Assessment in the Foundation Stage

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					              Islington guidance for heads, managers and practitioners

             Assessment, record-keeping and evaluating achievement in

                       the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)

This guidance replaces any previous guidance issued by Islington Early Years and
Cambridge Education at Islington. It sets out:

    •   The principles which underpin assessment and record-keeping processes within
        the EYFS framework

    •   The requirements set out in the EYFS framework with regard to observation,
        assessment and record-keeping

    •   Advice on how to gather the required range of evidence

    •   Advice on how to make valid assessments of children’s development and learning
        on entry to the school or setting and throughout the EYFS in order to plan for
        children’s next steps in learning

    •   Guidance on using information gathered through tracking and evaluating the
        progress children make in the EYFS as a key part of the school/setting self-
        improvement cycle and in preparation for Ofsted, including completing the Ofsted
        self-evaluation form

The principles: the four key themes of the EYFS - A Unique Child; Positive
Relationships; Enabling Environments and Learning and Development - have implications
for the way in which schools, settings and individuals working with young children
approach assessment and record-keeping.

Schools and settings should:

    •   Recognise that children are competent, influential and need to be involved in their
        own assessment

    •   Work with all other adults important to the child

    •   Recognise each child’s individual route to learning

    •   Build a broad picture of the child which ranges widely, incorporating and
        interconnecting all the areas of learning and development

EYFS requirements: practitioners must:

    •   Make systematic observations and assessments of each child’s achievements,
        interests and learning styles

    •   Use these observations and assessments to identify learning priorities and plan
        relevant and motivating learning experiences for each child

    •   Match their observations to the expectations of the early learning goals

(Creating the Picture, DfES, 2007)
The importance of observation

In the early years most of the evidence that tells us about the developmental stage a child
has reached, what the child can do and is interested in, or what the child’s needs are,
stems from observation. Some observations are written, others are ”held in mind”; some
will be planned, others spontaneous. They all contribute to the practitioner’s ongoing
knowledge of the child.

The prompts in the Islington Observation Record (which are a shortened version of the
EYFS Look, listen and note prompts) are to support all practitioners in knowing what to
look for in terms of the attitudes, dispositions, motivations, skills, knowledge, achievements
and interests a child might show across the six areas of learning and development.

(For more information see: Look, listen and note Practice Guidance p.11; Enabling
Environments: Observation, Assessment and Planning, practice card 3.1)

What to look for

The Development Matters statements are a developmental guide to the range of
knowledge, skills, understanding and attitudes that children may acquire throughout the
EYFS. They are a guide and should be treated as such: children will not necessarily
progress sequentially through the stages or achieve every single Development Matters’
statement. Neither are they an exhaustive list of what children achieve and learn in the first
five years of life.

On no account should they be used as a tick list or counted numerically to give a
child a score. See below about evaluating children’s starting points.

Child development: in making appropriate assessments, an understanding of child
development is fundamental. It is one of the 16 EYFS commitments and all practitioners
working with children from birth to five should have good knowledge of development for
the whole phase. As well as information in the EYFS pack, training on child development is
available through the Islington Early Years CPD programme.

Babies and toddlers: the most important aspects of development for babies and the
younger age group are personal, social and emotional development, communication and
language and physical development. Children’s records will therefore probably contain
more information within these areas than in others.

(For more information see: Practice Guidance.p.11, Child Development Overview card, A
Unique Child: Child Development practice card 1.1)

Carrying out observations and gathering information – the process

Practitioners should observe what young children can do and assess their development
and learning on a regular basis throughout the EYFS. When a child is deeply involved in
self-initiated play, the observational evidence is particularly rich and informative about
what the child really can do and is motivated by.

Children should be observed:

•   On a regular basis – we recommend a ”focus child” system where between three to
    five individual children are observed each week on a rolling basis

•   In a variety of contexts – outside, inside, in all areas of the setting, in child-initiated
    play, in adult-guided activities, alone, in groups etc.
Practitioners will:

•   as an ongoing element of everyday practice, be observing all children, particularly the
    focus children for the week, noting down and/or ”holding in mind” the short ”significant
    achievements” of children and other key information.

•   be making at least one longer ”narrative” observation of each child every half term
    when the child is a ”focus child”

•   regularly talk with parents and carers about children’s interests, needs and

•   regularly engage children in conversations about their interests and learning

•   gather other annotated, dated evidence, such as photos of children engaged in play
    and learning, video or audio material, samples of children’s drawings, writing, paintings

•   regularly talk with other practitioners and professionals who are involved with the child

Analysing observations and making assessments

Practitioners will

•   need time for reflection in order to analyse their observations of children in terms of
    their interests and motivations, achievements, likes and dislikes, needs, dispositions,
    abilities, skills and knowledge

•   meet together to discuss and reach a shared understanding of the child, using all the
    information available to them to identify next steps

•   plan meaningful and motivating experiences in order to support the child’s further
    development and learning

•   reflect on how their own practice and provision supports the child’s interests and next
    steps and make changes accordingly

On entry assessment

In order to be able to plan appropriately, practitioners need to make meaningful
assessments of babies and young children during the first few weeks of the child’s entry to
a school or setting.This information is a snapshot of the child’s starting points on entry to
the setting and will enable practitioners to evaluate and discuss the progress a child
makes. It is important to note however that time needs to be given for babies and
young children to settle in to a new setting before assessments are made. Young
children will not show their full range of abilities when they are still unsure or anxious about
new routines, environments and people.

Passing on records: the EYFS requires that practitioners should refer to and use the
early years record passed on from the previous setting. Ensuring records are passed on is
a joint responsibility of both the receiving setting as well as the setting the child has come
from. In Islington we recommend the use of the Islington Early Years Record which
provides a summative description of the child’s achievements, interests and needs across
the six areas of learning and development. Some settings may also send a highlighted list
of the Development Matters statements in each area of learning.
Many schools and settings also compile ”Profile books” which illustrate key events in the
child’s developmental learning journey. These are usually given to parents and carers but
are invaluable in providing a holistic picture of the child and their family, so receiving
schools/settings should always ask to see them, if available.

On-entry evidence for each child should include:

•   Information gathered at the initial home visit (see Supporting Transition in the Early
    Years, CD-ROM, Islington Early Years Foundation Stage Team)

•   At least 1 narrative observation of the child

•   A few spontaneous ”significant achievement” observations of the child

•   Further information from parents and carers exchanged at a settling-in review meeting
    some weeks after the child has started at the setting

•   Any evidence the child gives you (notes from conversations with the child, ”work”
    samples, photos etc.)

•   Information from other professionals working with the child, such as the previous
    settings’ records, or health professionals

•   Other data such as EAL, SEN & FSM etc.

Settling-in review: once the child has settled and sufficient evidence has been gathered,
a settling-in review meeing with parents allows you to discuss and agree the child’s
starting points on entry to school or setting. You can then highlight the Development
Matters’ statements that you agree the child is securely demonstrating. If subsequent
achievements are highlighted in a different colour, children’s ”on-entry” starting points can
be seen at a glance.

Continuing to track progress

The Observation Record should be used to store written observations and document
progress throughout the child’s period in the EYFS.

We advise against highlighting the Development Matters statements every time an
observation is carried out (see xxxx above) although it may be helpful to note beside it the
Development Matters emerging from the observation. One observation usually provides
evidence for a number of Development Matters across several areas of learning.

Much better is to map against the Development Matters statements at a termly, or
preferably half-termly, review meeting for each child; more frequently for babies and
younger children, as their developmental progress is so rapid.

The focus child system fits well into the review cycle, providing an ideal opportunity to
agree the child’s achievements, evaluate progress and discuss next steps, seeking
comments from parents as well as from other colleagues to inform a rounded view of the

Concerns about progress: gaps in progress or uneven progress across the areas of
learning and development should always be discussed. There could be many reasons: for
example, lack of observational evidence, inadequate provision, inappropriate experiences
and expectations or particular difficulties that the individual child might be experiencing.
Child development is such that over a short period of time a child may make swift progress
in one or two areas which then has a counter-effect in other areas of development. This
normally corrects itself with time, but it is important that practitioners remain aware of the
nature of the child’s development and are alert to any delays in development.

If what emerges is inadequate or ineffective provision or practice, this needs to be
addressed at a senior management level as soon as possible.

Early Years Foundation Stage Profile

Practitioners working in reception classes will also map achievements on a termly basis
onto the EYFSP. In making judgements, children need to demonstrate the EYFSP scale
point consistently, independently and across a range of contexts.

80% of evidence must stem from knowledge of the child and observational evidence of
child-initiated activity. Only 20% of evidence can be gathered from adult-directed or
focussed assessments (EYFSP handbook, NAA, 2008).

How to evaluate children’s starting points and the progress they make

It’s important for your own self-improvement cycle that you know how well children do in
your school or setting. For this reason, you need to consider how effective your
observations and assessment of children have been to enable you to plan appropriately for
their learning and developmental needs. In turn this should allow you to judge how well
children do in your school or setting in relation to their starting points.

Ofsted also requires schools and settings to know this information. They may ask this
question in terms of individual children (particularly in non-school early years settings) or
for the cohort as a whole or for particular groups of children, such as boys or children with

Use the broad age-related Development Matters bands across all six areas of learning and
development in the EYFS to summarise where most of the children are in relation to
national expectations and include this information in your Ofsted self-evaluation form.

    Starting points:
    • On entry to nursery: Ofsted suggests that most children are likely to be working
       within the Development Matters band for 30-50 months at age three, having
       shown competency in the preceding 22-36 month band. This can be taken as the
       age-related expectations. If a substantial proportion of children are showing they
       are still within the 22-36 month band, then children’s starting points on entry are
       likely to be below age-related expectations.
    • On entry to reception: at age 4 “most children are likely to demonstrate some of
       the elements of skill, knowledge and understanding within the Development
       Matters band for 40-60+ months, in addition to all of the elements in the preceding
       band for 30-50 months”. If most of the children have not demonstrated
       achievement against all the elements in the 30-50 month band, children’s starting
       points on entry to reception can be judged as below age-related expectations.

     Making an overall evaluation of children’s starting points:
To summarise the school’s/setting’s overall judgement about children’s starting points on
entry to your school or setting, make a few key statements about your current cohort of
children. You do not, need to give precise percentages here but you may wish to draw out
any significant differences in starting points between different groups if appropriate. For
example, “The majority of children are at age-related expectations in personal and social
development but while most girls are at age-related expectations in emotional
development, most of our boys are below age-related expectations in this developmental
area.” Or “most children who come from our nursery class are working within the 40-60
months band for Communication, Language and Literacy. However, we find that most of
the 30% of children who come from other settings are working at the 30-50 months band in
this area of learning and development.”

         Judging progress and achievement
Consider how you know children are making progress. State how your on entry
assessments and ongoing observations inform the planning of activities and the learning
environment and how, in turn, you track children’s progress against the development
matters and the EYFS profile scale points.
When judging achievement, use the development matters bands again, but take into
account the contextual factors of cohorts in your school or setting.
     • Progress from the age-related expectations (30-50 months development matters
         band) at the beginning of nursery to the age-related expectations (40-60+ months
         development matters band) at the beginning of reception is likely to demonstrate
         satisfactory progress
     • The expected progress from the beginning to the end of reception would be moving
         from the early development matters statements in the 40-60+ months band to
         achieving 6 or more points in the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile
         assessment. Children achieving an overall score of 78+ points including 6+ points
         in all 7 PSEd and CLLd scales are deemed to have reached a good level of
Summarise the achievement of different groups within the cohort and say what the
school/setting is doing to promote maximum progress. Include evidence which shows the
extent to which children are active and independent learners, are creative and can think
critically as well as how you are working with parents to support children’s progress and
adapting the experiences and environment to respond to the children’s needs.


Creating the Picture, DfES, 2007 (

EarlyYears Foundation Stage Profile handbook, NAA, 2008, (

The Early Years Foundation Stage, DCSF, 2008 (

Inspecting the Early Years Foundation Stage: guidance for inspectors, Ofsted, September 2008

Penny Kenway, Head of Early Years Foundation Stage

Revised January 2009

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