What is the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile?

What is the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile? And what is it for exactly? Good questions aren’t they? At the end of this blog post I’ll be including links to explanations offered by the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Authority. But right now – I’m staying with what parents think. Some of this is speculation of course.

Speculation – because – I suspect the average parent simply does not know. And this is a problem in itself. We don’t know and don’t understand not because we’re stupid but – may I suggest – because the whole system is too complicated and doesn’t make sense in educational terms. Correct me if I’m wrong, people. Disagree. Your views in the comments box please.

Just to show you what I mean and without reference to official sources – I’m going to have a go at providing an off-the-cuff explanation myself. After all, if I, a mother and journalist am having trouble understanding it (and the rationale for it) then heaven help any other parents who don’t get the chance to blog about it.

Here we go. Well. When your child turns five at the end of the school year (if they attend school) – you the parent can expect to receive a piece of paper with some scores on it – or possibly words written down – which are an attempt to measure your child’s achievements. You can expect to receive this at the parent’s evening.

I’ve forgotten how many goals there are. But you can check the QCDA links that I’m including at the end of this blog post if you like. I’ve forgotten how many goals there are – because I don’t bring up my child thinking ‘oh, I wonder if my child has met such-and-such-an-EYFS goal this morning’. I don’t think the number of goals really matters very much in human terms but if you really want the references I’ll put them in at the end of the post.

With a child aged four and half we will be due to attend parent’s evening soon once more. This will be a challenge for me. Not because I’m worried about how my child is doing. Because I think this system of measuring is a load of old cobblers. I fluctuate between feeling extremely sad that such a thing exists – and wanting to cry (which I did last time – I found the whole thing so upsetting) and wanting to laugh out loud because it is such a ridiculous way of going about things – and as a parent quite often I just can’t take it seriously.

 For lots of reasons. Here are some of them. I’m going to ask you a question now, reader…

Have you heard of the term ‘added value’? Come on, what do you think it means? Well here is one explanation from the field of higher education. No, don’t follow the link  now, I need you to stay with me – if you don’t things will get even more complicated.

Well, adding value as far as I can see, is supposed to mean – showing that someone has learned something. Schools and nurseries need to show that because otherwise in the current climate the government wouldn’t give them any money. As far as I can see – that’s how the system works.

But that isn’t how children work, is it? Children, especially young children are reassuringly anarchic, for one thing. Hang on, I need to stick to the subject here…

Added Value. This basically means – your child starts off at nursery at a certain age. Then they learn things. You can’t tell exactly where they are learning things, though. That’s the anarchic bit. They might be learning them at home. They might be learning things in nursery – they might be learning things when you take them to Granny’s or the corner shop. It might be a combination of all these things.

But, for the purposes of the Early Years Foundation Stage Learning and Development Requirements, the Early Years Profile Assessments, the Profile itself. You need to show ADDED VALUE you need to be able to show that the child in question learned the things you are talking about in the school or the nursery you are talking about. Get it?

That’s why before your child goes to school, and when they finish nursery there are issues with a report. With our child this happened at the age of three. This rep0rt may bear very little resemblance to the child itself. But the setting needs to show and explain what they think the child needs to learn.  Otherwise there would be no progress and no added value. Get it?

From practical experience I can say that the report issued at age three bore little resemblance to the child that I knew. (See previous blog posts). My child’s perceived shortcomings were identified in it though. Although they didn’t use that word. At the time I wrote a hefty letter about it – as I knew the report would accompany my child to school. I believed my child was a confident and sociable child (at age three)  – but the report indicated otherwise.  I was told they could only write about ‘what they could see’. Mmmm.

I feel I understand what is happening with this now. From an institution’s point of view – schools and nurseries are forced, from necessity to identify developmental ‘goals’ (or whatever it is they call them). If they didn’t – they would not be able to show that a child has ‘learned something’. They wouldn’t be able to show the ‘added value’ that secures their funding.

It’s my belief that the Early Years Foundation Stage system puts staff and parents in danger of coming to the wrong conclusions about their child’s learning.

But the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Authority think differently. If you think this blog post has been difficult to read – test the transparency of the QCDA’s explanations. I dare you.

QCDA on the question What is the EYFS profile? (note this page is filed under the heading tests and examinations – as parents we were always told there was no testing in the EYFS)

QCDA on the Early Years Foundation Stage practitioner’s responsibilities


3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by joxy34 on March 17, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    If I may interject; as a childminder and a Home Educator leaning toward a steiner approach for my son, I am becoming increasingly disturbed by the degree of adult led play/activities the EYFS requires me to do… and as a childminder I am told to set up opportunities in which I can see whether a child is meeting a particularly goal, if not then I must write a plan for enabling the child to reach that goal, if I do not the rating Ofsted will give my setting will be negatively affected.

    EYFS talks of “purposeful play” and recently the government issued demands that all nurseries and childmidners make boys in their settings write daily – yes of course this can be done to try and engage the child in a fun activity – but it is yet again adult let and cutting into this susposed free play talked about in EYFS. And with regards to the EYFS profile – quite simply it is not needed, formal education SHOULD NOT begin at age 3, as it is with the EYFS.. and once upon a time its was a school’s job to assess the children themselves, upon entrance to their establishment and for them to teach children to read and write etc.. and now the expectation is that children are begining to read and write BEFORE going to school. Nonsensical and completely flies in the face of dizzying array of research that demonstrates introducing formal education at such young ages can actually be damaging to a child’s learning experience.

    Dr Suggate, has recently published his research in this area in which he compared mainstream educated children to steiner educated, taking into account various other factors and he found that by age 10 1/2 there was absolutely no difference in reading ability and learning of the children from Steiner schools who do not begin formal education until 7; and children in mainstream schools who are often starting at 4years of age….. he also was unable to find any research previously done that is able to empirically demonstrate that beginning education “early” is beneficial, but plenty showing how it can be damaging.



  2. Posted by ruth on March 11, 2010 at 9:29 am

    I’m afraid you have missunderstood the the EYFS profile. The point is to assess where the children are currently at and be able to review their progress, but that learning does not relate just to what they show in school and infact it is a legal requirement that settings try to gain input from others inc parents, childminders, after school clubs and the children themselves.
    It is not done in the way of a test or formal assessment but by means of observation of the childs free play and recorded as a series of notes about things your child has done that have delighted the staff. If a child fails to get a profile point it simply means there is no evidence to show s/he can do it, not that they can’t, and settings are willing to listen to parents.
    As a journalist you will have the skills to look into this further. You may need to forge better links with your childs school as you come across as an interested parent and will reap the rewards for you and your child if you get into school and see what is happening and what you can do to help.
    As a parent you are the most important person in your child education and teachers know that the children that succeed in the long run academically are those with parents who spend time with their children and show an interest in their education.


    • Posted by Frances Laing on March 17, 2010 at 10:15 am

      Thanks Ruth. It’s interesting I find that whenever any criticisms are raised by parents about the EYFS the stock answer is: ” We have misunderstood what the government/schools/teachers/nursery staff are trying to do”. I find this answer quite patronising actually, it seems to be a clear sign that despite the lip service – parents are not really being listened to at all – a ‘non-listening’ response as it were…but thank you for taking the time to write in.

      Yes, thank goodness we are the most important people in our child’s education. As I wrote recently in a letter to “Nursery World” which is due to appear as the letter of the week this week…”parents who trust/rely solely on government policy to steer their child’s education are in a sorry state indeed…”.


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