Setting and defining next steps

Next steps is important for looking at how practitioners can support the children in their setting with aspects such a development. It is also important that practitioners have an understanding of next steps as it is so closely linked with observations and general planning of activities. 

There is not one single set way in which early years next steps should be defined. How you add next steps may vary depending on multiple factors such as looking specifically at child’s development, using tools or basing the next steps on spontaneous activities. 

4 Ways to figure out Next Steps

1. Defining next steps through a child’s personal development.

Teachermate’s Next Steps fully supports the EYFS framework, providing a great starting point. You can assess what stage a child is at via observations. Observations allow you to record what a child is doing and how they are behaving so you can make personal judgements on what a child’s strengths and weaknesses and make this a focus for their next steps. You can assess what age band and refinement they are working towards.

For example, if a child has learnt how to recognise and count numbers 1-5 you then may plan a next step to reinforce what the child has already learnt. Activities such as going through and counting the numbers again or getting a certain number of objects together and asking the child to count them to test whether they are confident in doing so. Alternatively, if you believe the child is confident with what they have learnt, you may choose the next step to be moving on to learning numbers 5-10.

You could also liaise with parents to find out if they have any concerns or views on their child’s development. For example a parent may tell you that they are concerned about a child’s ability to play nicely or share toys with other family members such as a sibling or a cousin. If you also have noticed them behaving like this in your setting you can choose the next step to improve on this.

For example, when capturing an observation with Teachermate, you can click on a child to then go to their next steps, this can help remind you of any previous next steps before deciding new ones

2. Developing a child’s interest

Also known as ‘scaffolding interests’, like scaffolding on a building site, you provide support to a child so that they can improve in an area they are interested in but also it means that eventually they will have the ability to do something without your support.

You can offer this support in a variety of ways. For example you may ask probing questions such as ‘why have you done it like that?’ to get an understanding of what they are thinking and also encouraging them to think critically about what they are doing. Another way you can support a child is by praising them to keep them motivated, for example if they are struggling to complete a puzzle you may say things such as ‘well done you’ve nearly done it!’. Alternatively, you may suggest ways that could help them. So continuing with the puzzle example, if they are struggling to fit a certain piece in you may say things such as ‘do you think maybe that might fit somewhere else?’

This will ultimately influence the next steps as instead of focusing on what the child can do, the next steps will be based on how you as a practitioner can aid them with their progress and development. For example, you may decide the next step to be giving them more challenging activities to help strengthen their problem solving skills.


3. Planning activities on spontaneous events

A third way in which you can define Early Years next steps is by planning activities based around spontaneous events. For example, if there is a rain storm you can use this opportunity to plan activities based around the weather. This could be looking at what causes the rain or what different seasons are. Different activities could be incorporated such as painting what the weather looks like, singing songs based on the rain or basing it around looking at the environment and the impact of rain for example how it helps plants grow.

This can be linked to next steps as it links in with the EYFS curriculum of children being more aware of the world around them or it can be used to develop other areas such as art and design.

For example, when doing an observation on Teachermate, you can go into the EYFs framework and choose which statements for ‘the world’ should be focused on for the next steps.


4. Tools such as reporting to identify a child’s weaker areas

Using the example above taken from the Teachermate website, here you can see an overview of the EYFS summative assessment for children in a setting.

As a practitioner you can look at a specific child and see where they are behind their expected assessment age. For example Jessica Smith is behind her expected assessment age for physical development, specifically moving and handling. Therefore you may base the next steps around this, for example planning activities based around climbing or practicing pouring water from jugs.


It is clear that different approaches may be taken to defining next steps and they can be influenced by a variety of factors within your setting.


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