2nd February 2022 All Posts

The EYFS Reforms: Reflecting on the changes 6 months on 

Six months ago on the 1st September 2021, the widely anticipated updated EYFS statutory framework came into force. It was a milestone date for us, as the reforms brought a big shift in practice and mindset for the whole early years sector and we had to develop our software to meet the new guidelines and help our customers to stay informed.

In the run-up to the reforms, in order to help practitioners and managers navigate the often confusing and contradictory advice within the sector we successfully:

  • Launched our EYFS Reforms Hub which included information on our Software Releases, FAQs, Resources. 
  • Unveiled our 10-part EYFS blog series, featuring thought-provoking discussions with several industry experts including Beatrice Merrick, chief executive at Early Education and Chair of the Early Years Coalition, who developed Birth to 5 Matters.
  • Launched our Connect Community over on Facebook, to allow customers to interact with the wonderful community of Connect Childcare users, ask questions, post ideas, get useful advice and generally share the joy of childcare with a like-minded group.
  • Informed our customers of the changes by holding regular workshops and account reviews, sending newsletters and keeping the HelpDesk up to date.
  • Developed our software to meet the new guidelines

We did our very best to keep you informed and we hope you found the transition to the new ways of working as seamless as possible. 

Developing our software to meet the new guidelines

We further developed our products to be in line with the changes.
During the update, our overarching goals were to:

  • Create a system that was less of a box-ticking exercise for practitioners. We needed a system that puts emphasis on professional judgement, is more child-focused and promotes staff growth and progress
  • Help practitioners reduce their admin time and dedicate more hours to child development
  • Meet the needs of all of our different settings across the UK with one simple solution
Observation software like iConnect should enable practitioners to save hours each week and reduce the need to spend time away from their key children.

Think about it… If you have 40 children, and each paper report takes 5 minutes, then you are spending:
– 200 minutes a day
– 16 ½ hours a week
– 70 hours a month
– 830 hours a year on paperwork alone!

Wouldn’t this time be better spent helping our little ones to flourish?

The reforms brought an emphasis on professional judgement in the revised EYFS, and it was important to us that we reflected this within our new assessment program. In our ‘old’ assessment system we, like many other software providers, broke down each age range/individual statement into three categories, such as emerging, developing and secure. This process has been found to reduce the assessment of learning to just ticking-off statements. We have since learned that using professional judgement and a “best-fit approach” is more child-focused and allows staff to evaluate how they think about children’s learning and development – and ensure the child is at the centre. 

We wanted to provide our settings with technology that promotes staff growth and progress. Recording events and observations on software should help practitioners have more autonomy over their workload, establish a better work-life balance, and find more time for self-development. 

We introduced ‘Spotlight’

With our goals in mind, we decided to develop the brand new Spotlight Screen within iConnect.
The new Spotlight Screen is the result of much collaboration with our customers and early years consultants. It does exactly what it says in the name, it allows staff to shine a spotlight on each of their key children by capturing snapshots or brief and meaningful moments of child development. It has been designed to reflect the sector’s values and requirements, helping you to save time and promote your teams’ growth. 

Now we’re 6 months into the reforms, when we look back we realise that in the months in the run-up to the reforms we released 6 updates to iConnect, then in the months after we’ve released 5 iterations based on your feedback for improvements. And that’s a lot to take in… 

We thought it would be useful to summarise some of the useful child development features within iConnect to ensure you are making the most of your platform.

The features and benefits of Spotlight

Spotlight Screen

The Spotlight area within iConnect can be used to create Snapshots and Learning Stories.
Snapshots are a simplified version of the traditional ‘observations’ you used to create. Learning Stories are a simplified version of assessments. For Learning Stories, you can select whether it’s a ‘Baseline’, ‘2 Year Check’, ‘Transition’ or a custom learning story.

You can also:

  • Add notes and other media such as photos and videos. 
  • View any previous events logged within the spotlight screen along with any considerations for intervention, monitoring or staff support. This will help your staff to build a picture of child development and share this information with the child’s parents via ParentZone or other necessary professionals.
  • Use the considerations area to reflect on a Snapshot or Learning Story and what to do next to help with a child’s development or to highlight their accomplishments. You can choose to select a status for the Consideration which allows it to be flagged for Intervention, Monitoring or Staff Support. These Considerations will also appear on the iConnect Today screen so the child is at the front and centre.
  • Use Development Checkpoints and Framework Indicators as prompts. You can reference relevant guidance material and state whether a child is ‘working towards’ or has ‘achieved’ certain milestones. You can enable and disable which frameworks and guidances you wish to see here by heading to your framework settings within iConnect. See which frameworks and guidance can be used with Spotlight here. If you wish to use Birth to 5 Matters in your setting, you can request access to have it enabled here.

The Event Checker

In the Spotlight screen you will see a new tab called Event Checker. The Event Checker will allow you to track when Practitioners may need more help and if any practitioners have not fulfilled the number of Snapshots and Learning Stories you have specified within the Site Settings. You will be able to choose between Weeks or Months. If no Snapshots or Learning Stories have been published within the timeframe you have set these will show in red. If they have been published within the timeframe, a date will be provided for the most recent one completed. Clicking on the date will take you to the published event. There is also an option to filter Two Year Check and view which children may require their two-year check assessment.

The Learning Journal Report

You can use the Learning Journal Report within iConnect to view and summary of a child’s Snapshots, Learning Stories and Moments recorded within iConnect. This can include photos and videos and can be saved as a PDF to either print or send to your parents. The PDF includes a personalised front cover with the child’s name, profile photo, date of birth and the date range and the date printed.

Big Picture Report coming soon

The Big Picture Report is coming soon to the spotlight screen to help provide your teams with an instant, visual representation of the progress a child or cohort of children has made whilst indicating what to focus on next. One aspect of the report comes in the form of a development wheel and will facilitate the Birth 2 5 Matters and Development Matters 2021 guidances. Another area of the report uses a bar graph to visualise the development against the Characteristics of Effective Teaching and Learning from Development Matters 2021. There is also the ability to use the professional judgement option which will allow staff to quickly assess a child there and then.

There’s a whole load of management features within iConnect that we haven’t mentioned above. If you’d like to see it in action in one of our free, no-obligation demos, please contact a member of our team today.

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About the Author

Campaign and Content Manager at Connect Childcare