Insights | Best practice in Early Years assessment


In this Educational Insights Series, experts from across the Wellington College group give advice, practical help and tips for parents who are keen to give further support for their children's learning. In this article from the series, Fiona Carter from Wellington College China discusses about baseline judgement in the Nest.

Fiona Carter

Director of Academics (Early Years)

From the senior leads in our school to our class teachers, systems to monitor the quality of teaching and learning in early years education are of paramount importance if children are to become learners for life. With this in mind, teachers in Tianjin bilingual kindergarten and TAs in the Nest are currently assessing their children, and we call it a Baseline judgement.

You may notice that we do not use the word "test" as this is neither an appropriate or accurate way of finding out what our young pupils know or can do. The assessment approach used is based on observing children within playful environments as this is the most effective way of making sure we know as much as possible about the child before planning their next steps in learning. 

There are times, of course, when open questioning or setting up a scenario or activity is necessary to support the child to share their knowledge and skills from the wide range of areas in which we want the children to develop. This is termed Responsible Pedagogy and when used purposefully, allows the teacher to judge the child as accurately as possible as well as identify their strengths and potential gaps in learning.

So, what do we assess?  

The first areas we assess are the levels of Wellbeing and Involvement in each child. For this, we use the Leuven Scales as our guide, incorporating a 1 to 5 rating scale, from low to high. We know that some children will appear to have low levels of both aspects as they start school and so will reassess children at the beginning of the next term to double-check that they have risen, once the child is more settled into Tianjin bilingual kindergarten routines and has made friends with their peers.

Everything we teach in the Early Years Education involves fostering what is known in our Framework as the Characteristics of Effective Learning. The role of these learning dispositions in supporting future attainment has been well researched, and the long-term effects of developing these traits are profound. Therefore, we need to observe them as part of our assessment process.

They are: Active Learning, Playing and Exploring and Creating and Thinking Critically and at the beginning of the school year, we aim to ensure that children have opportunities to show these characteristics as we make judgements on the knowledge and skills they have brought to school.

Finally, we make judgements on what children know and can do in the following areas of learning:

  • Personal, Social and Emotional development

  • Communication and Language in both Chinese and English

  • Physical Development

  • Literacy in Chinese and English

  • Mathematics

  • Understanding of the World which covers Science, Geography, History and IT

  • Expressive arts and design

Assessing all these areas of development at the same time ensures a holistic picture of each child plus allows the pupil to show us their interests, fascinations and what more they need to learn in their age group across the year.

Baseline judgements are then shared within year groups, checked for accuracy through professional discussions and then shared at senior leadership and Board level.  

As we know that all children are unique and develop at different rates, teachers will be continuously assessing their pupils across the year to ensure they are on track to fulfil their potential. 

Finally, it is important to note that the assessments we make and the data we collect serve a range of purposes to help us monitor the quality of what we provide to our pupils and their families. By analyzing the information on Involvement and the Characteristics of Effective Learning thoroughly, for example, we can check that children have a depth of understanding and that our teaching is motivating children to learn bilingually. Gaps analysis into levels of attainment shows us where we need to do more intentional teaching in play-based situations as well as how effectively we are in planning the learning environment.

And, of course, the assessments we undertake, form a vital part of our transition conversations for when your child moves to the next age group. If you would like to learn more about baseline judgement in the Nest, please feel free to contact us. 

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