The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework sets the statutory standards for the learning, development, and care of children from birth to five years old. It includes a set of Early Learning Goals (ELGs) against which children are assessed at aged four to five, based on classroom observations. Following the primary assessment consultation in early 2017, the Department for Education (DfE) proposed reforms to the ELGs and assessment process with the core aims of reducing the workload and time burden for early years staff and improving outcomes, particularly in language, literacy, and maths.
The draft revised ELGs and a draft revised handbook have been piloted in 24 schools, to provide evidence and insight prior to a national roll-out.
The DfE asked the EEF to commission an independent evaluation of the proposed reforms. NatCen Social Research conducted a mixed-methods evaluation in the 24 pilot schools. Overall, the teachers viewed the ELGs positively, describing them as clearer than the previous ELGs. Schools also reported that their work load reduced due to reduced expectations for assessment and evidence-gathering, enabling them to spend more time with children
However, teachers wanted further supporting materials in addition to the ELGs, and there were mixed views on whether children would be better prepared for KS1. These findings will inform the roll-out of the reforms, for example, further exemplification and curriculum guidance will be provided. There are no plans to conduct further evaluation of the reforms prior to roll-out.
- Participants viewed the revised ELGs positively overall, describing them as clearer than previous ELGs. They also made practical suggestions about improving the revised ELGs.
- Schools reported that their workload had reduced due to the reduced expectations for assessment and evidence-gathering (or would do once the changes were embedded). Staff reported using this extra time to spend with children.
- The revised ELGs by themselves were not felt to be sufficient: teachers wanted supporting materials, such as exemplification and curriculum guidance. (The intention is that these will be provided when the ELGs are rolled out nationally.)
- There were mixed views about whether children would be better prepared for Key Stage 1 as a result of the changes, and about whether the new ELGs were more or less challenging than before. Follow-up research would be required to investigate this further.
- Teachers welcomed using their own judgement and felt empowered to do so. However, some felt that external moderation would still be important for ensuring consistency between schools, and for gaining alternative perspectives.