Great Heights Early Years Cluster
2014 to present
As our cluster developed, our priorities led us to become an autonomous group of Early Years Practitioners. We now have a range of ongoing activities across each academic year that enables us to be responsive to the needs of our group and the changes that occur within early years. Some of these include:
Leader Days: Our Early Years Leaders meet regularly across each academic year. This allows us to work on collaborative projects such as cluster action planning, staff meeting outlines, data analysis, writing a SEF and CPD activities.
Staff Meetings: Each half term, we now have a dedicated EY staff meeting within the cluster. Each school hosts a staff evening, allowing all staff to visit all the settings within our cluster. The content of each staff meeting varies. Topics have included: Speech and Language Development, SEN in the Early Years, Engaging Boys and Outdoor Learning.
Great Heights Data Pack: Each school shares their Nursery and Reception baseline, mid-year and end of year data. This is then compiled into a cluster data pack that is then used across our schools to identify trends, areas of strengths/development and commonalities.
Moderation Case Studies: The case studies are an evolution on the traditional moderation activities. As a cluster, we devised particular open-ended activities that each school delivers at the same point in the year. Observational notes and evidence is then shared amongst the cluster at follow-up meetings to allow Nursery and Reception staff to moderate judgments. This has been particularly useful as it has allowed a common language and a common activity to provide us with more evidence of subtleties between the bands of development.
Continuing Professional Development: Cluster activities allow us to identify areas of particular need within our cluster and targeted training be delivered by a range of strong practitioners within our group as appropriate. This has allowed us to tailor content to the needs of our schools.
We are extremely proud of the work we have achieved through our Great Heights Early Years Cluster. Our strength as a group continues to grow as other settings request to join. We now have involvement from Farnham Primary School, Farfield Primary School and St Pauls Primary School.
2013-2014 Early Years Transition into Year One Project
In order to build on the project of 2012-2013, this year’s project aims to support the transition of Early Years knowledge and practice into Year One. Headteachers have continued to commit to financing bespoke training from an EY Consultant to ensure all staff working within Year One, including Key Stage One leaders and TAs, to have a working knowledge of Early Years principles in order to best support the transition process.
Feedback from staff
There was overwhelmingly positive feedback from all schools at the end of each training session. Comments from personal emails include:
‘I have to pass on everyone’s thanks for the programme and our involvement. Kim is very inspirational…we all felt we were improving.’ Margaret Weighman, Farnham
‘The feedback from staff has been great. They have found Kim informative, approachable and realistic, as have I. Getting together with other Early Years teams is also very useful. I am looking forward to continuing the work next year if the heads agree (no pressure!).’ Leanne Truesdale, Brackenhill
During Hollingwood’s Ofsted 2013, the EY inspector commented on the moderation portfolio from Nursery by noting that he had never seen one made up before and was impressed that we had dedicated time to the earlier ages and stages of development.
2012-2013 Early Years Assessment Project
During the Great Heights Reading project, teachers voiced their desire to continue the network and links we had established across 2011-2012. The revised guidance for the Early Years was introduced in March 2012, for implementation on 1st September 2012. In order to support one another during the significant changes to the EYFS from September 2012, it was agreed by Heads that an EY project should run to support the assessment process to ensure consistent and secure judgments across our schools in the ages and stages of development.
A clearer understanding of how children develop through Ages and Stages of Development (AOD) highlighted a substantial area of need for all settings for moderation of judgments, particularly within the Reception year. In order to support staff work through these developments, our project’s aims were to:
- Raise staff confidence in assessing against the revised AODs, across the cluster.
- Devise and deliver bespoke CPD training that met the needs of all EY settings within the cluster.
- Develop ‘working parties’ of Nursery and Reception teachers that would ‘unpick’ particular AODs.
- Collate a moderation portfolio of evidence for each AOD from across our cluster.
- Have Heads allocate staff meeting time to EY specific content.
- Develop a supportive network of EY professionals.
Due to the success of the 2011-2012 project Heads from all schools within the cluster agreed to financially support the recruitment of an EY Consultant to provide external and bespoke training on the priorities that the cluster identified. The aim was for all staff, including support staff, to have an intense programme of EY specific training, as well as each school to have targeted time with the consultant to work on school-based needs.
Once again, to have the biggest impact on the children within our cluster, we felt that it was important to deliver the training in a particular order, to ‘build up’ to the culmination of the profile submission at the end of the Reception year, before addressing the area of transition into Year One. The successes of the previous year allowed us to continue working in our working parties to address moderation specific questions and share evidence towards particular ages and stages. Reception staff found this particularly beneficial as the changes to their assessment and reporting arrangements had left staff particularly worried about the end of year summative assessments.
The sharing of good practice during our continued visits has allowed us to continue to share inspiration and ideas across our cluster.
Activities included within this year’s project:
- Meeting with all Headteachers within the Great Heights Partnership to deliver a proposal on the project’s aims.
- Funding secured for a ‘day’ from each school for the EY Consultant.
- A ‘lead practitioner’ from each setting was identified and a meeting held between them to devise an action plan for training.
- A bespoke training package was devised alongside an EY Consultant that followed the pattern of training for appropriate cluster staff in the morning, with school based needs training in the afternoon for the host school.
- Autonomy within working parties was established, with agreement and support from Heads, that they could meet regularly to moderate judgments of AODs.
- Half termly staff meetings for all EY staff to attend was established which is now part of the cluster staff meeting timetable.
- The first EY staff meeting celebrated each school’s strengths, in order to identify where each school could find support for any identified area of development.
- The project content and collaboration generated interest from a school outside of our cluster who ‘bought’ into the package.
- The project generated interest from the District Reading project on how we had established a successful cluster project, raising the profile of our cluster further.
- Learning Walks in all schools continue to occur in order to share good practice.
- Schools completed an Impact Survey to identify how each felt the project had run.
2011-2012 Early Years Reading Project
In 2011, The Great Heights Partnership identified the raising of standards in reading as a key priority across our cluster of schools. The guiding principle was that all children will receive quality phonics teaching which ensures that they enter KS2 working at age related expectations. This progress will be maintained throughout all key stages in order to ensure that pupils leave our Primary Schools as readers.
Initially a core group of three teachers, comprising of Donna Sagar (Hollingwood), Liz Bowen (Russell Hall) and Christine Riley (Stocks Lane) were asked to investigate and identify across the three schools:
- How reading is taught in Reception
- Good practice that works
- How reading is supported in the environment
- The recording of success
- Good resources that stimulate and engage
The core group were given a ‘day’ to tour each school together and reflect on how best to meet the project’s aims. The conversation naturally fell into a topic focused primarily on phonics: its delivery, resourcing and application. Throughout the process of the day and the refining of our thinking, we began to focus more on how we stimulated and engaged our children in a love of reading, appreciation of stories and the comprehension of plots. The visits allowed us the opportunity to evaluate the provision we offered our children, reflect upon the opportunities we provided our children with and begin to really question what, if any, key learning opportunities we were missing out on.
In order to make the biggest impact on the children within our cluster, we felt the best way to do this would be to invite all Early Years (EY) teachers to a meeting that would set out the priorities for a year-long collaboration project. The aim was to break off into working parties that worked towards building a progression document for supporting the development of reading in the EY within the specific ages and stages of development. By sharing good practice and visiting our cluster settings, we incorporated how to develop practice and provision, as well as the adults’ role in supporting early reading. To compliment this body of work, we collated observational evidence that supported our judgements of what reading skills ‘looked like’ for children in the 22-36 months, 30-50 months and 40-60 months bands of development.