Observing, Assessing and Planning Policy


  • To give each child a happy, positive and fun start to their nursery life in which they can establish solid foundations on which to expand and foster a deep love of learning;
  • To offer each child a wide range of new and exciting experiences and give them the opportunity to consolidate, explore and test them out along with their own, individual experiences;
  • To enable each child, through encouragement and high expectations, to develop, to the full, socially, physically, intellectually and emotionally.
  • To offer a structure for learning that has a range of starting points and unlimited opportunity for development;
  • To encourage children to develop independence within a loving, secure and friendly atmosphere;
  • To support children in building relationships through the development of social skills such as cooperation and sharing;
  • To help each child to recognise their own strengths and achievements through experiencing success and developing the confidence to work towards personal goals.

At The Old Fire Station Nursery we follow the curriculum as outlined in the Birth to five matters document. This clearly defines what we teach. The following policy details the specifics of our setting.

The Birth to five matters framework includes seven areas of learning and development, all of which are seen as important and interconnected but three areas are seen as particularly important for igniting children’s curiosity and enthusiasm for learning, for building their capacity to learn and form relationships and thrive (DfE 2014), they support children’s learning in all other areas, they are known as the prime areas.

The prime areas are:

  • Communication and Language – Listening and Attention, Understanding and Speaking
  • Physical Development – Moving and Handling and Self care
  • Personal, Social and Emotional Development – Making relationships, Managing feelings and behaviour and Self-confidence and Self-awareness.

The specific areas of learning develop essential skills and knowledge for children to participate successfully in society. The specific areas are:

  • Literacy – Reading and Writing
  • Mathematics – Numbers and Space, Shape and Measures
  • Understanding the World – People and communities, The world and Technology
  • Expressive Arts and Design – Exploring and using media and materials and Being Imaginative

Characteristics of Effective Learning

The Birth to five matters also includes the characteristics of effective teaching and learning. The Nursery staff plan activities within the Nursery base rooms with these in mind. They highlight the importance of a child’s attitude to learning and their ability to play, explore and think critically about the world around them.

The three characteristics are:

  • Playing and Exploring – engagement
    1. Finding out and exploring
    2. Playing with what they know
    3. Being willing to ‘have a go’
  • Active Learning – motivation
    1. Being involved and concentrating
    2. Keeping trying
    3. Enjoying achieving what they set out to do
  • Creating and Thinking Critically – thinking
    1. Having their own ideas
    2. Making links
    3. Choosing ways to do things

Teaching strategies

We ensure there is a balance of adult led and child-led activities across the day.  Although much of the time is spent with children self-selecting activities, the interaction between the adult and child is essential as the adult’s response to children builds understanding and therefore guides new learning. The adult’s role is to continually model, demonstrate and question what the child is doing. In some cases the adult will ask a child to come and complete a task or game with them; at other times they will participate in a child’s game, extending it where possible.

Play Learning through play is an important part of our ethos. We believe children learn best from activities and experiences that interest and inspire them. Using children’s interests as a starting point, we provide children with stimulating, active play experiences in which they can explore and develop their learning to help them make sense of the world. They have opportunities through their play to think creatively and critically alongside other children as well as on their own. They are able to practise skills, build upon and revisit prior learning and experience at their own level and pace. Play gives our children the opportunity to pursue their own interests and inspire those around them. The children learn to adapt, negotiate, communicate, discuss, investigate and ask questions. We believe it is important that adults take an active role in child- led play through observing, modelling, facilitating and extending their play. Getting the balance right between child-led play, which is controlled, and adult led activities is very important to us.


We include direct, carefully planned, adult led experiences for children in the form of structured adult led teaching and adult led group activities. These are particularly important in helping children to learn specific skills and knowledge and it is often through children’s play that we see how much of this learning children have understood and taken on.

Each day we follow a set routines. Baby Unit have their own routine and Main unit routine is more structured. We set aside times each day when the children come together to be taught in the more traditional sense, gathered together on the carpet as a class. During these times we focus on maths, literacy, phonics, discussions and stories. These sessions help to develop vital habits of learning: learning as a group, listening to the person speaking, taking turns to answer, sitting still etc.

Reading and listening to stories is an important part of our day. We want to make sure our children enjoy books. Every child is given their own book bag and children take a chosen book home to read with their parents.

Room organisation

Our rooms have defined areas with clearly labelled resources to ensure children can access them easily. Each room is set up in a way to provide children with experiences and activities in all of the seven areas of learning. We monitor the areas through continuous provision sheets, which enables us to continuously improve the areas. Rooms have a writing area, mathematics area, creative area, book corner, role play area, construction/small world area, and a group time area. A variety of activities are planned for and set up in the different areas each day.


We believe that the starting point for the planning process is to look at schemas, children’s interests and developmental stages. Staff plan in more detail on a daily basis using daily notes, observations and interactions with children to inform where the learning journey should move to. Practitioners must ensure that they use the information garnered from their observations to inform their planning. Planning is shared with parents, and we take their thoughts on board. We believe that choosing a next step in a child’s learning should not be a random action; it should be clear to others why the next step was chosen to benefit the child. Although a child’s key person is responsible for planning for their key children, other staff members provide an input whenever possible (please see our flowchart on assessments, observations and planning).

Assessment and Observations 

Assessment is an essential part of the learning and development of children in the Birth to five matters. It involves practitioners observing children to understand their level of achievement, interests and learning styles, and to then shape learning experiences for each child reflecting those observations.

On entry to Nursery we carry out starting point assessments for each child. All staff submit end of term termly assessments to the management team showing each child’s development across the areas of learning, for Babies and Little Bears are assessed on the prime areas and preschool children are assessed on all seven areas of leaning. Management then use this information to track each child’s development and the development of different cohorts. This information is also communicated through parents’ evenings, which are held twice a year.

Flowchart on Assessments, Observations and Planning


Observe children informally and note down any interests or schemas

Identify schemas, group ideas, interests and developmental needs
Start planning on board by noting the observed interest/schema in the middle as a starting point.

Plan some adult-led activities based on child’s interests/schemas with Extensions or Additional Support as required.

Record any WOW moments on a direct observation

Link to the areas in the Birth to five matters

Assess which range

Consider HOW the child learns, using the characteristics of effective learning

Use EYFS to determine appropriate next step in the child’s learning

Plan an activity using next steps

Carry out activity

Evaluate how effective

Child’s ideas lead to next step activity to be planned