How can real-time data help nurseries track and engage ‘underperforming’ children more effectively?
Child engagement and development are at the heart of what every great nursery does – right through from its observations and assessments to parental engagement and staff training sessions. But when it comes to monitoring child progress and ensuring an enriching learning experience, real-time data can help practitioners to do this more effectively – especially in relation to handling the ‘under-performer’.
Our head of new business and management software expert, John Pickup, recently explored this in greater depth with NMT Magazine. If you missed the original article, you can catch up below…
Digital data and reducing the disadvantage gap
Tackling disadvantage and underperformance within the Early Years (EY) sector has long been a prevalent issue, and it’s one which managers, practitioners and governments alike are continually trying to remedy.
As we know, there’s no one-size-fits all approach to learning, and that’s why every child needs to be monitored and assessed on an individual basis – giving them the opportunity to learn and grow through activities which appeal to their own preferred learning styles.
But with the busy days and workloads of practitioners, the ability to quickly gain access to information about a youngster’s performance and personalised observations is of paramount importance, especially when it comes to identifying whether a child needs additional help to achieve learning outcomes.
It’s no secret that we are ebbing increasingly closer to being a digital-first society – and even more so in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has seen a significant uptake in nurseries ditching their paper-based systems and using software to manage daily operations more effectively.
But it’s this transition from paper to online which has allowed many settings to uncover the ‘power of data’ and the impact it can have not only on child development but staff wellbeing and parental engagement too – plus how they’re all interlinked.
For instance, if a nursery professional wants to see whether a child is underperforming – and the evidence which backs this up – having records on paper increases the risk of certain documents being ‘lost’, not up to date and, in some cases, hard to read. In contrast to digital profiles, which contain all and infant’s observations, assessments and attendance history in one place, this allows for a real-time overview of all key areas which could be impacting their performance.
It’s a seamless way for colleagues to understand the progress a child has made in their development journey at any given moment in time – which is crucial for activity and observation planning, as well as reflection.
Having more clarity over children’s individual progress – which all colleagues within a setting can access – also creates a more unified approach to staffing. Managers are able to easily reject any observations which don’t meet Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) standards and also offer their staff more support if they spot any children who may need additional assistance.
Also, when it comes to children that aren’t at the same stage of development as their peers, a savvy system can flag up evidence for areas where the child has fallen behind. This is not only less time-intensive for staff – compared to if they were finding this information themselves from multiple files and spreadsheets – but it also enables them to investigate further into where any concerns lie. For instance, they’re able to view whether there’s perhaps an issue with the quality of staff observations, if there’s no extended learning taking place outside the setting, or if their attendance is poor – all of which could be contributing factors to underperformance.
The importance of parental involvement
However, in-setting observations and activities are only one side of the coin when it comes to maximising children’s learning progress.
The fact that infants respond differently in their behaviours and attitudes depending on the person whose company they’re in, means that diversifying the learning process outside nursery and inside the home can help to identify areas in which the child is particularly strong, as well as those which maybe require further improvement.
For example, if parents have an app which enables them to upload observations – either word, image or video-led – of their children at home, they can then send them directly to practitioners to grade against the EYFS framework. This collaborative approach allows both parties to have greater oversight and a more accurate view of how that child is advancing, as well as provide ideas as to how parents can further develop their child’s skill set.
Data is crucial in this respect, as parents are able to see their youngster’s latest observations and compare this to what they’re seeing at home – and vice versa. And, being able to access suggested activity ideas and learning resources from the nursery also helps parents to feel supported from a distance – giving their home-based learning time and subsequent observations some structure.
Parental engagement is vital for every child but when it comes to the ‘under-performer’, it’s arguably more pivotal than ever, as increased care and assistance is required to help them develop effectively.
The value of setting-related insights
It isn’t just information which tracks child progress that offers insight into performance though, utilising data – such as for staff and occupancy – can also provide an important piece when understanding the underperformance puzzle.
If nurseries are able to digitally track ratios and child familiarity statuses among colleagues, this enables them to better plan their staff weightings. Additionally, if a certain child responds more positively to one member of the team, they’re equipped with this data and can timetable the rooms accordingly – helping to maximise that youngster’s time with that practitioner.
Using data for good
Many people feel that the term ‘data’ on its own sounds too impersonal to be applied to a nursery setting, but what it really means is information about a child, staff and parents, which helps to tailor an infant’s education journey – and this can only be viewed as a good thing, right?
When it comes to enhancing the learning experience for children – and particularly those who are seen to be behind in their development – it’s essential that a cohesive approach is adopted by both staff and parents.
And, it’s only when data and humans work together that we can produce the best support anchor possible for our future next generations.