Early Years Foundation Stage Profile pilot
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.
Piloting reforms to the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile
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.
Full project description
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 based on classroom observations. Early years practitioners and teachers complete a child’s Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP) at the end of reception year when a child is aged four to five. Each child’s development is noted as ‘emerging’, ‘expected’, or ‘exceeding’ against each Early Learning Goal.
Following the primary assessment consultation in early 2017, the Department for Education (DfE) proposed reforms to the Early Learning Goals and EYFSP 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. In June 2018, the DfE published a draft revised set of ELGs along with a draft revised handbook, which were to be piloted in 24 schools in academic year 2018/2019. The DfE announced that the Education Endowment Foundation, working with NatCen Social Research and Action for Children, would commission an independent pilot evaluation. The objective of this evaluation was to assess the implementation of these proposed reforms in the 24 pilot schools in order to provide evidence and insights prior to national roll-out.
The evaluation ran from summer 2018 to autumn 2019 and included an online survey, qualitative interviews, and a sub-study using cognitive interviews. This mixed methods approach was used to gain a comprehensive picture of the pilot of the revised ELGs. The findings in this study are based on a small group of schools purposively selected from a randomly generated sample with a mix of school sizes, geographies, and demographics.