Learning Journey - Anne Rodgers


As identified in the EYFS 2017 there are four guiding principles that shape practice within early years settings. These are:

  • Every child is a unique child, who is constantly learning and can be resilient, capable, confident and self-assured; 

  • Children learn to be strong and independent through positive relationships; 

  • Children learn and develop well in enabling environments, in which their experiences respond to their individual needs and there is a strong partnership between practitioners and parents and/or carers; and 

  • Children develop and learn in different ways and at different rates. The framework covers the education and care of all children in early years provision, including children with special educational needs and disabilities.

We must make sure that the environment in which children play and learn is age and stage appropriate and enables them to develop at their own individual pace. Assessment plays an important part in helping parents, carers and practitioners to recognise children’s progress, understand their needs, and to plan activities and support and ongoing assessment is an integral part of the learning and development process. 


Assessment involves practitioners observing children to understand their level of achievement, interests and learning styles, and allows them to then shape learning experiences for each child reflecting those observations. In their interactions with children, practitioners should respond to their own day-to-day observations about children’s progress and observations that parents and carers share and plan activities and interactions which support that child’s individual circumstances and support their development. 


How do you observe children in your setting? 

Each setting will have their own way to record children’s achievements and milestones and this is usually called a learning journal. Observations and assessments and next steps are gathered together to show development across the seven areas of learning and might include pictures, stories and updates on progress against the EYFS.


What are you looking for?

Practitioners are looking for progression in the areas of the EYFS, to show that the child is developing according to their own needs and abilities.


How does this inform practice?

This record keeping and reflection usually informs what happens next and highlights if there is any outside professional intervention which may be needed. This process may highlight if practitioners need to make adjustments to planned activities and free play to enable progress to take place, which may be as simple as offering a child time to master new skills before supporting them to progress to more difficult tasks.


Have you had training on child development and know the ages and stages that children pass through?

Knowing what the normative stages of development are will help practitioners plan for play experiences and uncover any gaps in learning and development so that they can better help children to succeed.


What is an achievement?

For some children this might be a huge developmental WOW moment like learning to walk or to use certain equipment but for others if might be something much more subtle that they have finally mastered as they mature and gain practice, like stacking blocks or holding a pencil. 


When do you record it?

There should not be too much unnecessary recording but meaningful noticing that takes place should be recorded to evidence and track progress and developmental milestones taking place.


Recognising children’s learning styles and interests will help practitioners to plan for experiences. Knowing about schemas will also help plan for play. Taking permitted photographs will also help illustrate ways in which the child has learnt, but this is something that needs to be planned and discussed with parents in advance, to ensure that they’re happy for their child’s image to be recorded and stored. 


Assessment must not entail prolonged breaks from interaction with children, nor require excessive paperwork. Paperwork should be limited to that which is absolutely necessary to promote children’s successful learning and development. 


Parents and/or carers should be kept up to date with their child’s progress and development through the sharing of these observations and journals and this can provide a nice way to build relationships with parents and discuss interventions, progress and any issues that arise. Practitioners should address any learning and development needs in partnership with parents and carers, and any relevant professionals. 


When a child is aged between two and three, practitioners must review their progress, and provide parents and/or carers with a short written summary of their child’s development in the prime areas. This progress check should identify the child’s strengths, and any areas where the child’s progress is slower than expected. If there are significant emerging concerns, or an identified or potential special educational need or disability, practitioners should develop a targeted plan to support the child’s future learning and development involving parents and/or carers and other professionals (for example, the provider’s Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator or health professionals) as appropriate. 


Beyond the prime areas, it is for practitioners to decide what the written summary should include, reflecting the development level and needs of the individual child. The summary must highlight: 

  • areas in which a child is progressing well; 

  • areas in which some additional support might be needed; 

  • any areas where there is a concern that a child may have a developmental delay 

The summary must also describe the activities and strategies the provider intends to adopt to address any issues or concerns. If a child moves settings between the ages of two and three it is expected that the progress check would usually be undertaken by the setting where the child has spent most time. 


Practitioners should discuss with parents and/or carers how the summary of development can be used to support learning at home and encourage parents and/or carers to share information from the progress check with other relevant professionals, including their health visitor and the staff of any new provision the child may transfer to.


It might be helpful to agree with parents and/or carers when will be the most useful point to provide a summary or how often they’d find updates helpful. Where possible, the progress check and the Healthy Child Programme health and development review at age two should inform each other and support integrated working, which will allow health and education professionals to identify strengths as well as any developmental delay and provide support from which they think the child/family might benefit. 


Providers must have the consent of parents and/or carers to share information directly with other relevant professionals with regards to their welfare and protection. 


In the final term of the year in which the child reaches age five, and no later than 30 June in that term, the EYFS Profile must be completed for each child. 


The Profile provides parents and carers, practitioners and teachers with a well-rounded picture of a child’s knowledge, understanding and abilities, their progress against expected levels, and their readiness for Year 1.


The Profile must reflect: ongoing observation; 

  • all relevant records held by the setting; 

  • discussions with parents and carers, 

  • and any other adults whom the teacher, parent or carer judges can offer a useful contribution. 

In my experience, parents love to see and keep a learning journal as it shows how much their child has grown and all their positive milestones and learning that has taken place and illustrated with pictures of them having fun and developing well. It makes a lovely keepsake and can be very helpful in supporting the policy, safeguarding and learning highlighted in this article.