How Much of High Scope Is There in the New Development Matters Curriculum Guidance 2021?

high scope

What is High Scope?

High Scope is a specific approach to teaching Early Years children. It is based on the following four guiding principles:

  • Engage children in stimulating interaction with people, materials, events and ideas.
  • Involve children in planning, carrying out and reflecting on intentional activities.
  • Provide a curriculum based on a variety of appropriate active learning experiences.
  • Provide consistent support for children’s personal decision-making

The first principle is one of the most important ones as active learning is key to high scope education. Intentional adult interactions within this active learning ensure that children’s language and learning is extended.

What is active learning?

There are five key ingredients to active learning which are as follows:

  • Open-Ended Materials – a supply of interesting materials that can be used in a multitude of ways and explored by children using all of their senses.
  • Manipulation – children interact with the materials in order to examine them, combine and change them through their own ideas.
  • Choice – children choose their own agenda whether this be friends to play with, materials to use, ideas and activities, depending on their particular interests.
  • Child Language and Thought – children verbalise what they are doing as they play which highlights their understanding and where their learning needs to go next.
  • Adult scaffolding – scaffolding is the process of supporting children’s learning through adult interaction. Adults skillfully challenge children through open ended questions. This may give clarity to a particular concept or result in children re thinking an idea to solve a problem. Something similar to the sustained shared thinking that we are more familiar with.

High Scope in Practice

High Scope Environment

  • Inviting
  • Divided into areas according to interest
  • Abundant materials for the children to use
  • Space for activities and storage
  • Allows children to be independent when interacting with the materials
  • Encourages different types of play
  • Allows free movement throughout
  • Gives opportunity for materials to be transported and used in different areas
  • Represent diversity

Daily Routines

There are 5 parts to the daily routine:

  • Greeting time – children are welcomed into the setting
  • Plan, Do Review time – children decide what they are going to do that day.
  • Small Group time – working with a small group of children to teach a new concept.
  • Large Group time -clear intentions for learning are delivered
  • Outside time

All of the above link to key experiences identified in the high scope curriculum similar to the areas of learning in our own curriculum.

High Scope Assessment

The key experiences can be found in the high scope child observation record. The record is used as a guide for observing children and highlights where the children need to go next with their learning. The Child Observation Record Assessment Tool breaks each of the experiences down into five levels of behaviour to determine what to look out for. This can be useful in determining your own curriculum and the experiences that you need to offer

Conflict Resolution and Problem Solving

High scope teachers use a 6 step approach to resolve conflicts.

  • Calmly approach the situation removing any objects that might be the source of conflict e.g. temporarily removing a toy being argued about.
  • Acknowledge how the children are feeling in the situation e.g. ‘I can see that you are upset’.
  • Find out what happened through open-ended questions.
  • Repeat the problem back to the children involved.
  • Ask the children to share their ideas on how to solve the problem.
  • Monitor the situation and give follow-up support if needed. Repeating the above steps if necessary.

This culture of independence is encouraged in all aspects of the children’s environment – self-help skills, tidying away, finding resources to solve a problem etc.


There seem to be lots of parallels with our new Development Matters curriculum guidance:

  • Flexible plans driven by children’s interests.
  • Play, interaction with adults, guided learning and direct teaching.
  • Enabling environments.
  • Self-regulation.
  • Active learning.
  • Creating and thinking critically.

All of the ingredients needed for effective early learning!

For ideas on large and small group activities visit the Little Learners Online blog.