There is often much confusion around next steps, such as, how do you decide what next steps should be, how many should each child have and how often to do these. I will try to ease the confusion in my latest blog.
Under the EYFS 2017, you are required to observe, assess and plan for each child’s development. There is not any formal guidance to aid practitioners with implementing this so knowledge of child development becomes very poignant. Then it is often down to the individual setting to decide how to record and monitor each child’s development. This can cause uncertainty as practitioners search for ways of doing this and wade through the numerous ideas used amongst other settings.
In order to create next steps, you first need to know where the child’s development was and where they are now. Then you can decide where to take them next. You need the full picture as children develop at different rates. Next steps must be achievable otherwise it will look as though a child is not achieving, when in reality they are likely to be achieving but in smaller steps than you have intended.
Making next steps achievable means that children will meet these in the near future. Sometimes it could be a week or 2 (such as if a child quickly grasps toilet training or using a cup), other times it could be 1-3 months (which would be most expected next steps). Occasionally, it may take longer (such as when a child is struggling with particular skills like sharing, putting on their shoes or climbing stairs).
It is important to remember how children develop. You are the educator but are not able to make a child talk for instance. Hence why it is so important to provide a wide range of experiences, opportunity to repeat these, give children time to learn, and play and talk to them.
Some practitioners like to use the development matters as a next step checklist tool. It is a useful tool but was not created for this purpose. Many of the next steps can be broken down into smaller parts. For instance, ‘holds cup with both hands and drinks without much spilling’. This can be broken down into ‘introduce child to an open cup’, ‘uses cup but spills often’, then onto the statement. Breaking down the statements can be used for every child but are particularly useful for children who are developing slower than expected and for those with SEND. This is how to make all next steps achievable.
Deciding on how many next steps to create is another dilemma. There is no right or wrong answer. Again, you are looking at what is achievable. Having 1 for each of the 7 areas of learning and development can be overwhelming for you and the child, as well as a lot to remember when you multiply this by the number of children you have on roll. 1 for each of the prime areas is ample for children under 2 and for many under 3’s. However, as children develop skills and interests in other areas, such as imaginative play, counting or reading, you will begin to create new next steps.
Focusing on areas of interest, where a child is progressing well and an area that needs help, will help to guide you on the number of next steps. These 3 things automatically create 3 next steps which I believe to be achievable. If a child is developing as expected, you may choose to have a long-term next step running in the background, such as a self-help skill that is age appropriate but you know they find tricky, like putting on a coat. If a child is developing as a more able child, you may choose to have 5 next steps running, 1 being a long term one. I would not choose any more than this as you can lose focus. Remember, you need to create the enabling environment for each individual to practice their next steps. Just 3 children a day, each with 5 next steps, is a lot of resources and activities to be made available.
Once a child has fully mastered the next step, you take them on to a further next step.
What is important:
- you know where each child was developmentally
- you know where each child is developmentally
- you know where each child is going developmentally
- keep small, achievable next steps
- each tiny step is a next step in a child’s development
Please note, this may differ according to your pedagogy or ethos. Some practitioners provide next steps in the moment, so these are continually refreshed and practiced. However, practitioners will still know where they are taking the children next in order for them to reach their milestones.