EYFS Profile is flawed

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It's time to have proper assessment of young children, says early years consultant Penny Tassoni

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So the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Profile results are out. Predictably there are a lot of headlines about local authorities that have improved results or about how boys continue to lag behind girls.

There will no doubt be plenty of hand-wringing for those local authorities who appear to be faring less well and of course pressure on professionals working with young children to do more. After all, everyone is chasing those elusive standards that, once found, have to be raised.

Of course, the real questions should be a) to what extent are the early learning goals representative of children's normative development? b) why is the profile not age-adjusted?

I suspect that the inconvenient truth is that the early learning goals, particularly ones involving writing and numbers, are not research based but are merely the result of wishful thinking. The term 'expected development' is used where children have reached these goals, but the key question is: expected by whom?

Where is the data that would suggest that this is typical normative development? As far as I am aware, no other English-speaking country expects children, many of whom will still be only four, to be able to write 'simple sentences, which can be read by themselves and others'.

Then look at the plight of the summer-born children. Their parents at the moment of conception probably did not stop to look in detail at the statistics about the profile. They probably should have.

Last year when the in-depth statistics rolled along in midNovember, they clearly showed that there was at least a 20 per cent gap in writing and number between a child born in the autumn term and one born in the summer months (73 per cent of pupils born in the autumn term achieved at least the expected level in the early learning goals writing compared with 51 per cent of pupils born in the summer term). One flip of a laptop and hey presto - those summer-born children are now en route to being known as 'less able' and, with the wonderful power of forecasting, to being predicted lower levels of achievement at the end of Key Stage 1.

How is this flawed assessment really serving England's children? We have stressed children and teachers and worried parents. We disadvantage all summer-born children as well as children who are still getting to grips with English. Of course, the EYFS Profile is coming to an end. Baseline is on its way.

So now is the time for us all to campaign for proper age/stage related assessments - not some civil servant-generated nonsense.

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