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{SECTION_MENUObservation, Assessment and Planning

Observation, Assessment and Planning at Woodcroft Nursery School

At Woodcroft Nursery School we are passionate that children’s interests should be at the heart of their learning and we recognise the following as essential to an effective observation, planning and assessment cycle: 

  • Formative assessment is an integral part of teaching young children- Children’s development and learning is best supported by starting from the child, and then matching interactions and experiences to meet the child’s needs.
  • Practice starts with the child, and grows in partnership- Effective practice begins with observation, tuning into the child and then building a relationship. Professionally informed knowledge of child development then supports understanding children’s interests, development and learning, and planning for next steps- involving the child, parents and carers, and other professionals.
  • Responsive pedagogy is needed to recognise what children know, understand, and can do- In a supportive and challenging enabling environment children demonstrate their learning and understanding in a wide range of contexts that have meaning to them. Responsive adults tune into their play, interactions and thinking, identifying how best to support their ideas, interests and priorities. Sensitive interactions involve listening, guiding, explaining, asking appropriate questions and helping children to reflect on their learning in a playful, co-constructive partnership. When children apply the skills and concepts they have mastered in a variety of different ways in their independent play and activities, their understanding is clearly embedded.
  • Children and adults construct the curriculum together-Children bring funds of knowledge-based interests to the setting, and they are motivated to learn through connecting new experiences to what they already know and can do. Practitioners can support these interests while also keeping in mind that they need to introduce children to new ideas and knowledge and sensitively support and guide their learning in all areas, including the Characteristics of Effective Learning.
  • Observation, assessment and planning is part of professional practice- The OAP cycle is a reflective and ongoing process which enables consideration of children’s development and how to support individual children through effective practice. It supports quality improvement as practitioners use their knowledge, skills and evidence gathered from OAP to reflect on the quality of education and care the children receive, and think about how to improve practice.
  • Summative assessment involves stepping back to gain an overview of children’s development and progress- When daily interactions involve observing, reflecting and deciding how best to support a child, practitioners hold in their mind many details of each child’s development and learning.  At certain times it is important to step back, to pause and reflect, and create a summative assessment which takes a holistic overview of the child’s development, learning and progress.

Summative assessments are made to provide a summary of a child’s development and learning across all areas. There are two statutory summative assessment points in the EYFS – the 2-year-old progress check, and the EYFS Profile at the end of the EYFS in Reception. At Woodcroft Nursery School we use OPAL (Observations of Play and Learning) to provide a quick assessment to ensure children are meeting their age-related milestones. As part of this, we provide two ‘spotlight’ overviews and invite parents/ carers into school to discuss and contribute to this.  

  • Reliable summative assessment grows out of formative assessment- It requires a pause to think about what is known about the child, together with reviewing any notes, photographs or other records that may be held, alongside what is known from the child, parents, colleagues and other professionals. This process is an excellent opportunity for professional reflection and discussions with colleagues to moderate decisions about progress and build a stronger understanding of children’s development in all aspects of learning
  • An informed professional decision is based on a holistic view of a child’s development and learning- Young children’s development does not follow a predictable step-by-step sequence, and each child will have their own unique pathway, progression and momentum. There are, however, some aspects of development which enable you to describe the child’s progress in terms of whether it is typical for their age, for example learning to talk. It is important to take a holistic, professionally informed view to determine whether a child is roughly on track or developing more slowly or more quickly in particular areas. A holistic summary will give attention not just to areas of knowledge and skills, but also to the child’s emotional wellbeing and connections, and development of attitudes and dispositions for learning (Characteristics of Effective Learning).
  • Summative assessment serves several purposes that can enhance development and learning opportunities for children, including by informing improvements to provision and practice in the setting- Leaders and managers can use the information strategically to improve provision and practice. For example:
  • - Are some children not as far along or significantly ahead in their development and learning compared to most children? How are we further supporting these children?
  • - Should opportunities, resources or support within some areas of the curriculum be improved?
  • - Is there a professional development need for individual staff members, or the setting as a whole?

Information can be communicated clearly in a summary form to inform discussions with parents, other agencies, or professionals involved with the child and family. Transitions can be supported so that children’s journeys of development and learning continue smoothly.


Adapted from Birth to 5 Matters, published by Early Education on behalf of the Early Years Coalition 2021.