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Foundation stage assessment levels explained

Foundation stage curriculum levels explained
Struggling to make sense of your Nursery or Reception child’s school report? We explain how to decode those baffling assessment levels.
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What are the EYFS assessment levels?

The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Profile is a report of your child’s development and achievement at the end of the Reception year. There are three main objectives: to inform parents about their children’s development, to ease the transition to Key Stage 1, and to help Year 1 teachers plan for the year ahead to meet the needs of the entire class.

The EYFS Profile is broken down into seven specific areas of learning:

  • Communication and language
  • Physical development
  • Personal, Social and Emotional Development
  • Literacy
  • Mathematics
  • Understanding of the world
  • Expressive arts and design

Within each of these areas, there are specific Early Learning Goals – for example, in the case of Communication and language, these are Listening, Attention and Understanding, and Speaking. Your child will be given an achievement level for each area of learning.

How were the EYFS assessment levels established?


The EYFS Profile and assessment levels were developed in 2007 and amended and updated in 2012 and in 2021 by the Department of Education.

The Profile was put together by the Department for Education working in conjunction with educationalists including Dame Clare Tickell, chief executive of the charity Action for Children.

How are children assessed in Reception?

Assessment is ongoing throughout the EYFS, but the official EYFS Profile for each child is completed in the final term of Reception.

The EYFS profile is a summary of your child’s attainment at the end of Reception. It’s not a test, and your child can’t ‘pass’ or ‘fail’. The profile measures your child’s attainment in areas of learning known as Early Learning Goals (ELGs). It takes place through teacher observation of children’s learning and development as they take part in everyday activities, and planned observations, where teachers spend time on a specific task with an individual child or small group.

What level should your child be working at in Reception?

In your Reception child’s EYFS profile, for each of the ELGs, they’ll be given one of the following gradings:

  • Expected: your child is working at the level expected for their age
  • Emerging: your child hasn't quite reached the age-expected level yet

On leaving the Foundation Stage at the end of Reception, a child is considered to have a ‘good level of development’ if they have achieved at least the expected level in the Early Learning Goals in all aspects of PSE, Physical development, Communication and language, Literacy and Mathematics.

What happens if your child is working above or below the expected level?

If your child is working below the level expected for their age, the school will focus on helping them catch up with their peers as they move into Year 1. This could be through one-to-one support from a teacher or teaching assistant, small-group work with children who have similar needs, or, where necessary, additional assistance, for example from the school’s Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator or external services such as the speech and language therapy team.

Year 1 teachers are given a copy of the Profile report. so they understand the stage of development and learning needs of every child joining their class and can plan activities in Year 1 accordingly. 

If your child is exceeding the expected level at the end of Reception, their Y1 teacher should ensure they are adequately challenged in class, for example by providing extension work.