Shirley Fyfe from East Sale Kindergarten shares her experiences with using the new Storypark planning tool, and the outcomes the service has seen since using planning across all aspects of their service. East Sale Kindergarten is located at the RAAF base in Victoria, Australia, and is a non-profit cluster-managed service providing sessional 3 and 4-year-old Kindergarten to children in the local community.
*Names in example plans have been changed for anonymity
Planning for children’s learning before Storypark’s tool
Several years ago, the overall children’s planning was documented on paper and placed on the wall where, unfortunately, most families didn’t take the time to view it. We recorded our weekly reflections in a ‘Learning Journal’ that was made available to families in our sign-in area along with a PDF version being emailed out. Individual observations and planning were recorded in a digital program that is now no longer available and digital copies were able to be distributed to families upon request via a USB.
Our decision to use Storypark at our service came about after deciding we wanted something that our families could have access to 24/7 and in which they would be able to more readily share and engage in the overall planning for the learning and development of their child.
Within Storypark, a ‘Daily Reflection’ was written as a group story and would include ‘What Next’ information of where our program was headed along with an ‘Upcoming Events’ section as well. This allowed families to learn about their child’s day and understand where the program was headed over the coming days and weeks.
As we all know, a requirement of Quality Area 1 is that we clearly demonstrate the ‘Cycle of Planning’ – both for individual children and of the group as a whole.
Time is of the essence when it comes to planning and administration tasks when children aren’t present and sometimes finding that time to document both the daily reflection along with individual learning and then needing to link individual planning into the overall program as well meant that we were often chasing our tails.
How Storypark planning helped us overcome these problems
We’ve now done away with the ‘daily’ reflection story that we were doing and are focusing more on individual and group stories. We have an overall plan of our goals for the fortnight which we have our individual & group stories linked into and then planned for.
Whilst initially we did all our reflections and subsequent planning within Storypark, we’ve shifted to a printed copy of the fortnightly plan which we then handwrite into to ensure we’re meeting Departmental requirement to have the program on display and so that a copy is available for relief staff to view if they happen to be working at our service and internet is not available.
We find that families are more actively involved in commenting in response to individual and group stories as opposed to our fortnightly plan, however, all families are linked so they can view it if they would like to do so.
The impact of our new planning on children and staff
Since we link all children to our fortnightly plan, all families are aware of and have access to the program plan that has been formulated for the upcoming fortnight. Should any family be interested in viewing the printed version with the added handwritten planning notes, it’s available at the service for them to do so.
With a mixture of staff attending on different days across a given week, all staff have 24/7 access to the program plan and can contribute ideas and planning information quickly and easily.
How this has changed the involvement of our families
Some families may not choose to comment within Storypark itself but will often discuss aspects of the program that they have read about with members of staff.
Families will often share items of interest that are related to the program or will engage children in discussions about the activities that are taking place within the kindergarten environment when they’re at home.
Adapting the Storypark templates to meet our needs
Initially, we trialled the ‘EYLF Planning Cycle’ template within Storypark and then went on to develop our own that still demonstrates the cycle but incorporates key curriculum areas that we wanted to ensure our overall program reflected.
We also trialled the ‘All About Me’ template and adapted it so that it also reflected some developmental information that families could comment on, along with our ‘Term Reflection’, which was usually circulated to families in a paper format at the end of each term.
We also trialled the ‘Individual Planning’ template but have since developed one of my own which includes not only planning information for the child but also reflections on each of the 5 Learning Outcomes and family discussions (see below). It is my aim to be able to use this particular plan as a reference point when it comes to writing the ‘Transition Learning & Development Statements’ for each child.
The ‘QIP – Overview and Self-Assessment’ template was fairly much used as the Storypark template had been created. I love the way everything can be so easily linked together and is therefore readily available to access when required.
I created a ‘QIP Review’ document which links into the ‘QIP – Overview and Self-Assessment’ document so that when we have our team meetings we can ensure that we are reflecting on all aspects of the QIP across the whole year.
The ‘QIP – Quality Area Plan for Improvement’ was also one which we have pretty much used as it was created within Storypark. Any new improvement is easily added and linked to the QIP by having it all located within Storypark.
We’ve just recently gone through our second ‘Assessment and Rating’ visit and having achieved an ‘Exceeding’ result, our assessor was happy with the PDF copies of the QIP that we had emailed through to her, along with 6 samples of the plans for improvement in PDF format as well.
We also used the ‘Meeting Minutes’ Storypark template and have only made slight alterations to the format and have been finding that this template encompasses everything that it needs to.
Creating our own templates
As mentioned previously, I’ve created an ‘Individual Learning and Development’ plan which encompasses individual planning from stories/discussions, an overview of learning and development, along with family discussions all in one document.
Our cluster manager asked us to trial a new ‘Staff Appraisal’ form, so I’ve created a version within Storypark that we’ve been using since Term 2 and which aligns with the National Quality Standard and therefore our QIP.
Using Storypark’s planning tool for all aspects of running our early learning service
We’re using the new planning features for as much as we can so that it’s all located in the one place and is easily accessible to all members of staff and our families if appropriate, on a 24/7 basis.
A variety of plans allow us to not only document and plan for children’s learning and development BUT also our reflections on policy review and any resulting changes to practice; regular reflection and self-assessment on our QIP; meeting documentation; reflective reading and professional development links and so on.
Even more opportunities with Storypark planning
I believe using the ‘Individual Learning and Development Plan’ as a reflection tool through the year, will make the writing of ‘Transition Learning & Development Statements’ later in the year a much simpler process and one in which families are already aware of all the information that may be relevant in sharing with schools.
The new ‘Staff Appraisal’ form which my cluster manager developed and which I’ve developed into a Storypark plan, aligns perfectly with the NQS and therefore allows us to think of our own personal and professional goals in a format that can be easily linked to our QIP as well.
Decide what works for you
The introduction of something new can often seem overwhelming and I think it’s important that you allow yourself time to explore, trial and then reflect on how a particular template may or may not work at your service. As with everything, what works for one, doesn’t necessarily work for another. I think it’s best to just start with one or two templates, trial them and then together with your team and families, decide what may or may not be working, where you might be able to adapt an existing template or where you might be able to create new Storypark Planning documents that work optimally at your own service.
I wish you all the best on your Storypark Planning journey . . .