I remember…

Primary School

I remember when we had a snail race and my snail, the one with the brown sticker, won.  I remember when my first teacher wouldn’t give me a plaster and I nearly bled to death.  I remember when the snails ate through the book covering their tank in the holidays.  I remember being on the School council.  I remember going to the school library every week, there was pink leatherette chairs.  I remember a teacher who would pull all the curtains and turn off the lights to tell us a story.  I remember making up all sorts of crazy games in the playground.  I remember making inventions with my friends, patent pending on our spring straw gun.  I remember going to the Zoo (a lot) to see the Rhino our school sponsored.  I remember making cars and bridges and having class competitions to see which were the best.  I remember wet time play time games and comics.  I remember when we weren’t allowed out when someone threw their milk on the chalkboard.  I remember chalkboards! I remember our BBC computer and our Roamer.  I remember singing whole school (900 pupils) with every class sitting on the stairs that ran up and down the middle of the school.  I remember learning to love reading around 8 years old, thanks to patient hard work from my parents and teachers.  I remember my first girlfriend.  I remember going to the chippi for our leavers do “by ourselves”, that’s when she dumped me.  I remember being really happy (not that day!)

I don’t remember doing tests, what group I was in or what level I was working at.

High School

I remember getting lost a lot (1100 pupils).  I remember all the truly inspiring teachers that opened the world up to us.  I remember girls.  I remember getting a locker and filling it up P.E. kits and rubbish.  I remember Yo-yos.  I remember the English teacher spending a whole lesson, with me to teach me about, commas and paragraphs,,,

I remember handwritten registers.  I remember nearly every single teacher I had.  I remember going out for lunch.  I remember writing stories.  I remember my first proper girlfriend.  I remember Mario Kart in the common room.  I remember discovering I wasn’t actually very good at basketball.  I remember looking forward to certain lessons.  I remember getting beaten up once or twice. I remember Iron Bru.  I remember sitting in the Meadows singing.  I remember my Adidas jumper.  I remember making the best, lifelong friends you could ever wish for.

I don’t remember any historical dates, facts, revision, exams or what grades I got.


I remember living away from home! I remember living in halls.  I remember every teaching placement, successful and not so.  I remember London, Poland and Barrow.  I remember the Student Union.  I remember my favourite lecturers.  I remember the most inspirational, challenging and charming English lecturer.  I remember living on bacon and 11p noodles.  I remember seeing a badger.  I remember all the pubs.  I remember the club under the pub.  I remember meeting my beautiful wife.  I remember learning to drive.  I remember getting a new car (still have it!)  I remember my final placement vividly.  I remember making more of the best, lifelong friends you could ever wish for. 

I don’t remember how I did on essays or even what degree I got.

As educators we help make memories, don’t worry about all the tests, assessments, groupings we have to inflict on our children, just try your best to make sure they don’t remember it.


End of EYFS Assessment

This is to help me clarify my understanding/thoughts and hopefully yours too. Here are some quotes from the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile to kick off, first of all what is expected:

A completed EYFS Profile consists of 20 items of information: the attainment of each child assessed in relation to the 17 ELG descriptors, together with a short narrative describing the child’s three learning characteristics.

OK…So we have to mark our children of on each ELG, Emerging; “not yet at the level of development expected at the end of EYFS” Expected; “working at expected level of EYFS” or Exceeding; “beyond the level expected at the end of the EYFS”. In my area we have been told to mark emerging as 1, expected as 2 and exceeding as 3. I assume so that the children get good practice at being labelled before the move into KS1. Ok pretty straight forward, let’s move past the massive spectrum of children who will all be labelled as “1’s”, not showing the huge progress that has been made but merely providing authorities with easy numbers to crunch in preparation for telling what to do next year. I am going to use a format similar to this with the Characteristics of Effective Learning included. There is also a template in the Profile in Annex 1.

Some more from the Profile:

The primary uses of EYFS Profile data are as follows. These have informed the development
of the Profile.
• To inform parents about their child’s development against the ELGs and the
characteristics of their learning.
• To support a smooth transition to Key Stage 1 by informing the professional
dialogue between EYFS and Key Stage 1 teachers.
• To help Year 1 teachers plan an effective, responsive and appropriate curriculum
that will meet the needs of all children.

It goes on to say the secondary main use (although it usually feels like the primary use) is to assess schools against others. I feel like we are all walking into this a bit blind with the lack of any national statistics or even suggested statistics, but we can only trust our own assessments and moderation and hope we aren’t too far from the flock…

In regards to informing the parents I hope to whoever is up there settings aren’t going to present parents with a sheet of ticks or numbers. Yes we need to feedback their “development against the ELGs” but we do not need to label them excessively at 5. I’m not 100% sure how I am going to do it but I am going to keep numbers and letters out as much as possible. Something more reporty like this:

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The transition into Year 1 is mentioned heavily in the new Profile. In our area I believe there is going to be training for Year 1 teachers to help ease the transition for the children and plan appropriately based on the end of EYFS assessments. This would be lovely if it happens and I know I will be working hard along side my corresponding Year 1 teacher

In regards to levelling your children 1,2,3 there is some guidance and exemplars to help. In Annex 2 of the profile there is a list of statements to help you judge whether a child is Exceeding (3). There is also a handy set of exemplification docs with examples of evidence that would suggest a child is working at an Expected level (2):

When viewing each set of exemplification material, it is important to understand that the set as a whole illustrates the ‘expected’ descriptor. No one piece of evidence meets the ELG as a standalone item; together they illustrate the pitch and breadth of a particular ‘expected’ level of learning and development.

Find those here. I would suggest printing this out (at great cost!) or at least downloading into separate files for easy viewing.

There is little support for those children who score “1”. As previously mentioned you may have a child with severe language difficulties no interaction with peers/adults, so in Speaking they would be a “1”. You may also have a child who was deaf until 2, made huge progress, isn’t quite there with the ELG and yes…they are a “1” too. This caused uproar at our moderation but as our moderation co-ordinator said “We just have to do the best we can”.

I like the emphasis on teacher knowledge (see previous post), the importance stressed on transition into KS1 and working with parents. But when I have to sum up all the progress my little learners have made in a 1,2,3 I shall have to sit down quietly in a room and think of Scotland. But going back to those wise words “We just have to do the best we can” that means staying positive and remembering that our children aren’t numbers.

Making deposits – Postive Relationships in Early Years

I have been thinking a lot about positive relationships, how they are built and the importance of them.  To help map out my thoughts here are some examples from my experience:

When I was a nursery teacher we had “stay and play” sessions before children started where the children and their parents could come and meet their key workers before they started in the nursery.  On one of these sessions I was met with a mother exuding nervousness “My child is terrified of men!” she exclaimed (with her child (child 1) standing behind her leg) Okay…first job was calm down the Mum, explain the routine, that it was normal and most importantly ok and I was glad she voiced her fears.  I also carefully put across the idea that this fear may be fostered by repeating it aloud to her little one.  Next step, win over the terrified 3 year old.  I noticed she was interested in the dolls house.  I sat down on the other side of the house, chose one of the little people and said “Hello, I’m Mr Billing, what’s your name?” a smile and a lovely play conversation followed.  A much more relaxed Mum later said maybe all she needed was the men (other than her father) in her life to get down to her level and play.  

Another child (child 2) started in my group, she was more cautious than child 1 in the “stay and play” session.  Her Dad had said she was unsure of new people, especially men.  The decision was made along with her parents to put her in my group for this specific reason.  Cue 3 weeks of non stop screaming and crying, every time, until it was time to “choose a plan”.  Generally her “plan” was to be anywhere I wasn’t.  This was a terrible experience for everyone.  Every day I welcomed her in and tried to carry on with the group time over the screaming.  I introduced a home to school teddy bear which she enjoyed, although I feel in her head she now had an ally against me.  This was my second term as a nursery teacher and I felt I was failing her.  I spoke to my head about what I could do.  She said to wait, one day she would come around, we weren’t going to move her into another group.  I began to dread each morning but I kept smiling and trying to engage with her interests in the continuous provision.  She would look to the nearest female teacher and run away,every time…  I was beginning to give up hope when one day she came in and didn’t cry and she sat with the group!  I tried to hide my excitement although I think my praise for her joining in must of been bordering on manic!  A few days later I was sharing a story with another child, she came over and shuffled up right next to me.  We sat and read stories for an hour and a half.  From that day on I had to work to build her relationships with the other children as she never left my side.  Patience is indeed a virtue.

With much regret I left the nursery to move to the sunny north of England.  I then got a job in a Reception class, where I am still.

One child (child 3) I came across I could tell was going to take some work to develop a positive relationship.  She lacked the skills herself to engage appropriately with her peers or the adults.  So I jumped on her (not literally) and I made sure we had a strong positive relationship.  Lots of questions about her, her likes, joining in with her play and giving her my full attention whilst doing so.  It worked and a rewarding relationship had been forged.

It was the beginning of Autumn and the first leaves where falling off the trees in our large outside area.  We had spent the week trying to catch occasional falling leaf.  Unbelievably none of the children, or myself (!), had managed it.  Fast forward to Friday, tidy up time, all of our outdoor resources are out, most of the children are out, due to staffing I was the only adult out.  Cue grumpy Mr B.  As I was directing several thousand hot and tired children to tidy up responsibly I couldn’t help hearing a child bellowing my name over and over again (not in distress I should add)  I spun around and said in a loud and cross voice “Not now, you should be tidying up!”  It was child 3, she had caught a leaf.  I didn’t even realise what I had done, it was when I was driving home when it came back to me.  I nearly had to stop driving.  The following Monday I tried to celebrate her achievement and reinvigorate her interest in the leaf game.  It was too late I had killed that interest and seriously damaged our positive relationship.  It took a long time to build it up again.

Another short example.  A child (child 4) whose communication difficulties meant he didn’t engage with any of his peers or adults by choice.  I decided to spend the afternoon solely engaging with him ( I didn’t ignore the other children but his interests were my focus)  After this he came to join in any game/activity I was involved with and not long after he began to engage with his peers independently.  Time and attention.


I came across the idea of these positive relationships being like a piggy bank here.  That really struck home.  We need to make deposits into each child’s piggy bank until it is full, only then will we have strong, meaningful positive/personal (see Laura’s excellent post here) relationships that will really help our children fly.

From reflection I have made many thousands of deposits but what terrifies me is making any more withdrawals as I did with child 3.

Mini beast hotel!

After seeing a minibeast hotel in the woods I used to do forest school sessions with nursery children I have always wanted to build one with the children.

We had a special science day throughout school and our focus was “minibeasts” so it was perfect timing.

Our caretaker keeps the wood pallets fruit and paper are delivered on for us, we put them in the outside building area, knowing they would be eventually replaced we decided we could use then for our hotel and stacked thusly:

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We then collected a variety of materials a minibeast may enjoy:

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Hollow sticks

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Wood and straw

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Bricks and pipes

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And of course a boot and a brush head!

We also had some wool and other odds and ends (sheeps wool!) 89 children (3 reception classes) took it it in turns to fill each level all the while discussing why certain minibeasts will like what and where. It really had helped the children emphathise with these little creatures.

We then went on a minibeast hunt, of course we reminded the children we would usually put them back where we found them, but this time we put all the wee beasties in our hotel!

This is not a new idea I know but the children have loved it so thought I’d share! Still requires some more materials to full properly, another teacher pointed out rotten apples etc would be good shoved right in the middle.

Will follow up with a picture when it’s not covered in snow!

Homemade wood blocks!

Went for a walk today in the woods and decided to make these

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Beautiful! We all know the power of open ended resources. These blocks can be used for building, cooking, people…well the list is a long as your children’s imagination.

So I, along with the understanding Mrs B, collected as many non rotten sticks and logs as we could carry (twacking them against a tree is a good test, rotten ones will break/sound hollow)

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Then all you need is your father in law’s circular saw

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And of course safety goggles and a high visibility jacket incase any squirrels are nearby.

I tried to collect straight branches and cut them straight but I decided that the odd wonky one would only aid learning!

Here they are!

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Not too bad! And free! I would advise collecting on a day after some dry weather as mine are currently on the radiators and my house smells very woody!

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My own creation! I’m sure the children will do better, I will keep you updated on how the use them!

A brush with fame – male teachers in Early Years

After twittering I thought I would share my brush with fame a few years ago in regards to being a man and being in Early Years.

My brother (also a teacher) phoned me to tell me I was in the paper! In all the papers!

The only man under the age of 25 working in a state run nursery setting!

My initial sense of excitement was tinged with sadness at this fact, but the hell with that, I was an ambassador! I leader of children, of men, of all good and righteous.

Of course this news article was facebooked, emailed to parents, shared with friends, colleagues and any passers by willing to listen.  Surely this would lead to books, movie deals and of course put me in good stead for the next elections.

After sharing this article with the world I read it in full…and this is when my 5 minutes of fame was shattered:

“Only man under 25….terrible state of affairs…Jamie Wilson was said to be shocked but proud…”

My name is NOT Jamie Wilson, not even close. I was NOT quite as young as him. I was NOT quite as handsome as him.  I was NOT him.  I had been forgotten! After my initial outrage I laughed about it and not too long after I turned 25.  The follow up article in Nursery World was a bit of a blow, but each day it became easier and soon I was only slightly bitter.

You can imagine the stick I received from everyone for my showing off but it taught me that fame is fleeting, especially when it was never about you haha!

I never got in contact with Jamie Wilson, if anyone can find him on Twitter let me know, here is one of the original articles (which states his name at the beginning, much less confusing I feel!)

My children’s favourite games

Having seen a different version of a class favourite on Twitter I thought I’d post my children’s top 3 favourite circle games!

1) Isn’t it funny that a bear likes honey

Children make a circle sitting down, one child is chosen to be the bear along with a noisy honeypot (pot of pebbles)

We sing:

“Isn’t funny that a bear likes honey, a bear likes honey, a bear likes honey, isn’t it funny a bear likes honey, buzz, buzz, buzz I wonder why s/he does, go to sleep Mr/Mrs Bear!”

The child closes their eyes and the noisy honeypot is given to a one of the children in the circle.

“Hands behind our back, wake up Mr/Mrs bear someone has stolen your honeypot!”

The bear then has 3 guesses and the person with the pot becomes the bear.

2) Little Ladybird

In a circle standing holding hands, one child crouched in the middle as the ladybird and we sing:

“Little ladybird sitting on a stone, crying, crying crying because s/he’s all alone, rise up ladybird wipe those tears away, come and choose a friend who you’d like to play (with!)”

The ladybird chooses a friend as we sing “la la la” to the tune of little ladybird.

3) Potentially their favourite of all, the washing machine game (adapted from the parachute game)

Children stand in a circle holding hands, one in the middle and we say:

“In goes the washing powder (pretend to pour it in) in goes the conditioner (again pour it in!)”

Then we sing:

“Round and round the washing machine goes (we move rotate around the child) round and round it gooooes, we’re going to wash _____ up so they’ll have nice clean cloooothes”

Now for the exciting bit, we count “1,2,3” and whoosh into the child in the middle whilst holding hands 3 times, and then spin dry them by whizzing around in a circle.


Rhyme, taking turns, building relationships and most importantly fun had by all!  Bar the last game I can’t take any credit, all goes to my ex excellent Nursery back down South!

Formative Assessment – How we do it

I went on an excellent course today and assessment came up.  I was hearing horror stories of what other Early Years teachers were “expected” to do by assessment co-ordinators, head teachers, EYFS leaders, that lady from county who came in 3 years ago and said X,Y but never seemingly Z.

So let’s put some things straight, starting with some quotes from the new(ish) Early Years Foundation Stage Profile Handbook:

Reliable and accurate assessment is based primarily on the practitioner’s knowledge of the child gained predominantly from observation and interaction in a range of daily activities and events.

We are finally trusted to know our children which is nice.  There is no set expectation of the gathering of evidence either…I have know settings to be judged outstanding with a folder full of photos and a strong knowledge of their children.  Basically if you can sit down with anyone and knowledgeably describe where they are and where they are going, I feel with the support of evidence, then you are set.

Throughout my time in Nursery and Reception I have been working hard with my colleagues to find an accurate and concise way to assess our children throughout the year.  Although our system is by no way perfect, I feel it helps to keep the balance between accurate and MEANINGFUL assessment and having a life.

Each child has a set of these in their evidence book.  They are the Development Matters statements from birth to ELG’s double sided to total 4 sheets.  We highlight in a different colour each half term and progress is tracked on individual and class trackers.  We may move to an electronic system September 2013 providing the workload/layout is similar.

From these we can show the progress half termly, keep a track of any dips and use them to help plan our Continuous Provision.

The Development Matters statements.  We only highlight each one once we have three pieces of evidence cross referenced with a quote from the bible and including appropriate GPS co-ordinates.  Oh wait no, nowhere does it say you need to do that.  We highlight each statement WHEN THE CHILD HAS ACHIEVED IT!  As we use a different colour each half term there is no need to date, tick or otherwise add to your workload.  The observations in the evidence books are also bubbled in the colour of the half term and referenced as such “PSED 2 – 30/50, UW 1 – 40/60.

As I say you may well have a better system (if so please share!) but this seems to work for us and seems a hell of a lot better than what some poor people are being forced to do.

In regards to the quantity of observations we do and how we do them well we have scrutinised that thoroughly as well.  No longer do we feel the need to follow each children around once a half term with a A4 piece of paper and a clipboard to gain a “long observation”.  A long observation is any observation that isn’t a snapshot.  I may observe a child over a whole day dipping in and out, and you could record this with photographs, paper, Ipad, video or good old fashioned post-it notes.  We have recently begun using templates with the condensed Characteristics of Effective Learning on, to help us see where that child is,  they look like this.  These do not need typing up afterwards!

Back to quantity, or more importantly quality.  I have yet to find and EYFS advisor who can shed any light on this but in my Nursery setting we worked on trying to get one QUALITY observation  of each child a week.  I believe that if you make sure you are actually engaging with the children in their play/play based experiences then you may get more or less, but that brings us back to the quote at the top.  As long as you know your children and where they are going, however you do your assessments/observations is irrelvant.  I personally can’t remember which numbers each of my thirty children can recognise so I keep a record, if you can, why would you?

Basically we now have the freedom and most importantly the trust from the government do know our children and it’s about time we all got that same trust from everyone else.

Stickers versus Intrinsic Reward

My forthcoming third post requires involves my thoughts on stickers given as rewards so rather than get distracted there I thought I would put it down here.

In the distant past as a student teacher I remember using stickers as a reward tool much as anything else.  “Ooh let me see who is sitting nicely so I can give them a sticker”  Then in my final year I was introduced to extrinsic and intrinsic rewards, the former being for example a sticker and the latter being the sense of pride that occurs from success.  Stickers, I was told, undermined the development of children’s ability to feel and recognise success independently and enjoy the more powerful intrinsic reward.  Right! No more stickers when I’m teaching! “Ooh let me see who is sitting nicely!”

This was something that I believed in for a very long time, stickers only being dispensed when the most gratuitous verbal celebrations didn’t quite hit the spot. That is until recently…

I introduced challenge cards into my Reception class (the focus of my next post!) and the concept of stickers for reward on the completion of a challenge came up.  No, no, no my children don’t need stickers, these 4 and 5 year olds should simply be filled with the warm glow of a job well done…

I then came to realise my children have incredibly busy and diverse days and that success gained from a challenge card, making a new friend or indeed eating at least some part of the their lunch were to them small waves in an ocean of events.  Furthermore they either lacked the energy, memory or vocabulary to share these successes with their parents or carers at the end of a long day.  As such I realised the power of stickers, as badges of honour to act as an aide memoire for the children to share their achievements with friends, parents and indeed any poor unsuspecting visitor in school.

As such my children now self regulate the collection of their own stickers (sounds like a joke but it does work, more in next post!) and receive them from the teachers in the class when they achieve.

The amount of stickers doled out in my class may still be far fewer than others (no sticker reward charts for example, I find they reward the children who do the “right thing” not encourage those who don’t) but I do know see the importance of them as medals of success that allow the children to say “I did that really well” and remember what “that” was.

In regards to the issue of them falling off jumpers before the end of the day I have found super glue works a treat.  How do stickers work in your setting?