Early Years Toolbox

The Early Years Toolbox (Howard & Melhuish, 2017) is a simple app-based assessment suitable for early years settings. It includes six brief, engaging and game-like assessment apps that have been developed for the iPad.

In this pilot, supported by Professor Ted Melhuish, Action for Children will provide professional development to train early years staff to use three of the Toolbox’s assessment apps: Language ability, Numeracy and Self-regulation & social development. Targeting 3-4 year olds, the training will encourage practitioners to use the apps at least termly to assess children.

The three apps allow practitioners to assess children’s language, numeracy and self-regulation and social development skills. Graphical representations of the results are produced for individual children which compare them to age-related norms. Practitioners are encouraged to use this data to identify children’s needs and subsequently adapt their practice. 

Why are we funding it?

There is currently little use of systematic assessment in early years settings to inform practice and identify areas of need. The Early Years Toolbox could potentially fill this gap. It has undergone extensive development and its validity has been tested with 1,764 children in Australia, where it is widely used. However, there have been no evaluations exploring its impact on professional practice, or child outcomes.

More broadly, there is evidence that knowledge of children’s skills enables more effective instruction related to individual needs. However, in the early years much less is known about how formative assessment, and knowledge of child development and skills, influences practice and outcomes. 

How are we evaluating it?

The programme will be evaluated as a pilot in 27 settings by a team from IES and NIESR. The pilot will evaluate whether this project shows promise, whether it is feasible and whether it is ready to be evaluated in a trial. Evaluators will collect a range of data from settings, using case studies, telephone interviews, online surveys, observations of training, programme materials and pupil outcome data from the Early Years Toolbox. 

When will the evaluation report be due?

The evaluation report will be published in Spring 2020.