Early years foundation stage profile: What you need to know

The latest assessments of four and five-year olds will be published this week - but how should they be interpreted and what is changing?

Helen Ward

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The Department for Education will publish the results of the early years foundation stage profile assessments on Thursday.

The profile, which is based on teachers’ observations of their pupils, shows how children are faring at the end of Reception year. It covers a wide range of children’s abilities and is broadly popular among practitioners.

But there are also concerns around the workload that it involves, and there are now plans to change it.

What is the early years foundation stage profile?

The early years foundation stage (EYFS) is the period of learning from birth to age 5 – before key stage 1 begins in Year 1.

The EYFS profile is an assessment of children’s achievements at the end of the Reception year – the last year of the early years foundation stage.

Children are assessed against 17 early learning goals. The child’s profile will include whether children are below, at or above these goals – known as emerging, expected or exceeding the level expected by the end of reception year.

 The profile also includes a paragraph on how children demonstrate three “characteristics of effective learning” which are: playing and exploring, active learning and creating and thinking critically.

What do the early learning goals cover?

  1. Listening and attention: Can listen to stories and respond with relevant comments.
  2. Understanding: Can follow instructions involving several actions.
  3. Speaking: Can express themselves effectively.
  4. Moving and handling: They show good control and coordination.
  5. Health and self-care: Can dress and go to the toilet independently.
  6. Self-confidence and self-awareness: Are confident about speaking in a familiar group.
  7. Managing feelings and behaviour: They know some behaviour is unacceptable.
  8. Making relationships: They play co-operatively, taking turns with others.
  9. Reading: Read and understand simple sentences.
  10. Writing: Use their phonic knowledge to write words in a way which match their spoken sounds.
  11. Numbers: Can count up to 20.
  12. Shape, space and measures: Can compare quantities to solve problems.
  13. People and communities: They know about similarities and differences between themselves and others and among communities.
  14. The world: They can know about similarities and differences in relation to places.
  15. Technology: The select and use technology for particular purposes.
  16. Exploring and using media and materials: children sing songs, make music and dance.
  17. Being imaginative: Children represent their own ideas and feelings through design and technology, art and other means.

From the EYFSP handbook

Are children tested on these?

No. Teachers observe children in a range of daily activities and use this knowledge to assess whether children have met the goals.

Most evidence is expected to come from teachers observing what children can do without being prompted by adults, but adult-led activities can also give teachers an insight into what children can do.

Why include the characteristics of effective learning?

These were introduced as part of the review of the EYFSP by Clare Tickell in 2011. She said that an explicit statement on how children were learning – as well as what they were learning – would help teachers guide children’s development as they go through school.

How is the profile recorded?

Practitioners record evidence of their observations and complete a profile summary which is submitted to their local authority. Local authorities have a duty to moderate judgements in their area to ensure they are consistent.

But there have been long-standing concerns about the amount of evidence about each child that is required to be recorded and kept.

Revisions of the EYFSP have attempted to reduce this and in the assessment and reporting arrangements for the profile, teachers are told that evidence “doesn’t need to be formally recorded or documented” and that “paperwork should be kept to the minimum that practitioners need to illustrate, support and recall their knowledge of the child’s attainment”.

Who gets the information?

Schools must share “a written summary of a child’s attainment against the ELGs” with parents. The report must show whether a child is not yet reaching, at or exceeding the expected level for each ELG, summarise attainment and comment on the characteristics of effective learning.

Year 1 teachers must be given a copy of the EYFS profile for each child.

The DfE will publish national and local authority data, but not school-level data. There are no EYFS league tables.

How did children do last year?

In 2016, 69.3 per cent of children achieved the "good" level of development. This benchmark is achieved when a child has achieved at least the expected level in each of the first 12 early learning goals.

Writing is the goal that fewest children reach – 72.6 per cent of pupils were at or above the expected level in 2016. In contrast, the goal which was most commonly achieved was technology - which 92.4 per cent of children reached or exceeded.

good level of development

Source: DfE

Wasn’t the profile going to be scrapped?

The government said that after the introduction of a baseline assessment in September 2016, the profile would no longer be statutory.

But plans for the baseline collapsed and it was decided to keep the profile as a statutory assessment for 2016-17 and 2017-18. Now the government has revived plans for a baseline assessment, which would be carried out at the beginning of Reception year.

Does that mean the EYFSP is under threat again?

No. The government has said it recognises it is a "valued and respected" assessment and will remain in place but it is proposing changes to better align it with changes in the way maths and phonics are taught in Year 1.

The government consultation response also said there had been a “significant number of requests” to include some measure of vocabulary within the early learning goals. It has said it will look into bringing the ELGs into line with key stage 1 and look into reducing the number of early learning goals.

But there is concern among the early years community that any changes should resist top-down pressure from the national curriculum and protect the play-based nature of learning in Reception year.

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Helen Ward

Helen Ward

Helen Ward is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @teshelen

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