High Five: Forward to Quality – Improved early years outcomes through support and challenge

Themes this local practice example relates to:

  • Early Years
  • General resources

Basic details

Organisation submitting example

Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council

Local authority/local area:

Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council


The context and rationale

The idea was to build on Rochdale’s ‘Children Deserve Quality’ award through a High Five: Forward to Quality toolkit. There was an opportunity, with the implementation of the Early Years Foundation Stage guidance, to build on positive relationships and support our private, voluntary and independent (PVI) early years childcare settings. The aim was to support them to deliver quality care, learning and development which enabled practitioners to take ownership of the process, was monitored and moderated, led to improved outcomes for children and families and improved Ofsted judgements for settings through SMARTER local authority support. The aim was also to increase the skill of practitioners by improving their summative and formative assessment/tracking skills and planning for children’s next steps based on identified gaps. 

Description of idea

Rochdale already had a quality award, ‘Children Deserve Quality’, but this was now out of date with the implementation of the Early Years Foundation Stage guidance. An intervention programme was needed to raise practitioner awareness of what ‘quality’ looks like, and ultimately professional pride, through a clear and measurable progression route. It was important that this process would become part of everyday practice and not an additional burden, and that it would set a high, yet achievable, goal for settings to work towards; whilst recognising that ‘good’ settings would appreciate a tool which would support them to get even better. Rochdale also wanted the self-evaluation to become recognised by parents as an indicator of quality and for the document to reflect the key role parents play in their child’s learning and development. This process would need a robust verification system to ensure the accuracy of the self-evaluation and the maintenance of level of practice achieved whilst recognising that ‘good’ settings would appreciate a tool which would support them to get even better. A Self-evaluation Toolkit – High Five – Forward to Quality was launched in Rochdale in September 2008. Please contact the C4EO team at C4EO team at the NFER if you would like to see the toolkit.

Background

In 2008 Rochdale was not performing well in comparison with its statistical neighbours in relation to childcare Ofsted grades and EYFSP (Early Years Foundation Stage Profile) outcomes; with many children arriving at school unable to meet basic standards. Rochdale Early Foundation Stage Profile (REFSP) outcomes were not good either, many settings were not engaging with the profile and a number of settings were causing concern due to the low level of attainment of their children. EPPE evidence (2007) was confirming how crucial high quality childcare is, particularly for children from deprived backgrounds.

After looking at various tools available Rochdale decided to pilot ‘Moving On’ (a quality improvement document from Cheshire). ‘Moving On’ gives clear guidance to settings on where they were and what they had to do to improve, with a view to updating the content to take account of all elements of the EYFS. The assessment tool also had to support practitioners in completing the Ofsted Self-Evaluation Form (SEF) and reflect priorities and systems specific to Rochdale. 

Aims

1. To improve quality in all areas of practice in early years settings in Rochdale and therefore improve outcomes for children.
2. To encourage early years settings to engage with Rochdale’s assessment tool the REFSP (Rochdale Early Foundation Stage Profile 2003), and moderation.
3. To improve the working of the early years team by making it SMARTER, moving away from ad hoc support to a role of ‘support and challenge’ in line with the quality document and standards.
4. To have a measurable system of judging settings – in line with the Code of Practice for the delivery of the three and four year old flexible entitlement for which we were a pathfinder pilot authority.
5. To raise the profile of non-maintained settings within the maintained sector to lead to more collaborative working in the future.
6. To provide quality foundations for all children in Rochdale, regardless of the setting they attend, to give them the best start to their school lives and their future life chances.

Outcomes

1. Improved early years outcomes for children based on EYFSP data and REFSP data.
2. Improved Ofsted judgements of PVI early years and childcare settings.
3. Improved ‘rating’ of settings and therefore reduced level of support needed evident through annual Professional Development criteria rating score.
4. Improved High Five stage achieved.
5. Higher engagement of both maintained and non-maintained settings in collaborative early years events.

The practice

At the outset a Steering Group was established within Sure Start including:

• Sure Start Team 
• Advisory Teacher
• Registration and Childcare Standards Officer
• Early Years Advisor – Welfare Requirements
• Early Years Advisor – Learning and Development
• Childcare Development Officer – Out of School Provision.

The role of the Steering Group was to oversee the piloting of the ‘Moving On’ document with ten settings in order to evaluate its success. 

Development of High Five

The Steering Group evaluated the pilot and decided to develop a self-evaluation tool for Rochdale using ‘Moving On’ as a starting point but mirroring the sections of the Ofsted SEF, which would provide a familiar structure to the content for practitioners, updating the descriptors to include the EYFS (including Welfare Requirements) and Rochdale’s priority areas: outdoor opportunities for all children, visits, use of REFSP, and moderation meetings. 

The writing of the content of the document was shared between a range of professionals including:

Advisory team
Registration and Childcare Standards Officer
Play development
School Improvement Service Consultant for Statutory Assessment
Childminder
Out of School
Business support
Welfare Requirement
Area SENCO team
Health Visitor
Speech and Language therapists
Safeguarding officers
National Strategies Leads on Early Years and Communication and Language.

These professionals constructed self-evaluation frameworks for their specific areas of expertise. Each self-evaluation framework consists of statements for three levels of quality one, three and five with five being the highest. This led to the naming of the document ‘High Five’. Once these grids had been completed, they were shared with the wider ‘High Five’ team and statements adjusted following discussion. 

Following feedback from the ‘Moving On’ pilot, the ‘High Five’ Steering Group recognised that moderation of the statements could be an issue; with settings either over or under-evaluating their practice. There was also discussion about the descriptors and applying them to different ‘rooms’ in group settings. Whilst it was recognised that certain descriptors are easier to apply to certain age groups of children, it was decided that the ‘lowest’ quality of practice observed in any setting should determine the stage awarded to that setting. This gave the advantage of encouraging settings to use peer support to support their own staff in making improvements and ensured that quality was not compromised. 

Due to the very different levels of experience evident in the settings, it was decided that the most practical, supportive and efficient way to implement this scheme was with guided support. 

Since one of the aims of ‘High Five’ was to improve quality measured by Ofsted judgements, two levels of support were identified: ‘intensive’ one-to-one support for settings from an advisory teacher and ‘group support’ through supportive cluster group meetings to be led by Children’s Centre teachers and delivered in five Centres across the Borough. Settings identified to receive ‘intensive’ one-to-one support were those due Ofsted inspections before July 2010.

Initially, it was proposed to work through the document chronologically but, under the new EYFS Ofsted framework, several settings in Rochdale were failing on the Leadership and Management element of their practice, so, in response, leadership and management became the focus of the first cluster meeting.

The document was launched through briefing sessions delivered to owners and managers of early years settings (including out of school provision and childminders), to explain the self-evaluation tool, Rochdale’s commitment to it through the reorganisation of early years support, and the expectations of commitment from them. Initially, the toolkit was regarded as ‘extra work’ but as it has become established in Rochdale, and due to reductions in the team supporting the document, it has become highly respected by practitioners who value the guidance it gives them in self-improvement and appreciate the improvement this knowledge has made to their Ofsted grades.

The Steering Group continues in a reduced capacity consisting of:

• Early Years and Childcare Advisory Team Manager
• Registration and Childcare Standards Officer
• Private Day Nursery owner
• Playgroup EYP practitioner
• Early Years Advisory Teacher supporting Childminders.

A key aim of the implementation of ‘High Five’ was the SMARTER working of the advisory team. This involved the reorganisation of the team to work on a geographical cluster model with an advisory teacher and early years’ advisor supporting all PVI settings in one geographical area of the local authority. The advisory team moved from a central location to a base in a children’s centre within their cluster area.

The ongoing management of the quality improvement scheme is supported through a Quality Sub-group consisting of the leads for each geographical cluster plus the Registration and Childcare Standards Officer, Early Years and Childcare Advisory Team Manager and a representative from the Sure Start Training Team.

The quality group meets to evaluate each cluster meeting and to decide on the content of the next one. During the first cycle, the descriptors were discussed at the meeting to moderate consistency of interpretation within the team and highlight any potential difficulties. In cycles two and three it has focused much more on the training and sharing of good practice elements of High Five. The sub-group decides on handouts and information to be shared to support practitioners in making improvements in the focus area, ensuring consistency of cluster meeting content.

The annual cycle of delivery of the cluster meetings is shown in the following diagram:


Year 1 – supported self-evaluation
Year 2 – discussion and training from a range of professionals appropriate to the content of the section e.g. Safeguarding – LADO (Local Authority Designated Officer for Safeguarding)
Year 3 – sharing good practice, discussion, questions and workshops
Year 4 – examples of outstanding practice – raising the bar beyond Five for settings who want the challenge.

Termly review meetings are also held with all professionals with an interest or involvement in ‘High Five’. At these meetings feedback is shared in an open and honest forum, including feedback from Rochdale Day Nursery Association (RDNA), Rochdale Playgroup Association (RPA), the Childminder Network and Out of School Club Network. This feedback has resulted in a number of changes to the process of ‘High Five’, including:

Issue Raised and Changes Implemented

All cluster meetings are held in the evening – some settings would prefer the option of a day time cluster.Clusters alternate in each area – day time then evening with an option for settings to attend a preferred cluster elsewhere

Settings receiving one-to-one support feel that they are missing out on the networking opportunity provided at the cluster. All settings invited to attend clusters, one-to-one support stopped. Clusters are now the forum for the exchange of all Sure Start and Rochdale information with settings.

Unannounced visits for verification purposes are not productive as the relevant people are not available.Unannounced visits replaced with appointments

Settings raised the issue of too many action plans. They had actions from ‘High Five’ verifications and action plans for improvement from the advisory team. The actions from ‘High Five’ verifications have become the action plans for the settings. Verification is planned to an annual cycle covering all areas of EYFS practice.

Some settings at a high level of practice did not appreciate the supported self-evaluation during the first cycle of ‘High Five’. The delivery of the annual cycle of support has been decided through the Steering Group with all participants able to contribute. See diagram on previous page.

Attendance at ‘High Five’ clusters varied with some settings with lower levels of practice choosing not to attend. Attendance at ‘High Five’ is now determined through the rating of a setting during their professional development meeting. It is formalised through a Service Level Agreement.

Rochdale has a cluster for EYPs. Some universal settings, mainly playgroups, complained that they were excluded because there was no requirement for them to have an EYP and they did not have one. Universal settings are invited to attend the EYP cluster whether they employ an EYP or not.

Support
Settings receive support for implementation and roll out through attendance at a cycle of cluster meetings through the year. These are alternated day and evening at practitioners’ request. ‘High Five’ meetings take place in Children’s Centres and are attended by providers, including childminders, and early years co-ordinators (curriculum leads) within Children’s Centres. The format is tightly managed and comprises an update on current policy, issues and information, actions and recommendations from recent Ofsted inspections, EYP network and presentations. This enables the central team to be confident that we have rolled out consistent information to everybody across early years and childcare. 

A professional development meeting takes place annually between the advisory teacher, adviser and owner/manager of the setting. Background information is collected about the setting, including the safeguarding officer, management committee, staff turnover, Ofsted grade, numbers in age groups, Special Education Needs (SEN), Looked after Children (LAC), gender, summer born, use of Every Child a Talker (ECAT) monitoring tool for language. 

The use of ‘High Five’ has transformed the way in support to settings is delivered and provides the base for all our support. The ‘High Five’ score informs the central team as to the setting’s level of need for support e.g. universal, targeted or intensive. Providers are now challenged from a consistent evidence base and ensure the maintenance of quality achieved or work with settings to ensure quality improvement.

Assessment and verification

The ‘High Five’ verification process mirrors the content of the ‘High Five’ clusters. For example in September the cluster will focus on Leadership and Management, in December the verification cycle will begin with a focus on Leadership and Management. This cycle allows the setting to receive the content of the cluster, have time to work on the areas they have identified as needing improvement and then have their self-evaluation verified. At this stage the appropriate certificate is awarded or any actions are identified. The verification is carried out by a member of the advisory team who does not support the setting, allowing more robust challenge to take place. The verifier will share necessary actions with a setting. These actions then become the focus of the work of the early years and childcare advisor supporting the setting.

Links with parents

Links with parents are encouraged throughout the ‘High Five’ document with all sections having parents named in descriptors. Feedback from a practitioner questionnaire stated:

“Parents must be involved in the implementation of High Five or we wouldn’t be fulfilling criteria.” – Comment from a PVI practitioner.

A parents’ leaflet has been produced by the High Five steering group to inform settings of the ‘High Five’ toolkit and to explain the stages that settings can achieve. Recently a setting in Rochdale, on achieving certificates at stage five for all sections of ‘High Five’ was featured in the local newspaper.

Evidence and evaluation - making a difference to children, young people and families

Aims 1 and 2:

• To improve quality in all areas of practice in early years settings in Rochdale through improving outcomes for children and for settings.

• To encourage early years settings to engage with Rochdale’s assessment tool the REFSP (Rochdale Early Foundation Stage Profile 2003) and moderation.

Outcomes:

• Improved early years outcomes for children based on EYFSP data and REFSP (Rochdale Early Foundation Stage Profile) National Indicator (NI) - 72 children with a good level of development 78 points in EYFSP with 6+ in PSED and CLLD of Rochdale and Statistical neighbours from 2008 to 2011.
• Rochdale Early Foundation Stage Profile termly trackers introduced in ‘High Five’ clusters to monitor children’s progress and target support at settings historically showing low progress. Improvement identified in all cluster areas from 0.5 point improvement (Middleton) to 1.6 point improvement (Heywood).

Outcome 2
Improved Ofsted judgements of PVI early years and childcare settings:

• September 2008, 44% of group childcare settings engaged with ‘High Five’ good and outstanding
• May 2012 83% of group childcare settings engaged with ‘High Five’ good and outstanding

• 13% of childminders engaged with ‘High Five’ have progressed from satisfactory to good
• 47% of childminders engaged with ‘High Five’ have progressed from good to outstanding

• 33% of childminders engaged with ‘High Five’ are outstanding
• 1% of childminders not engaged with ‘High Five’ are outstanding

• 83% of childminders engaged with ‘High Five’ are good or above
• 20% of childminders not engaged with ‘High Five’ are good or above

• As at August 2008 – pre-High Five Rochdale had the lowest percentage of good and outstanding Ofsted judgements compared with statistical neighbours. By March 2011, Rochdale had the highest percentage. 

Aims 3 and 4:

• To improve the working of the early years team by making it SMARTER, moving away from ad hoc support to a role of ‘support and challenge’ in line with the quality document and standards
• To have a measurable system of judging settings – in line with the Code of Practice for the delivery of the 3 and 4 year old flexible entitlement for which we were a pathfinder pilot authority.

Outcomes:

• Improved rating of settings and therefore reduced level of support needed evident through annual Professional Development criteria rating scale score The improvement in rating from First PDM to Second PDM equates to 60 less visits by the advisory team each year for EYFS quality improvement purposes. A saving of approximately 30 working days.

• Improved ‘High Five’ stage achieved. ‘High Five’ Stage achieved in each of three cycles. Only one setting has not made significant improvement.

• Between 2008 and 2011. there was a 59% reduction in the budget allocated for direct face to face work by the early years team.

Additional Aims
• To raise the profile of non-maintained settings within the maintained sector to lead to more collaborative working in the future.

• To provide quality foundations for all children in Rochdale, regardless of the setting they attend, to give them the best start to their school lives and their future life chances.

Outcomes:

• Joint maintained and non-maintained settings moderation events for the Rochdale Early Foundation Stage Profile took place in March 2012.
• Rochdale Early Years Transition Standards have been produced by a joint Local Authority and independent early years provider working group, in order to establish best practice and an entitlement for all Rochdale early years children.
• Following a successful early years’ transition meeting pilot in the Heywood cluster area 2011, transition meetings are planned across the local authority July 2012. Giving all schools and PVI settings the opportunity to meet, pass on assessment evidence and discuss the transition of individual children.
• Higher engagement of both maintained and non-maintained settings in collaborative early years’ events.

Qualitative evidence

‘High Five’ has also received positive feedback from practitioner questionnaires, review meetings, Quality Sub-Group Meeting and letters from pre-school groups and childminders.

Sustaining and replicating your practice

In order to maintain the practice Rochdale will sustain the following elements:

• Efficient Professional Dialogue
• Peer Support
• Self-sufficiency in striving for outstanding
• Self-sufficient practitioners.

COSTS

The development work has been completed from the Early Years and Childcare grant. Pushing of the boundaries is funded from the Early Intervention grant in terms of staffing. Costs are minimal and comprise low maintenance folders. Capital grant funding has been used to provide computers and internet access for all providers. Thus, information is provided by group email. Local Authority membership of the Early Years Foundation Stage Forum ensures that all information is available within the membership. Thus, practitioners are enabled to access information, resources and to engage in the forum.


STAFFING

• Staff deployed to the benefit of all children in settings

Improvement teams are now integrated with Children’s Centre teams and previous Children’s Centre teachers are now integrated and providing a wider offer across all PVI settings: maximizing the impact of their support to include all children attending settings, rather than concentrating support on children within the children’s centre provision.


• Efficient sharing of information

A key success has been that the clusters are used to deliver all information to providers and settings. This provides a robust, streamlined and efficient process providing universal and common messages. All existing networks are linked into clusters. A practitioner recently observed “If you turn up to the meeting you get all you need to hear.” Although there is no requirement for ‘universal’ settings to attend clusters there is a very high attendance rate from these settings who value the updates they receive and show the commitment which makes them universal.


LEARNING

You can achieve improved outcomes with fewer resources.

As a result of ‘High Five’ the following areas of learning have been identified:

• Efficiency and clarity of working
• The benefit of responding to practitioner feedback
• The importance of involving the whole staff team
• The benefit of knowledge of the local community
• The value of separate support and challenge roles
• The benefit of having in-house data systems
• The importance of naming
• Reaping the benefits
• Using strong foundations created to reap further benefits.

REPLICATION

Considerations to be made when replicating this process:

• Aims and Outcomes
• Support and Staffing
• Relevance of the toolkit to users
• Evaluation and development
• Secure involvement
• Involve and value partners
• Embed with existing providers establish as a norm with new providers
• Recognise, value and maintain achievement.

Golden threads:

• You can do it – promoting resilience
• Unite to succeed – the right support and the right time
• Prove it – making change happen
• From good to great – leadership, vision and embedding is key

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e. contactus@C4EO.org.uk

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