I know that I go on about it a great deal, but if you are going to have a really successful learning environment, then your provision has got to be linked to assessment and broadly levelled. If not, then you don't really create learning spaces, you just create holding spaces.
The environment you set up should change to match the needs of your current cohort. Not just on an annual basis, the change should happen termly in response to the information that you get from your summative assessment.
At the risk of sounding like Miranda's mother, that is what I like to call a Gap and Strength Analysis.
Not only does your Gap and Strength Analysis help you to create an appropriate learning environment, it also helps you to demonstrate how you can achieve high level attainment in Foundation Stage, which as we know, can be tricky!
So, what to do and how to do it…
A Gap and Strength Analysis uses the information that you gain from your summative assessment to show where the greatest areas of need and strength are within your cohort.
You would then make sure that they environment and provision that you put in place directly reflects the needs that you have identified.
Where there are areas of particular strength then you would ensure that you planned explicit and implicit challenge.
If talk or physical development shows up as a need then I would expect to see lots more areas of the environment and resources in place to support that development. There is no point having a 'maths' and 'handwriting' area with no one in it, when that space could be given over to providing more learning opportunities in an area of identified need.
You will fill in your Gap and Strength Analysis three times a year following summative assessment. This will probably be October, December and April.
If you have a constantly changing cohort (like playgroup or day nursery) then you would carry out a Gap and Strength Analysis every three months and 'tweak' your environment in response to any specific need that you have identified in the interim.
What do I assess?
You are assessing children's development against their age related statements in the Prime and Specific areas
What am I looking for?
You want to identify children who are working below, or at risk of working below their age related expectations.
You also want to identify children who are working above their age related expectations
Identify target areas of development where a significant number of children are performing below their age related expectation. The larger the number of children the more prevalent the need in that area.
Make a graph!
I like a graph – it really helps my visual brain. It also really helps anyone who isn't very familiar with interpreting EYFS data make some sense of what you are doing.
On your graph list the areas in order of need. This will be your starting point for organising your environment and creating the beginnings of an attainment audit trail.
Here is an example of a Reception Gap analysis using Autumn 2 summative assessment. In this particular setting, there are no children who are performing above the expected level for their age, therefore this is a pure Gap Analysis
Well, once you have identified the areas of need (and challenge if you have any) you need to sit down as a team and talk about how these translate into your environment and the provision that you create.
Some areas like 'People and Communities' can often score highly because young children often have limited knowledge and experience of other people and communities outside of their own. Their knowledge in this area will grow through the experiences that you give them and this takes time.
It is still worth asking the question how you make your children aware of people and communities. Do you have to wait until the 'People That Help Us' topic title comes along, or do you have a really good range of stories, songs, games etc that you use consistently?
One setting I was working with got a very similar result from their Gap Analysis and decided to use some of their space to create a 'Multicultural Area'. This area was full of various multicultural costumes, artifacts an images. The children used the area a lot and the team felt that it was therefore having impact. When we watched and listened to what the children were doing in the area during Continuous Provision, it had very little to do with other cultures and a great deal to do with familiar domestic role play.
When an adult was working in the space, then it was a different story but we need to focus on what the children will do when there is no adult there, as that is when attainment is most at risk.
Shape and Space often comes up as a key area in early Gap Analysis, again that is because it something that needs to be explicitly taught as well experienced. It does not however, give you license to put 2d shapes in the sand and water or just scatter a few around your environment! This is more likely to put children off than engage them. There aren't many children who get excited about the prospect of digging up a triangle! Even when they do, how does that experience impact on their learning? DON'T DO IT! (The same goes for burying words in the sand – but that is a whole different rant!).
If Shape and Space does come up you might want to think about how you can get more exciting and interactive shape into your environment. This can be done through things like puzzles, jigsaws, construction, outdoor and also cutting your snack into shapes or serving it on different shaped plates. You can be as creative as you like as long as the children are going to engage with your ideas and what you do is actually going to have an impact.
For every need identified, you can fill in something like this. This sheet will identify the term you are carrying out the analysis as well as the area of need/challenge that you thinking about.
The 'Area that promotes facilitation' are areas of your environment that will help you to deliver the need you have identified.
'Possible Resources' is just that. Possible resources that you might want to add to your Continuous Provision in that area of the environment to help you to tackle your need.
You can download a copy of this as a Word document here Download GapAnalysis
You then need to swap, change and enhance your space to match all of the work that you have just done. Take time to stand back and watch not only where your children go during Continuous Provision, but what they do when they get there. Yes, your Maths area is full of children, but are they doing Maths? I would hazard a guess from experience that they are probably engaging in some good old domestic role play.
The last thing I would do is to create a SIMPLE overview document that outlines what your data has told you in each area and what you have done about it.
So, to create your Gap and Strength Analysis you will have…
Collected lots of lovely data that shows children's attainment in the Prime and Specific Areas against age related criteria
Identified the areas where there is the greatest need for support and challenge
Created a graph to illustrate those needs
Discussed how the need can be translated into direct teaching and opportunities within Continuous Provision
Evaluated how you can change your current environment to support the solutions that you have come up with.
For each area of need you will have recorded what you have added to your provision to support children's learning and development and how it might be used.
Finally you will have created a Gap and Strength Analysis overview that explains all of the above in BRIEF!
Each term (or summative assessment) you carry out the same process. Ideally your gaps should shrink and even change as the year progresses.
If your children are performing below their age related expectation, it is important to record what age band they are starting in. When you come to do your next analysis, it can appear that they haven't moved because they will still be below expectation, but they could well have moved in terms of their attainment, they are just not at expected level…yet!
This document is really handy to show why you are doing what you are doing and also provides a starting point for anyone who is coming to look at attainment, provision and practice in your setting. It helps to join up the dots!
Happy dot joining