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This guidance has been produced following the DfE Statutory framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) reforms, 2021. It sets out the statutory requirements for assessment in the EYFS and provides some principles for effective assessment.

Statutory requirements

The Statutory framework for the early years foundation stage 2021 sets out what early years settings must do.

Principles for effective assessment

Effective assessment

  1. Puts the child at the centre
    Every child is known and included.
  2. Recognises that every child is unique
    Each child brings with them their own individual experiences and personal histories, needs and interests, knowledge and skills.
  3. Is built on trusting and honest relationships
    A collaborative process with the voice of the child, the parent/carer, practitioners and other professionals.
  4. Provides a celebratory model
    Focuses on strengths and what a child can do. Helps the child to think about what they have learned and experience success.
  5. Is underpinned by good child development knowledge and understanding of how children learn through play
    Based on practitioners knowing key developmental milestones and understanding that a child’s learning does not always go in a straight line; it is like a spider’s web. Warm, responsive and supportive adults are key.
  6. Is purposeful
    Informs a varied, rich and meaningful curriculum for all children.
  7. Uses children’s interests and experiences to inform planning
    In order to provide first-hand experiences which enrich children’s lives further, leading to support and challenge and driving progress.
  8. Part of everyday practice
    Assessment should not take practitioners away from playing and interacting with children.

The process of assessment

There are two main types of assessment; formative and summative.

Formative assessment

Formative assessment is central to effective early years practice and is ongoing. It involves practitioners observing as they play and interact with children which contributes to a practitioner’s knowledge of a child. It is sometimes recorded. However, not everything that a practitioner observes needs to be written down or documented with photos or videos.

Formative assessment is used to understand how a child is learning and developing. It informs planning so that adults can meet children’s needs and support and extend the learning of all children.

Summative assessment

At points in time settings may find it useful to pull together insights from formative assessment and information about the child from listening to the child, parents/carers, other professionals and colleagues. This is known as summative assessment.

Summative assessment provides a holistic summary of a child’s progress, strengths, needs, interests, how the child learns and how the child is supported. This should not be a time- consuming process and should provide a clear overview to parents and other professionals.

Summative assessment can inform improvements to provision and practice which enhance children’s development and learning.

The diagram on the Birth to 5 Matters website shows how information can be gathered to inform summative assessment and then used effectively.

There are three EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) statutory assessment points:

  • Progress check at two years
  • Reception Baseline Assessment (RBA)
  • Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP)

In addition to ongoing assessment, schools and settings may decide that further summative assessments are useful:

  • to share with parents / carers
  • to recognise and respond to the needs of each unique child
  • to celebrate each child’s strengths and show progress
  • to provide a strategic overview and support quality improvement

Reflective questions

What information do we need?

  • What are the general levels of well-being and involvement?
  • How is the child learning? (Characteristics of Effective Learning)
  • What is the child learning? (Three prime and four specific areas of learning)
  • What progress has been made?
  • Which key developmental milestones have been met?
  • What are the child’s strengths?
  • What are the barriers to their learning?
  • What does the child need to learn next in order to make progress?
  • Which children need more help?

How do we get the information?

  • Partnership with parents / carers
  • Formative assessment – moment by moment interactions
  • Talking with the child about their learning and development
  • Conversations with colleagues

What do we do with the information?

  • Decide how to respond and support learning in the moment and over time
  • Document what is important to the child, to prompt memory or provide more detail
  • For some children more detailed diagnostic assessment is necessary to share with parents / carers and other professionals
  • Evaluate the quality of provision and make improvements

Do we need to record and document the information and if so, how?

Documentation can be helpful:

  • To make learning visible
  • As an aide-memoire
  • To support professional conversations, review children’s learning and understand what action needs to be taken
  • To help children reflect on and celebrate their own learning
  • For professional development and quality improvement

Some examples of how:

  • one page profiles, learning journeys, learning stories
  • floor books, displays
  • flexible planning
  • summative overviews of development and progress

Plymouth, Devon and Torbay Early Communication and Language monitoring tool

This tool outlines key milestones in speech, language and communication development to support identification of children’s needs in the Early Years Foundation Stage as part of the Graduated Approach to Inclusion. The purpose of this tool is to help assess a child’s level of development in order to make informed decisions about what the child needs to learn and be able to do next. The tool can help practitioners to notice whether a child is at risk of falling behind in their development and supports early identification of the need for referral for specialist support.