the family leaves. I can then compare these with what I know about child development, using official documents if necessary, to give me a picture of where a child’s initial needs may be.
Step Three: Once the child has been with me for a couple of sessions without their family (or just one session if it is a longer one,), if I am unsure of a child’s development in any area, or simply want some more information, I do a short written observation. This is not compulsory, but I personally find sitting for ten minutes and really concentrating on a child helps me focus and I often spot subtle things that I might not otherwise see. (You can miss this step out if you are happy you know the child well.)
Step Four: Finally I use the, ‘Starting my story – the beginning of an exciting journey,’ form – again from the Super Summative Pack, to write a very short report, with a nice picture of the child, about what the child can already do. I share this with parents as it shows them, from the very start of our relationship, that I am a professional and that I value them and their child. I find that parents love this little ‘report,’ in many cases it is their child’s first ever one and can become a special memento!
That is how I do starting points. It works for me, I get the information I need and start of new relationships with parents in a positive way. You may have your own documents that you can use if you want to do it the same way but if not you can find everything you need, plus yearly report templates and samples, transition report templates and samples and a gap tracker in the Super Summative Assessment and Gap Tracker Kit here:
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