To the Point - Goals don't measure up

Under the new EYFS Profile there is a danger that thousands of children could be wrongly labelled as falling behind, says Nancy Stewart

Would you expect a 10-year-old to show the same learning and development as a 12-year-old? Probably not, since one child has lived 20 per cent longer than the other. So why does the Government expect summer-born children in a reception class to attain at the same level as those who are nearly a year older?

This month, reception teachers across England are completing their assessments of whether or not children measure up to where they are 'expected' to be, based on a best-fit judgement around the Early Learning Goals.

The stated main purpose of the EYFS Profile is to support transition to Year 1, so the receiving teachers understand where children are and can plan how best to support their progress. That purpose is best served by passing on clear information about unique children. The EYFSP assessment can support this, and the new requirement to share how each child learns in terms of the characteristics of effective learning is a welcome addition.

The profile cannot, however, support children's progress by wrongly labelling hundreds of thousands of children as falling behind. Last year, under the old profile, 64 per cent of children overall achieved a 'good level of development', continuing a steady year-on-year improvement. But under the new profile the bar has been moved substantially.

The pilots last summer found only 41 per cent of children were judged to fit the new definition of 'good level of development' - at the ELGs in the prime areas plus literacy and maths. The figures were much worse for summer-born children, with 30 per cent reaching the mark compared to 52 per cent of the autumn-born children.

We are likely to hear figures like these bandied about to claim that early years provision is failing children. On the contrary, the assessment is failing children. It is inappropriate to 'expect' such young children to attain goals set at the wrong level. The new maths goal for number, for example, is equivalent to Level 1 in Key Stage 1. Let's hope the statistics will lead to a realisation that expectations are wrong, and not to more damaging pressure on children.

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