Children aren’t the only ones going back to school this month

Posted by Dan Breslin / Wednesday 07 September 2016 / Early intervention Inequality
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With pencil cases, lunch boxes and school jumpers disappearing off the shelves it can only mean one thing. The summer holidays are over and it’s time to go back to school.

But teachers and students aren’t the only ones going back to the classroom.

During the summer the Department for Education announced that the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile, or EYSFP for short, would remain a requirement for primary schools to complete with children in the reception year. 

The EYFSP is the reception year assessment teachers complete for all their pupils. It measures children’s physical, emotional, social and language development.

The EYSFP gives teachers an insight into their new pupils’ abilities and areas where they might require support. When results are collated across England, the EYFSP provides a national picture of child development at age five.

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This is an important time for children and not just because children are starting school. The level of development at age five is linked to future health, wellbeing and income. This is because the early years are the time when children rapidly develop their language, emotional and social skills. These act as the foundations for what they learn at school. Get the early years right and children will have a great chance to flourish later on. 

But, the EYSPF might not be around for long. The Department for Education had intended to introduce a new assessment in the reception year, the Reception Baseline Assessments (RBA). This was going to help the Department better monitor how well primary schools were performing.

The RBA had been set to replace the EYFSP this year. However, it drew widespread criticisms from teachers because they said it was not  a useful guide to a child’s development. It was felt to be overly burdensome and disruptive as children settled into their new surroundings on starting school. There were actually three RBA tools that schools could choose to use. But the results from each weren’t comparable. That acted as the death knell for the RBA. 

The EYFSP has been given a reprieve - but only in the short term. The Department has said that it will attempt to find a different replacement for the RBA and EYSFP from 2017/18 onwards. This isn’t going to be easy and the current lack of detail about what the replacement may look like creates an uncertainty about what the future holds. 

The changes to the different measures matter because the age five assessment can help children and teachers. It can provide an insight into a child’s strengths and weaknesses so teacher can develop the most effective teaching strategies.

It will also have a huge role shaping what early years professionals are focusing on with the children in their care before they reach the classroom.

 

Action for Children have been calling for government to use the life chances agenda to address the uncertainty about the age five assessment once and for all. The Government has proposed to introduce life chance indicators to monitor how well they are doing giving children the best chance of fulfilling their potential.

We want one of these indicators to cover child development at age five and become the replacement for the EYFSP and RBA. This will put the assessment on a stable footing for years to come. In the next few weeks we will be publishing a briefing setting out in more detail why this is so important.

As the Government seeks to find a solution to the assessment conundrum, retaining the EYSFP for at least one more year make good sense. It will give continue to give us a picture of how well children are getting on at the end of the early years. 

What we need now is a long-term solution to make sure monitoring child development is as routine as finding that elusive new pair of school shoes.

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