Sian is the Early Years Lead Teacher at Fairlawn Primary School. The inner-city school is a relatively new school, having opened originally in 2015 on the site of a Victorian grammar school and is part of the Venturers Trust. There are two reception classes with forty-six children and five staff, two teachers, two early years practitioners and a practitioner who offers one to one support. The children come from a variety of backgrounds and twenty percent have English as an additional language.
Whilst there are two reception classes, when the staff felt the children were ready, they merged into one obviously happy group of children who have the most amazing learning experiences, both indoors and outside, with fantastic outdoor provision. Sian explains how successful this strategy is ‘we have the new baby chicks in one class today and this is encouraging some of the shy children from the other class to go through and explore the other resources available, being motivated by coming to see the chicks’.
Prior to working at Fairlawn, Sian had been involved with the Bristol Standard at other settings. There has been a change to the Early Years staff team at the school in the last couple of years and the previous team had already completed their first full submission. Sian became the lead on the settings first interim submission, taking over the Bristol Standard journey for the school. Sian explains that ‘the team who have completed this first interim have been the same throughout and I feel that we have established a really firm foundation that we can build on as we move forward’.
Due to the change in staffing Sian and her team felt that the original priority targets from the full submission didn’t reflect their journey; an original target involved digital recording of data and Sian and her team felt that the switch to paper learning journeys would be more beneficial. ‘so, we set some new priority targets based on the same dimensions and then looked at how we could achieve them. We looked at the reflective questions and then looked at areas to develop, using ideas from the Bristol Standard folder. We would have a team meeting each term to update our journey. We’d have a planning board and would split up the responsibilities’
Sian explains that one of the most positive outcomes from doing the Bristol Standard was that ‘as a team we have reflected on our practice and made changes that were needed, I suppose that one of the best outcomes was how my team have grown in their practice.’ The team worked together looking at the difference between continuous and enhanced provision within the physical environment, considering what were the continuous resources and whether they were organised and accessible and then considering how the enhanced provision could extend these further. Sian describes how ‘the Bristol Standard has helped us reflect on that as a team, so that we were all on the same page, it’s developed a consistency within us. The reflective questions guided our conversations to develop a consistent pedagogy or practice between us which has steered us and given us direction to reflect on and improve our practice together in a very holistic way.’
The target which has had the biggest impact is from Dimension 6, Observation, Assessment and Planning, where the setting changed from digital learning journeys and data recording back to paper learning diaries. Sian explains that as a result of this ‘we have upskilled our early years practitioners. They are using this document to look at the objectives, they have responsibility for their key children, so they’re making observations with purpose, it’s more meaningful. They’re looking for gaps in learning, they know where their child is, they know how to extend them, so it’s really upskilled our practitioners into getting a really good understanding of where our children are and what their next steps are.’.
As a result of the change to paper learning diaries the benefits to the children are that ‘they have made good academic progress, because we have had the opportunity to really reflect on their provision, the resources are more accessible for them and with regard to the learning diaries they are more involved, they are part of that journey and that links to the prime areas, that self-confidence, self-awareness, they are part of their learning journey. Their social and emotional wellbeing would have been impacted on, being able to reflect on the progress they’ve made themselves.’. Sian continues to explain how involving parents and sharing the learning diaries with them benefits the children ‘the parents are looking through them, seeing what the children are up to and can continue those conversations at home, having a better awareness of what they are doing in school, so they can link that to what they are doing at home. So that will have a positive impact on the children.’ A further benefit is that the adults and practitioners are upskilled ‘when they’re playing they’ll be directed or led in a more meaningful way based on their individual next steps and their own journey.’
The Bristol Standard journey has obviously been a really positive experience for Sian and her team and she would advise everyone to ‘Just do it! Don’t be put off by the amount of work, do it!’ and acknowledges that with the introduction of e-submissions it is a much less labour intensive experience. Sian’s advice to others would be to ‘absolutely do it. Do a little at a time and delegate within your team’. The reflective questions proved really useful and Sian’s top tip would be to ‘start with those reflective questions to celebrate what you do already and that will naturally highlight what you now need to do. Although it’s additional work, it’s not really additional to what you do anyway, it’s planning and assessment, your vision and your aims, you want all of that anyway.’
Sian is a great advocate of the Bristol Standard and really understands what a beneficial asset it is to a setting ‘Everything that is in the Bristol Standard is everything I believe is good within early years practice. All the dimensions are the jigsaw pieces and put together they underpin really strong early years practice. It also gives you the opportunity to reflect, I really love those reflective questions.’. Sian explains that she uses the dimensions as a framework to work to in her role as an Early Years Lead ‘As part of my action plan I use those areas to link into our next steps, assessment and planning, the physical environment, staffing and leadership, if you can link into all of the dimensions you’ve got some really good early years practice.’. In the future Sian would like to promote and use the Bristol Standard with other settings within the trust ‘Moving forward I would like to use it as a tool or framework to support the other settings within our trust. There are seven other settings within our trust and it would be good to use as a tool to support and celebrate what’s really good for them and to share that and identify their priorities and next steps’.
Sian describes the Bristol Standard journey as a real celebration of all that we do and finishes by proclaiming ‘We love being part of the Bristol Standard family!’