OPAL – A Different Way to Look at assessment in the Early Years

“Stand aside for a while and leave room for learning, observe carefully what children do, and then if you have understood well, teaching will be different from before” (Loris Malaguzzi).

The Barnet Early Years Alliance (BEYA), a federation of three nursery schools in north London describe their settings as ‘places of possibility’: living spaces where children and childhood are honoured, their ideas and abilities valued. A place where children and adults are learning from each other. Where children are seen as individuals and achievements are celebrated.

OPAL stands for ‘Observation of Play and learning’ and the work that the Alliance has completed aims to bring back the joy of observing children in the Early Years.

The Alliance says that ‘Observing children in the early years should not be a chore. We decided to stand up to the increasing demands for paperwork and evidence with the aim of giving ourselves time to spend interacting and playing with our children, not testing them’.

About five years ago we became increasingly frustrated with the assessment systems that were available for the early years. We didn’t want to assess our children against long lists of predetermined statements. We didn’t want our practitioners spending their time highlighting statements or collecting ‘evidence’ from behind iPads. The data we were generating didn’t tell us the story behind the child.

We wanted to give back to our practitioners time we felt was wasted collecting unnecessary evidence. Who is this evidence for? We know that it is through our interactions that we get to know our children best. We believe that if we are behind an iPad capturing the moment, we cannot be part of the moment. We wanted to share and be a part of our children’s fascinations, their curiosities, the awe and wonder.

The Alliance is generously sharing the learning from the changes to assessment procedures in their schools. Join them for an hour on Tuesday 15 June at 16.00.

Cost £25 includes access to resources

This session will take place virtually on Microsoft Teams.

To book a place, please email earlyyearstraining@derby.gov.uk Who will contact you with booking details.

Coral Golding

Early Years Senior Quality Improvement Officer