To be (levelling) or not to be (levelling)?

I innocently replied to a tweet recently on levelling continuous provision. Laura Henry also offered a reply with a great link to her guest blogger Alistair Bryce Clegg The term “levelling” created lively discussion and debate. However I would question those who challenged the term, do they not level when creating a next step, isn’t that helping children achieve the next level? How about we enhance the setting to accommodate individual next level? It’s a term, not a threat!
I recently went on Alistaires training “Excelence in Early Years” I’d read a lot of his articles, and I liked his style. Apart from his website articles being very readable, the ideas and inspiration for improving practice and making learning exciting has driven better practice at both my settings. I’ve bought many of his books. My team would fight over who took them home first, and they acted on the fabulous ideas, producing more excitement in the learning environment.

The training stressed the importance of the support of the practitioner in play, and yes, we “levelled” some activities. Now some people seem to have an objection to the word “levelling.” Levelling is not sinister, it’s not regimental. We talk of ages and stages in Early Years, next steps etc, and to my mind, levelling added clarity to the developmental stages. I don’t have lists of levels, I don’t put children on levels, however if I provide different levels in the activity I can support children to progress. It’s subtle, it’s implicit, it’s an invitation to “have a go.”

So what has levelling done to practice in my settings? It’s made practitioners think about what they provide. Are they providing challenge, are they providing open ended play, are the enhancements added helping children progress? Children play in mixed ability groups, so we should provide for mixed and therefore individual abilities. The activity of aeroplane making in the picture was spontaneous, so staff sometimes have to think quickly to provide for different abilities. Thinking In levelling terms can aid this spontaneity so all children have an individual take on the activity, they all took risks and all were challenged (and that aeroplane in the top picture flew REALLY well!) It’s all been good and improved practice. It’s not massively different, but it is better. If you don’t like the word, change it. We are always changing terminology in early years, early learning, goals, next steps etc. Training with Alistair puts levelling in perspective, I would highly recommend it (especially if you’re judging it!) It puts children in the driving seat, it helps staff support next steps, promoting progression and children enjoying the process. It’s made my team think more about continuous provision, and how to enhance it. It’s not the term you use, it’s how you use it. Always be open minded to an idea, always strive for improvement, always make learning fun!


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