Last reviewed 24 November 2021

Introduction

The Early Years Foundation Stage is the first stage of educational programmes in England, which concludes in each child being assessed against the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP) at the end of their Reception year in school to see if they have reached the expected national measure of a Good Level of Development (GLD). The EYFSP is intrinsically linked to the child moving into the National Curriculum at Key Stage 1. Rebecca Fisk explains more about this assessment profile and what it means.

Statutory requirements

The Childcare Act 2006 stipulates that early years providers, including schools with early years provision, must ensure that their provision meets the learning and development requirements and welfare requirements as specified in the EYFS. The EYFS statutory guidance can specify the arrangements required for assessing children for the purpose of ascertaining what they have achieved in relation to the 17 early learning goal (ELGs) descriptors. The early learning goals are not meant to be used as a curriculum but as an assessment point at the end of the Reception year.

The Early Years Foundation Stage Profile handbook and use of the data

Each year the EYFSP handbook is updated to provide guidance and advice to local authorities and early years providers. It is produced to help teachers and early years practitioners make accurate judgments about each child’s level of development at the end of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and to detail the statutory requirements for the EYFS profile assessment. The handbook aims to help early years teachers and providers complete early years foundation stage profile judgements so that outcomes are accurate and consistent across all early years settings. Consistency is important because data is collected nationally by the Department for Education (DfE) and used to monitor changes in levels of children’s learning and development regionally and nationally. It is also used to compare outcomes for different groups of children according to their characteristics, such as the gender, eligibility for free school meals or their special educational needs and disabilities. The profile is not designed to be a measure for holding schools to account and the DfE does not publish school level results for the EYFS profile. County level results, however, are published and used by local authorities to see how well their region is doing with children’s outcomes.

The professional judgement made at the end of the Reception year should be informed by the child’s development throughout the foundation stage and is a summative assessment based on the professional’s knowledge and understanding of what a child knows, understands and can do. This knowledge should include information from the child’s parents and carers.

Two main purposes of the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile

The profile assessment has two main purposes.

  1. To support a successful transition to Key Stage 1 by informing the professional dialogue between the EYFS and Year 1 teachers. This dialogue should provide information about the child’s stage of development and their learning needs this. This will enable the Year 1 teachers to plan their curriculum to meet the needs of all the pupils.

  2. To inform parents about their child’s development. This information should tell parents if the child has reached a Good Level of Development (GLD) at the end of the EYFS and if they have achieved at least the expected level for the early learning goals in the prime areas of learning and the specific areas of mathematics and literacy.

Key principles of the EYFS profile assessments

There are several key principles of the EYFS profile assessments which demonstrate why they need to be reliable and accurate.

  1. Practitioners should use their knowledge of children through what the child demonstrates about what they know and can do consistently but in the range of different situations. The practitioner reflects on these skills, knowledge and understanding that the child demonstrates so the assessment is primarily based on the practitioner’s professional knowledge about the child, not on formal testing.

  2. The assessment is summative and gives a holistic view of what the child can demonstrate against each early learning goal at the end of the reception year. All the early learning goals are interconnected. Teachers should consider the whole description of each goal and how one relates to the other when making their judgements, not just looking at the separate statements individually or using them as a checklist.

  3. A range of different perspectives will inform the teacher’s assessment and judgement. It will mostly be based on their own professional knowledge and judgement, but it should take into account contributions and perspectives from others, in particular the child's parents and carers and the child themselves. It is good practice for teachers to get to know what the child knows about their own learning and their own development.

  4. The assessment must be inclusive and professionals must consider diversity, children's interests, needs and backgrounds. For example, children with special educational needs or disabilities may demonstrate what they know and remember in different ways or children who come from a home where English is not their first language should have opportunities to engage in activities that demonstrate what they know in their own language. It is important that the early years environment reflects the different cultural backgrounds of the children so that they can demonstrate what they know through their play and learning experiences.

  5. The EYFS profile assessment is underpinned by a broad curriculum and effective pedagogy which means that each child should be able to demonstrate their learning and development fully through effective teaching and learning opportunities. The EYFS handbook states that ‘effective assessment takes place when children are taught well and are able to talk about what they know and demonstrate what they know in a range of contexts. Early learning goals are seen as representing a narrow measure of what is actually assessed at the end of the reception year’.

Building knowledge of the child

In the past teachers have collected reams of physical evidence to demonstrate a child’s learning. However, it has recently been made clear by the DfE that teachers are not expected to provide proof of the child's level of development using physical evidence and should not record evidence. This is a significant shift in practice.

They should instead plan what they want children to learn and build their knowledge of what each child knows and can do, then draw on this knowledge and their own expert professional judgement to make an accurate summative assessment at the end of the year. Teachers will observe children in their day-to-day activities in the indoor and outdoor classroom environment. By making these observations they will identify any additional learning support or additional teaching that a child might need to help them reach the expected level.

Teachers should also actively engage the children and their parents as well as any other adults who have significant interaction with the child’s learning in the assessment process. This will help to develop a rounded holistic picture of the child’s development.

Emerging, expected or exceeding

Teachers make professional judgments against each of the 17 early learning goals and decide if children are “emerging” towards reaching that goal or if they have reached that “expected” level of the goal or if they are “exceeding” it. This is what they record and report to parents and Year 1 teachers to show whether the child is ready for the Key Stage 1 National Curriculum.

If a child has an outcome of “emerging” for one or more of the ELGs then additional information should be passed on to the Year 1 teacher as well as the judgments made against the EYFS profile. The detail that sits behind this outcome is important; for example, a child may be born late in the academic year or have some developmental delay or have missed a considerable amount of their reception year. It is very important that where a child is “emerging” this is not seen or presented as a failure but is sensitively explained to the child's parents or carers.

Where children have a special educational need or disability, due regard must be paid to the SEND Code of Practice when supporting children. This includes teachers being proactive in drawing on professional expertise of others when they have identified concerns. Each school has an SEN Coordinator who can support the reception teacher when considering the child’s developmental needs and ongoing assessment.

Moderation

To ensure consistency of professional judgement it is good practise to moderate the EYFS profile assessments collaboratively with colleagues to support the quality assurance of teacher assessment. Having these internal or peer to peer moderation conversations will support teachers’ assessment and knowledge of their children and ensure they build a shared understanding of the ELGs and the EYFS framework.

Summary

Early years providers and teachers use the EYFS to ensure children have a broad early learning educational programme. In England there is a national assessment at the end of the EYFS which takes place at the end of a child’s reception year in school. This is a summative assessment of the accumulation of knowledge throughout the EYFS where children will have a judgement against an expected national standard of the Good Level of Development. The data is used nationally and regionally to monitor how well children are learning and developing across the early years. It is also used primarily to share information with the Year 1 teachers and support a child’s transition into the national curriculum, as well as, of course, reporting to parents on the child’s educational attainment.