Observation, Assessment and Planning Cycle

Quality Observation, Assessment and planning should be embedded in every day practice to build up an accurate picture of the unique child.

On-going formative assessment lies at the heart of early years practice. Effective Planning reflects, supports and extends individual children's current interests, learning styles, enthusiasms and the stage of development of each child.

'Assessment plays an important part in helping parents, carers and practitioners to recognise children's progress, understand their needs, and to plan activities and support.' (EYFS Section 2.1)


Assessment plays an important part in helping parents, carers and practitioners to recognise children’s progress, understand their needs, and to plan activities and support.

Ongoing assessment (also known as formative assessment) is an integral part of the learning and development process. 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.

A few tips for assessment: 

  • In their interactions with children, practitioners should respond to their own day-to-day observations about children’s progress, and observations that parents and carers share.
  • Assessment should not entail prolonged breaks from interaction with children, nor require excessive paperwork.
  • Paperwork should be limited to that which is absolutely necessary to promote children’s successful learning and development.
  • Parents and/or carers should be kept up-to-date with their child’s progress and development.
  • Practitioners should address any learning and development needs in partnership with parents and/or carers, and any relevant professionals.

Further information about the teaching and learning requirements, as well as the assessments needed, can be found in pages 1-15 of the Early Years Foundation Stage Framework.

All assessments made should be based on observations using early years outcomes.

For more information about specific assessments, for example, the 2 year old progress visit Foundation Years website.

Celebrating children's learning

The large majority of early years practitioners use the non-statutory 'Development Matters' as a guide to planning for children's progress in the EYFS.

The East London Partnership has worked with a group of nursery schools across London on the Celebrating Children's Learning project, to develop materials to support the training and development of practitioners to develop the quality of assessment, and to improve the accuracy and robustness of assessment across the early years.

Early Years Careers published this article on the importance of starting points. You might want to consider how you ensure you have an ‘accurate assessment of children’s skills, knowledge and understanding’ for children returning to you after the summer holiday if your provision is term time only. 

Waltham Forest Council Teaching and Learning Audit

The Statutory Framework for the EYFS sets the standards that all early years providers must meet to ensure that children learn and develop well, ensures children are kept healthy and safe and ensures that children have the knowledge and skills they need to start school.

The WF Musts Audit helps EYFS Leaders and Managers to evaluate how well their provision is meeting the EYFS Statutory Requirements regarding Learning and Development and Assessment. 


Observing children in the early years is of central importance in ensuring good high quality provision. Observations take place naturally during everyday activities and interactions. Some observations undertaken may relate to a need to find out about child, resources or spaces in a general way, other observations may be specifically carried out for particular reasons. Overall all adults (staff and parents) should have a shared understanding of, and commitment to, the need for on-going observations in supporting and promoting children's learning and development.

You can download below two template documents produced by the Early Years team in Waltham Forest:


In the moment planning

'In the moment' planning is all about capturing the children's current interests at that particular time. There is no need to plan in advance as this form of planning is based on what the child is doing and practitioners need to interact with the child to build on what the child is already doing (in the moment).

Practitioners need the necessary skills to identify the child's interests and know when and how to intervene to help move the child's learning on.

Planning and evaluating children's learning

The Birth to Three Centres of Excellence have published an Under 3s Planning Support Pack. It is packed with advice and great ideas for inspired and thoughtful planning.

It is not only a great hands-on guide, but is also an inspirational read to further enhance great practice.

Objective Led Planning versus In The Moment Planning

An interesting blog from Early Years Staff Room about two possible approaches to planning to meet children's learning needs and interests. 

Last update: Friday 10th of July 2020 11:41:41 AM