EEF publishes new evaluation report on the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP)

Teachers say changes to early learning goals have made them clearer and reduced their workload, but more research needed to establish whether children better prepared for Key Stage 1

An independent report finds the Government’s proposed changes to the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP) – ahead of a full public consultation – have created a more clear and specific set of goals to support teachers in their assessment of children’s development, and have reduced teachers’ workload, allowing them to spend more time with children.

The revised Early Learning Goals (ELGs) were received positively overall by participants and they made practical suggestions to help improve them. However, there were mixed views about whether children would be better prepared for Key Stage 1 as a result of the changes to the ELGs, and about whether they were more or less challenging than before.

This is according to the independent evaluation of a pilot of the reforms published by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) today.

The EYFSP assesses each child’s development at the end of Reception across 17 ELGs, which sit under seven areas of learning including: communication and language, personal, social and emotional development, physical development, literacy, maths, understanding the world and expressive arts and design. It is completed by teachers, based on their observations and professional judgement of children’s learning and development.

In 2018, the Department for Education (DfE) proposed changes to the ELGs and the assessment process. The proposed measures were designed to improve outcomes at age 5, with a focus on language development for all children - and particularly those from a disadvantaged background. The changes have also sought to reduce workload for teachers, freeing them up to spend more time supporting children in rich daily activities.

The DfE commissioned the EEF to manage the independent evaluation of the pilot of these changes in 24 schools, selected to be a representative mix of all schools. A team of researchers from National Centre for Social Research led the evaluation, which included an online survey, interviews and in-depth case studies for a sample of the schools. Action for Children supported the introduction of the materials in the pilot schools.

The evaluation found that participants in the pilot thought the new ELGs were clearer than previous ELGs. They also reported that their workload had reduced due to the reduced expectations for assessment and evidence gathering.

However, there were mixed views about whether children would be better prepared for Key Stage 1 as a result of the changes, and about whether the new ELGs were more or less challenging than before. More follow-up research is needed to better understand the full impact of the ELGs in preparing children for Key Stage 1. 

Commenting on the report, Sir Kevan Collins, Chief Executive of the EEF, said:

Identifying those children who have fallen behind before school starts is crucial for providing them with the support they need to catch up. However, it is difficult to know how to do this well and without increasing teacher workload. It is only through careful evaluation that we'll be able to identify the best ways of supporting children's development to give them the best start at school. So it is good we have been able to pilot the proposed changes to the Early Learning Goals in a small number of schools. The findings will help make sure they are implemented well when they are rolled out.