Early Years Toolbox
The Early Years Toolbox (EYT) is a suite of iPad-based assessments suitable for use with young children by early years settings. It includes eight short, engaging and game-like assessment apps that aim to measure abilities that research has shown to be the most predictive of later academic, social, emotional, cognitive and life outcomes. This project also included professional development to train early years staff to use three of the EYT apps: Expressive Vocabulary, Early Numeracy and the Child Self-Regulation & Behaviour Questionnaire. The professional development involved an initial off-site training day, a two-hour follow-up training session held at each nursery, three tailored support visits, a consolidation day towards the end of the pilot and additional resources such as an online forum and evidence-informed literature. This pilot trial was co-funded by the Department for Education as part of our Early Years Professional Development Funding round.
Piloting a suite of app-based assessments designed to improve early years practice.
NIESR, The Institute for Employment Studies
Feedback & monitoring pupil progress
There is evidence that accurate knowledge of children’s skills enables more effective instruction related to children’s individual needs. However, much less is known about how formative assessment within early years settings, and knowledge of child development and skills, influences practice and outcomes. The EYT apps have undergone extensive development and their validity has been tested on 1,764 children in Australia. However, this intervention, which seeks to integrate the apps into routine early years practice, has less evidence and this project was a pilot of the approach.
This evaluation explored whether using the EYT apps as part of a package of professional development can influence the knowledge and practice of early years staff, what information and level of support may be needed to act on the app-based assessments and whether this intervention is ready to be implemented at scale, and therefore its impact on child outcomes tested.
The independent evaluation found some evidence that the intervention had the potential to positively change practitioners’ practices. Those that reported no or limited change to their practice were settings that were satisfied with their existing methods of assessment, typically school-based nurseries. There was limited evidence on whether the intervention enhanced practitioners understanding of children’s development of skills and children’s current competencies. However, those that did report improved understanding of competencies found the numeracy app most useful.
The approach of the intervention was found to be feasible, but the evaluation highlighted several areas of development needed to ensure a future trial has the best chances of showing impact, such as consistency in the cascading of training and delivery of support visits, improved practitioner advice for how to act on the results of the assessments, and improvements to the output of the assessments so they are in a form that is more user-friendly for early years staff.
The EEF is discussing next steps for a further evaluation of Early Years Toolbox.
Full project description
The Early Years Toolbox (EYT) is a set of iPad-based assessment tools suitable for use with young children by early years staff. It includes eight brief, engaging, and game-like assessment apps that aim to capture abilities that research has shown to be the most predictive of later academic, social, emotional, cognitive, and life outcomes. 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. In this pilot trial, Action for Children, supported by Professor Edward Melhuish from the University of Oxford, provided professional development (PD) to train early years staff to use three of the EYT apps: Expressive Vocabulary, Early Numeracy, and Child Self-Regulation and Behaviour Questionnaire. This pilot trial was co-funded by the Department for Education as part of our Early Years Professional Development Funding round.
The one-year pilot PD programme consisted of an initial training day in regional locations for two staff per nursery, and a two-hour follow up training session held within each nursery for all staff to attend. The nurseries committed to using the apps to assess children once every term and they received a bespoke support visit, timed for after each assessment point, which was tailored to their nurseries’ needs. The pilot programme also included an online forum for nursery staff to ask questions or share experiences, a digital pack of evidence-informed resources for language, numeracy, and self-regulation development taken from research literature, and a consolidation day at the end of the year for all nurseries to share best practice.