Pages 73 and 74
Evaluating the quality of early years education in school
1. Sources of evidence
259. Inspectors will particularly consider the intent, implementation and impact of the school’s early years curriculum. They will evaluate the impact that the quality of education has on children, particularly the most disadvantaged and those with SEND.
260. Inspectors will look at the achievement of children at the end of Reception over time, by the proportions reaching a good level of development. However, inspectors need to get beyond the data as quickly as possible to ascertain how well the curriculum is meeting children’s needs. This will be evident in how well children know and remember more. Inspectors need to make careful inferences about children’s current progress by drawing together evidence from a range of sources.
261. Inspectors will consider how well:
• leaders assure themselves that the aims of the early years curriculum are met and that it is sufficiently challenging for the children it serves
• staff ensure that the content, sequencing and progression in the areas of learning, particularly in the specific areas of reading, writing and number, and shape, space and measure, are secured
• staff teach children to read systematically by using synthetic phonics81 and books that match the children’s phonics knowledge
• staff develop children’s love of reading, through reading aloud and telling stories and rhymes
• children develop, consolidate and deepen their knowledge, understanding and skills across the areas of learning
• children demonstrate their attitudes and behaviours through the key characteristics of effective learning:
− playing and exploring
− active learning
− creating thinking and thinking critically
the content of the curriculum is taught in a logical progression, systematically and in a way that is explained effectively, so that it gives children the necessary foundations for the rest of their schooling.
81 Synthetic phonics teach children to recognise the sounds that individual letters and combinations of letters make. Pupils learn to blend these sounds together to read words. They go on to use this knowledge when writing. A systematic approach starts with the easiest sounds, progressing to the most complex.
• The effectiveness of early years meets all the criteria for good securely and consistently. In addition, the following applies.
• The curriculum provides no limits or barriers to the children’s achievements, regardless of their backgrounds, circumstances or needs. The high ambition it embodies is shared by all staff.
• The sharp focus on ensuring that children acquire a wide vocabulary, communicate effectively and acquire a knowledge of phonics gives them the foundations for future learning, especially in preparation for them to become confident and fluent readers.
• Over time, children consistently achieve highly, particularly those children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Those with SEND also achieve their full potential. Children successfully acquire the necessary foundations for the rest of their schooling.
• Children are highly motivated and are eager to join in. They share and cooperate well, demonstrating high levels of self-control and respect for others. Children consistently keep on trying hard, particularly if they encounter difficulties.
• The school’s approach to teaching early reading and phonics is systematic and effective in ensuring that all children learn to read words and sentences accurately.
82 Teaching should not be taken to imply a ‘top down’ or formal way of working. It is a broad term that covers the many different ways in which adults help young children learn. It includes their interactions with children during planned and child-initiated play and activities, communicating and modelling language, showing, explaining, demonstrating, exploring ideas, encouraging, questioning, recalling, providing a narrative for what they are doing, facilitating and setting challenges. It takes account of the equipment that adults provide and the attention given to the physical environment, as well as the structure and routines of the day that establish expectations. Integral to teaching is how practitioners assess what children know, understand and can do, as well as taking account of their interests and dispositions to learn (characteristics of effective learning), and how practitioners use this information to plan children’s next steps in learning and to monitor their progress.
• Staff are knowledgeable about how to teach systematic synthetic phonics and ensure that children practise their reading from books that match their phonics knowledge. They provide information to parents about how to help their children to read.
• Staff read to children in a way that excites and engages them, introducing new ideas, concepts and vocabulary.
o Children use their knowledge of phonics to read accurately. They read with increasing speed and fluency.
o Most children achieve the early learning goals, particularly in mathematics and literacy.
o Children develop their vocabulary and understanding of language across the seven areas of learning. They achieve well, particularly those children with lower starting points.
The effectiveness of the early years is likely to be inadequate if one or more of the following applies:
• A poorly designed and implemented curriculum does not meet children’s needs or provide the necessary foundations for the rest of their schooling.
• Leaders and/or staff have a poor understanding of the areas of learning they teach and the way in which young children learn.
• Assessment is overly burdensome. It is unhelpful in determining what children know, understand and can do.
• Children cannot communicate, read, spell phonically decodable words as well as they should, and do not have basic fluency in number and shape, space and measure.
• The attainment and progress of children, particularly those children who are disadvantaged, are consistently low and show little or no improvement, indicating that children are underachieving considerably.
Quality of education
272. Inspectors will focus primarily on the quality of education during a section 8 inspection of a good school. They will not be expected to cover all the criteria in the quality of education judgement. Instead, they will focus on a few key areas. Inspectors will:
• in primary schools, explore how well a broad range of subjects (exemplified by the national curriculum) is taught throughout each and all of Years 3−6. In primary schools where reading is weak, inspectors will focus first and foremost on reading
274. Inspectors will be clear that they are not able to gather the same depth of evidence on a section 8 inspection as a full team conducting a section 5 inspection, and they will not aim to do so. Nevertheless, they will always:
• observe a sample of lessons, following the guidance set out in Part 1 of this handbook (paragraphs 84-87). This will be a smaller sample than that gathered on a section 5 inspection
• scrutinise a sample of pupils’ work, following the guidance set out in Part 1 of this handbook (paragraphs 88-90). This will be a smaller sample than that gathered on a section 5 inspection
• interview teachers, pupils, leaders and those responsible for governance, following the guidance in paragraphs 91–102
• explore how well pupils read, enabling them to access the full curriculum.
Applying the EIF to the teaching of early reading in infant, junior, primary and middle/lower schools
283. During all inspections of infant, junior, primary and lower middle schools, inspectors will focus on how well pupils are taught to read as a main inspection activity. They will pay particular attention to pupils who are reading below age- related expectations (the lowest 20%) to assess how well the school is teaching phonics and supporting all children to become confident, fluent readers.
284. Inspectors will listen to several low-attaining pupils in Year 1 to Year 3 read83 from unseen books appropriate to their stage of progress. They should also draw on information from the school’s policy for teaching reading, phonics assessments, phonics screening check results and lesson observations.
285. In reaching an evaluation against the ‘Quality of education’ judgement, inspectors will consider whether:
• the school is determined that every pupil will learn to read, regardless of their background, needs or abilities
• the school’s phonics programme matches or exceeds the expectations of the English national curriculum and early learning goals
• the school has clear expectations of pupils’ phonics progress term by term, from Reception to Year 2, and the school’s phonics programme aligns with these expectations
• the sequence of reading books shows a cumulative progression in phonics knowledge that is matched closely to the school’s phonics programme.
83 Wherever possible, inspectors should listen to children read in a classroom or in an open area with which pupils are familiar. The length of time a pupil has attended the school should be taken into consideration.
• the school has developed sufficient expertise in the teaching of phonics and reading that ensures consistency from one year to the next
• the assessment of pupils’ phonics progress is sufficiently frequent and detailed to identify any pupil who is falling behind the programme’s pace, so that targeted support can be given immediately
• reading, including the teaching of systematic, synthetic phonics, is taught from the beginning of Reception
• teachers have a clear understanding of how pupils learn to read
• teachers give pupils sufficient practice in reading and re-reading books that match the grapheme-phoneme correspondences they know, both at school and at home
• staff read aloud stories, poems, rhymes and non-fiction that develop pupils’ vocabulary, language comprehension and love of reading.
• all pupils, including the weakest readers, make sufficient progress to meet or exceed age-related expectations
• pupils are familiar with and enjoy listening to a wide range of stories, poems, rhymes and non-fiction.