The number of children achieving a ‘good level of development’ has increased but the inequality gap persists, according to the latest Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP) results.
The document published by the Department for Education (DfE) shows that 71.8 per cent of children achieved a good level of development in 2019. This is, however, only an increase of 0.3 percentage points on 2018, which indicates that improvements in children’s development are happening at a slower rate.
The inequality gap between all children and the lowest attaining 20 per cent has increased, from 31.8 per cent in 2018 to 32.4 per cent in 2019. This remains lower than the result in 2013.
The EYFSP is a teacher assessment of children’s development at the end of the early years foundation stage, which is typically at the end of Reception. It assesses children on each of the 17 Early Learning Goals (ELGs), which come under the broader headings of: communication and language, physical development, personal, social and emotional development, literacy, mathematics, expressive arts and design, and understanding the world.
The results of the EYFSP also show that girls continue to achieve more than boys. Boys are, however, improving at a faster rate whereas the performance of girls has plateaued, which means the gender gap is decreasing.
Drilling down into the details, reading, writing and numbers ELGs continue to have the lowest percentage of children achieving at the expected level or above. There has been a small decrease in the number of children achieving the expected level across 14 ELGs.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said:‘It is undoubtedly positive that the majority of young children are progressing well by the end of the Early Years Foundation Stage. That said, the fact remains that nearly a third are still not achieving a ‘good level of development at the end of Reception, and it is concerning to see that the progress that has been made over recent years is beginning to stall.
‘With a consultation on the future of the EYFS imminent, these results also demonstrate the importance of seeing a child’s development in the round, rather than focussing on a narrow set of formal skills. Many in the sector are rightly concerned that a broader, observation-based approach to the early years is falling out of favour and being replaced with a focus on easy-to-measure skills, to the detriment of children’s early learning.’
Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), commented: ‘It’s good news that children’s overall development has improved since last year, which is testament to the high-quality provision that private, voluntary and independent nurseries deliver to the majority of children in England.
‘But we are worried that the gap between the lowest performing children and their peers continues to widen. The reduced number of two-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds receiving funded places and the higher numbers of nursery closures in deprived areas will not be helping this situation. High quality nurseries must be supported to be sustainable in all areas, but especially in those where the majority of children only access funded hours. This must mean that funding has to reflect increasing staffing and business costs.’