Experienced West Midlands based speech & language therapy

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

‘Planning in the moment’ (Part 2) – is your workforce ready?

Matt from Famly notes that there has been a resurgence of interest in the ‘In the Moment’ approach for some time now.  At a recent conference he attended he learnt that Ofsted are starting to mention ITM in relation to some inspections carried out under the new Education Inspection framework (EIF).  No-one could argue that, done properly, ITM can be ‘really powerful’ – but, as ever, where there is potential there are often pitfalls ….

Inspections have shown that in some instances, where implementation of ITM has lacked quality or rigour, the curriculum was deemed to be lacking the necessary variety & breadth.

The quality of the workforce is obviously crucial to the success of the approach (but this is not unique to ITM).  What does perhaps place greater demands upon the workforce delivering an ITM approach, is the ability to be able to observe, recognise and interpret what the child is doing and swiftly and effectively ‘piggy-back’ with the right level of linguistic and practical support to capitalise on that ‘teachable moment’ to move the child forward, either as (a) part of normal development,  (b) a method of boosting areas which are beginning to fall behind or c)  where a group of staff might be relatively inexperienced and largely unsupervised.   This is a pretty big ask !

a)     Requires a high level of knowledge and skills (knowing what you are looking for and recognising it when it occurs)

b)     Necessitates staff having the various targets for individuals at their fingertips so they can exploit the child’s choice of activity as a way to facilitate whatever it is that the child needs to improve/develop

c)      A professional and disciplined workforce who are able to work without supervision and take the initiative

All of the above need staff to easily record their observations as contemporaneously as possible.

Quality (or lack of it) must be one of the most frequently-used descriptors in terms of any educational development, focus, inspection or outcome.  Recent research by The Sutton trust talks about quality in terms of access to additional resources: ‘Expanding access to services without attention to quality will not deliver good outcomes for children …’ No-one would argue against that but it’s good to see the proof.  ‘Furthermore, research has shown that if quality is low, it can have long-lasting detrimental effects on child development instead of bringing positive effects … ‘and also in terms of practitioner CPD ‘specialist training and continued access to professional development play an important role in maintaining high quality’.

Again – that reference to skilling staff – in this instance the workforce with (arguably) the greatest responsibility and influence receives the least recognition, remuneration and CPD.

In 2015 Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services & Skills – Early Years revisited their 2014 recommendation – i.e. the requirement for a strong emphasis on the importance of good qualifications for EYPs.   Five years on, how much has really changed? 

 

Not only do we need to ensure good qualifications we also need to provide opportunities for skills to be maintained and developed in response to increased and different demand. 

 

The same (2015) report talks about the wider EY workforce and cites the example of how speech and language therapists within settings ‘are teaching children to communicate more effectively and, in turn, are teaching the other adults around them about how they can help reinforce this learning throughout the day…’  This is entirely right and is a key part of the Soundswell Pyramid at a universal level.

Again – that reference to skilling staff – in this instance the workforce with (arguably) the greatest responsibility and influence receives the least recognition, remuneration and CPD.

In 2015 Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services & Skills – Early Years revisited their 2014 recommendation – i.e. the requirement for a strong emphasis on the importance of good qualifications for EYPs.   Five years on, how much has really changed? 

 

Not only do we need to ensure good qualifications we also need to provide opportunities for skills to be maintained and developed in response to increased and different demand. 

 

The same (2015) report talks about the wider EY workforce and cites the example of how speech and language therapists within settings ‘are teaching children to communicate more effectively and, in turn, are teaching the other adults around them about how they can help reinforce this learning throughout the day…’ t

This is entirely right and is a key part of the Soundswell Pyramid at a universal level.

Returning to ITM and the realisation that success depends on the quality of practitioner interactions:   this should lead the senior leadership in any setting committed to pursuing this approach to consider the following:

This is a journey: each stage depends on the one before

 

In a nutshell....

 

Get A right → compare A with B → Answer ‘C’ → 

sketch-out  *D & → complete E  →  analyse F

→ plan G → implement H → revisit E & F → analyse I

 

Consider seeking help with *’D & *E as they are key points: your audit tool should cover a range of parameters with rating scales so that you can easily identify the gaps and also rely on outcomes (I) which are clear and measurable.

 

You may also want to build in some kind of a baseline in terms of practitioner-recording skills as some of the most able people find the written exercise quite difficult.  From our research: this way of working means that all written planning is retrospective (there is no forward planning).  Each practitioner records what they have done to help the children progress.’   The practitioner has used his/her skills to deliver the moment and is now required to commit that moment to a written record.  Recording is also reliant on knowledge and skills.

 

Time for author reflection

In some ways, ITM is very similar to the best of parent-child interactions, but on a much greater scale.  Yes, the adult should follow the child’s lead, observe what s/he is interested in, watch what happens, join in as a partner not as a teacher, use the right language at the right level to label, describe, comment and explain.  Show how to do different things with the chosen activity/toys, facilitate (and not dominate).  In this way the horizons at the child’s point of interest and engagement are widened in the most natural way.

The knowledge and skills to do this well are almost exclusively related to language and communication: too much language and it goes over the child’s head, too little language and opportunities to develop vocabulary are missed, poor adult delivery styles make it difficult for the child to follow.

 A plan of action

  • All these give us a starting point for A & B above
  • C is crucial: include a staff confidence rating exercise using the parameters of a successful ‘in the moment’ approach
  • There are a number of ways to populate *D & to carry out *E
  • You will be able to identify the gaps by using a good tool for *D
  • For ‘G’ – seek professional help – to give you a steer with ‘H’ as well
  • Allow time for ‘H’ to embed and become routine and then re-evaluate (‘I’)
  • Pre- and post- environmental audit, pre- and post- staff confidence ratings and universal screening results are examples of how to evidence ‘I’

 

By completing this action plan, staff in your setting should feel much more confident and better-equipped to exploit ITM to its full potential.

 

Part III will look at instances when ITM is perhaps not the best choice of approach – and why.