Learning & Development: EYFS Profile - To scale

Jan Dubiel
Friday, January 25, 2013

With the arrival of the EYFS Profile Handbook, Jan Dubiel highlights some significant changes to the structure and content of the Profile.

The revised EYFS Profile Handbook and national exemplification - downloadable only - are finally with us, providing the last pieces of documentation required for implementing the new framework. While much within the revised Profile will be familiar to practitioners, there are also significant changes to its structure, appearance and content.


WHAT REMAINS THE SAME?

Primary purpose Despite the ways in which the Profile has been misused and misinterpreted, its primary purpose remains 'to provide a reliable, valid and accurate assessment of individual children at the end of the EYFS' (Handbook, page 7). It is 'not intended to be used for ongoing assessment or for entry level assessment for Early Years settings or Reception classes'. (page 5)

Secondary purpose 'DfE consider that a secondary purpose of the assessment is to provide an accurate national data set relating to levels of child development at the end of the EYFS which can be used to monitor changes in levels of children's development/school readiness nationally and locally.' (page 7)

Making judgements 'Assessments will be based primarily on observation of daily activities and events. Practitioners should note in particular the learning which a child demonstrates spontaneously, independently and consistently in a range of contexts.' (page 5)

A '360 degree' view of a child 'Accurate assessment will take account of a range of perspectives including those of the child, parents and carers and other adults who have significant interactions with the child.' (page 5)

Moderation process 'Moderation focuses on a professional dialogue between moderators and practitioners in order to ensure that practitioner judgements are consistent with the national exemplification of standards, and that the assessment of attainment is reliable, accurate and secure.' (page 32)

Submissions Data will continue to be submitted to the Department for Education, via the local authority, and culminate in a national data set that describes attainment at the end of the EYFS.

Reporting to parents Outcomes will continue to be reported to parents as part of the 'flow of information' between the school or setting and home.


WHAT HAS CHANGED?

Number of statements The reduction in the number of early learning goals (ELGs) means judgements will now be made against 17 statements rather than the previous 117 Scale Points (SPs). The ELGs themselves will form the assessment criteria and practitioners will consider a 'best fit' judgement within the many components that constitute each of the 17 ELGs.

This change is to encourage a more holistic view of the child, and practitioners will make a judgement as to whether the child is 'secure' within the ELG and that it 'broadly' describes their level of attainment.

Practitioners are discouraged from fragmenting the statements to recreate the SPs in any way: 'Practitioners must consider the entirety of each ELG and avoid splitting the descriptor into sections and ticking them off when making the decision. To create the most accurate picture of the child's overall embedded learning an holistic view of the descriptor should be taken.' (page 11).

Bandings The nine attainment 'scales' have been removed and practitioners will now make a 'best fit' judgement. These are:

  • 'Emerging' - working below the 'secure' level of the ELG
  • 'Expected' - working securely within the ELG
  • 'Exceeding' - working beyond the ELG.

While the ELGs provide the criteria for making judgements as to whether children are securely 'expected', additional support is available in the downloadable exemplification. It focuses on each of the 17 ELGs and is presented in the form of learning stories, photographs and written observations that provide detailed examples of everyday activity that would locate children who are attaining 'securely' within the specific ELG.

If the child is not secure within the ELG, there is no specific criteria to follow. Practitioners are encouraged to use information that accurately describes the child's current level of attainment, and suggests that the non-statutory Development Matters, with its overlapping bands of age-related expectations, would be a suitable vehicle for this. There is no exemplification of what this might look like in practice.

Where children may be exceeding the specific ELG, practitioners are advised to consult specific criteria (taken from Dame Claire Tickell's original review) and consult with the Y1 teacher and the National Curriculum Programmes of Study to assert whether or not 'exceeding' is an accurate judgement. Again, there is no specific exemplification for this.

However, it is worth noting that: 'Arrangements for the exceeding level are interim and are subject to change once the National Curriculum review is complete.' (page 12).

Characteristics of Effective Learning The most welcome change is the requirement to include a summary of 'how' and as well as 'what' a child has learned. Even though this summary will not generate data, it is critical that practitioners continue to consider and value it alongside ELG attainment. The document helpfully refers to the '20 items' of the EYFSP, this consisting of 17 ELGs and three Characteristics of Learning.


DEFENDING BEST PRACTICE

An exploration of the principles that are identified as underpinning the EYFSP details strong and robust aspects of effective observational assessment, pedagogy and respecting practitioner professionalism. These are important reference points for practitioners to support and defend effective early years practice.

Observational Assessment asserts this is 'the most reliable way of building up an accurate picture of children's development' (page 9) and that observations can be different in nature and do not require 'prolonged breaks from interaction with children'. (page 9)

The importance of a knowledge of child development, a rich learning environment and high-quality interaction are detailed as aspects of Responsible Pedagogy through which practitioners enable children to demonstrate their full potential.

A clear definition of Child-initiated Activity (Glossary, page 48) and its importance in being able to accurately assess the Characteristics of Effective Learning strengthens the importance of the role of intrinsically motivated play in children's learning.

Although the controversial 80/20 ratio between childand adult-led activity was dropped following Dame Clare Tickell's recommendations, it could be argued that its spirit lives on in the more sophisticated terminology of Embedded Learning and Secure Development which equally focuses on the necessity of judgements being demonstrated 'without the need for overt adult support'. (page 10)

Acknowledgement is also made of the Links in the Areas of Learning, between the ELGs themselves and the Characteristics of Effective Learning. Understanding this is described as necessary to 'bring coherence to the assessment process'. (page 10)

Perhaps most importantly, a key principle is identified as the status of Practitioner Knowledge: 'The majority of evidence for EYFS Profile judgements will come from the practitioner's knowledge of the child gained from observation of the child's self-initiated activities ... Much evidence will be gleaned from day-to-day interactions with children as practitioners build up their knowledge of what children know and can do, for assessment purposes and to inform future practice and provision. This evidence, often not formally recorded, provides the basis on which judgements are made ...' (page 10)

This principle of respecting practitioner knowledge is further strengthened by an important statement on evidence and documentation: 'Practitioners and EYFS Profile moderators should be aware that the definition of evidence is any material, knowledge of the child, anecdotal incident or result of observation or information from additional sources that supports the overall picture of a child's development. There is no requirement that it should be formally recorded or documented; the extent to which the practitioner chooses to record information will depend on individual preference ...' (page 12)


CONTRADICTIONS

Despite the strong and welcome statements on practitioner knowledge and documented evidence, these are not supported by the exemplification which consists entirely of written observations, notes and photographs. As a covert message, it certainly appears to suggest that this is what would be required for moderation; despite the contradictory small print.

Equally, the continual references to the use of Development Matters as a possible tool with apparent criteria to make judgements is also unhelpful. Development Matters is, after all, a non-statutory document that has the status of 'guidance' only and each page is printed with cautionary advice that it is not to be used in this way.

Unfortunately, contradictions in the Handbook abound and ultimately the EYFSP's successful implementation will depend on the principled and informed interpretation that practitioners will make. It will be critically important that they remain focused on what really matters and not buckle to external pressure stemming from a misinterpretation of the Handbook by the uninformed.

Jan Dubiel is national development manager, Early Excellence, www.earlyexcellence.com


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