What is the Early Years Foundation Stage profile?
Your Reception child's very first school report is a big milestone, but interpreting it can be a challenge for you. As well as generic comments about your child’s achievements, it will include details of how they’ve performed against the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) profile.
The EYFS profile is completed for every child in the final term of their Reception year, and has three main purposes: to inform you about your child’s development, to make the transition to Year 1 smoother, and to help the Year 1 teacher plan a curriculum that will suit all of the pupils in their new class.
What is the EYFS profile?
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 17 areas of learning, known as Early Learning Goals (ELGs). These are:
Communication and language development
- Listening and attention
- Understanding (e.g. following instructions, responding to questions)
- Moving and handling (showing good control and coordination in large movements, like climbing, and small, like using scissors)
- Health and self-care
Personal, social and emotional development
- Self-confidence and self-awareness
- Managing feelings and behaviour
- Making relationships
Understanding of the world
- People and communities
- The world
Expressive arts and design
- Exploring and using media and materials (including music and dance)
- Being imaginative.
In each of these areas, the ELGs set out what the average child is expected to be able to do at the age of five. For example, the Number goal says that pupils should be able to count reliably from one to 20, place these numbers in order, and say which number is one less or one more than a given number. They should be able to add and subtract two single-digit numbers, and count on or back to find the answer. They should also be able to solve simple problems like doubling, halving and sharing.
In addition to the 17 ELGs, the EYFS profile will include information about how your child is developing in three ‘characteristics of effective learning’. These are:
- Playing and exploring
- Active learning
- Creating and thinking critically.
These three characteristics play an important part in your child’s ability to learn. They also enable their Year 1 teacher to understand their level of development and their learning needs as they move into Key Stage 1.
How are the assessments made?
None of us like to think about our little five-year-olds being assessed, but the process of working out your child’s attainment according to the EYFS profile is very unintrusive. It’s based mainly on their teacher’s knowledge of your child and observations of what they can do.
Throughout their time in Reception, the teacher will watch, listen to and interact with your child (and the others in their class) as they take part not just in formal learning, but also as they play and go about their daily activities like eating their lunch and getting changed for PE. Some observations will be planned – for instance, the teacher might spend an unbroken 10 minutes with your child on a set activity – but others will be spontaneous.
As the teacher observes your child, they’ll record when they see evidence of them meeting an ELG. This could be by making a brief note on a Post-It, taking a photo or just making a mental note to write down later. They’ll be looking to see that your child is consistently and independently showing evidence of fulfilling each ELG. Classroom activities will be planned to make sure children can demonstrate as many of the ELGs as possible.
In addition to teacher observations, the EYFS profile will include evidence from you. For example, you may be given slips of paper to write down your child’s achievements, which you then pass on to your child’s teacher, or the teacher might send home their Learning Journal each half-term with space for you to comment on your child’s progress.
This is important because the EYFS profile is supposed to be a complete picture of your child’s development, not just a snapshot of what happens at school. Sometimes, children might show skills at home that their teacher doesn’t see – for instance, if your child is very shy at school, the teacher might think that they’re not reaching the expected level for self-confidence and self-awareness, but at home, they might be outgoing and chatty.
The profile will also include evidence from your child (for example, the teacher will give them chances to talk about their own learning: ‘How did you find that activity? Was it easy or difficult? What could you do differently next time?’) as well as other adults who are involved with them, such as teaching assistants, midday supervisory assistants (‘dinner ladies’) and the special educational needs coordinator (SENCO).
How are the results reported?
Your Reception child’s EYFS profile has two main elements. For each of the ELGs, they’ll be given one of the following gradings:
- At the ‘expected’ level of development
- At the ‘emerging’ level of development (in other words, they haven’t quite reached it yet)
- ‘Exceeding’ the expected level of development.
Teachers are given clear guidance on how to decide which level of development each child is at. For a child to be at the expected level for an ELG, the teacher has to be confident that they meet the requirements for every part of that goal, although they might be better at some than others (for example, they might be able to add and subtract two single-digit numbers, but be better at adding than subtracting).
The characteristics of effective learning are harder to sum up, so instead of giving your child an emerging, expected or exceeding level, their teacher will write a short statement for each, explaining how they’ve demonstrated these characteristics.
What if your child is under- or over-performing?
Don’t panic if your child is rated as ‘emerging’ in one or many ELGs. It’s important to remember that children develop at different rates, and your child hasn’t ‘failed’ if they’re not at the expected standard. It may simply be that the teacher hasn’t observed a particular skill at school – but you’ve seen them demonstrating it at home.
If you have particular concerns, you should be able to arrange a meeting with your child’s teacher. However, bear in mind that one of the main purposes of the EYFS profile is to inform the Year 1 teacher about your child’s progress and how they can cater for them in the coming year. If your child isn’t at the expected level of development, the Reception and Year 1 teachers will work together to decide how they can make the transition to Key Stage 1 as easy as possible for them, and how to support them in the coming year.
Equally, if you feel your child is above average but their profile says they’re at the expected level, don’t be disheartened. Teachers don’t give ‘exceeding’ levels lightly, and should only do so if your child has moved beyond the expected standard in all areas of a particular ELG, and is demonstrating their ability consistently – not just as a one-off. They should refer to guidance provided by the Department for Education about how to tell if a child is exceeding, and also discuss their decision with a Year 1 teacher.
If your child is exceeding some or all of their ELGs, this will again be passed on to their Year 1 teacher so they know where to stretch and challenge your child in the year ahead.
How the EYFS Profile is changing
The Department for Education announced on 14 September 2017 that it aims to "improve" the Profile by reviewing supporting guidance in order to reduce burdens for teachers. This article will be updated with more information as it is made available.