The statutory EYFS framework sets the standards and requirements that all early years providers must follow to ensure all children have the best start in life and are prepared for school. It requires that children be assessed against the EYFS Profile in the summer term of the academic year in which they turn 5.
The EYFS Profile is intended to provide an accurate representation of each child’s development at the end of the EYFS to support their transition into year 1. It is made up of an assessment of the child’s outcomes in relation to 17 early learning goals (ELGs) across 7 areas of learning.
The 3 prime areas of learning are: communication and language; personal, social and emotional development; and physical development. These prime areas are particularly important for children’s healthy development and are the basis for successful learning in the other 4 specific areas of learning: literacy; mathematics; understanding the world; and expressive arts and design.
As shown in the table below, children are defined as having a good level of development at the end of the EYFS if they are at the expected level for the 12 ELGs within the 5 areas of learning relating to: communication and language; personal, social and emotional development; physical development; literacy; and mathematics.
|Area of learning
|Early learning goal
|Part of the good level of development measure
|Prime areas of learning
|Communication and language
|Listening, attention and understanding
|Personal, social and emotional development
|Gross motor skills
|Fine motor skills
|Specific areas of learning
|Understanding the world
|Past and present
|People, culture and communities
|The natural world
|Expressive arts and design
|Creating with materials
|Being imaginative and expressive
Changes to the EYFS Profile in 2021
- revisions to all 7 areas of learning in the EYFS, with new educational programmes that set out what children must experience and learn about
- revisions to all 17 ELGs across the 7 areas of learning to make these clearer and more precise and to make it easier for practitioners to understand what is required for a child to be at the expected level of development
- removal of ‘exceeding’ assessment band
- removal of statutory local authority moderation
It is therefore not possible to directly compare 2021/22 and 2022/23 assessment outcomes with earlier years.
The early years foundation stage profile must be completed for all children unless:
- an exemption has been granted for the setting (reserved for independent schools or schools with established principles in conflict with the EYFS)
- an exemption has been granted for an individual child (reserved only for cases where a child’s family has religious or philosophical beliefs that cannot be reconciled with the EYFS)
- the child is continuing in early years foundation stage provision beyond the year in which they turn 5.
The guidance on exemptions was updated in the 2022/23 academic year as part of the continued efforts to discourage the use of the EYFS Profile as an accountability measure. Previously, exemptions could also be granted for children who had not spent a long time in a setting for example due to illness or not starting at a setting until a substantial part of the academic year had gone by. As a result, 0.3% (1,700) of children were excluded from the statistics due to having an exemption in 2022/23, down from 0.7% (4,500) in 2021/22.
This will have resulted in a slight fall in the outcomes measures across the child cohort as a whole (whether at national or sub-national level). In addition, some cohorts, for example those with special educational needs (SEN), will have been particularly impacted (1.5% of the SEN cohort were recorded as having an exemption in 2022/23 compared with 2.9% in 2021/22). However, the precise impact of this on outcomes is hard to determine. Nonetheless, the fall in children exempted should be considered when comparing the 2021/22 and 2022/23 data.
Impact of coronavirus (COVID-19)
Disruption to early years provision and family life and the limiting of social contact with peers during the pandemic is likely to have affected EYFS assessment outcomes. Early years settings were closed to all but vulnerable children and children of critical workers between March and June 2020, when the children taking the EYFS assessment in 2022/23 were approximately two years old, and many settings will have faced ongoing disruption of varying degrees - for example due to staff absence. Also, social contact with peers was limited for much of 2020 and some of 2021.
Decreases were seen between 2018/19 and 2021/22 in attainment elsewhere, for example in the phonics screening check and key stage 1 national curriculum assessments. Most recently, between 2021/22 and 2022/23, attainment for the phonics and screening check and key stage 1 national curriculum assessments increased.
It is not possible to ascertain the scale of the impact of the pandemic on the development of children at national or individual levels at the end of the EYFS from the 2021/22 or 2022/23 EYFS statistics alone, as the EYFS Profile was revised in September 2021 and so direct comparisons between data from 2021/22 onwards and earlier years are not possible.
Data is collected from local authorities covering state-funded schools and private, voluntary and independent (PVI) providers (including childminders) as part of the EYFS Profile return. This data is then matched to other data sources, including the school and early years censuses, to obtain information on pupil characteristics.