Nearly half of 5 year olds are not achieving expected standards at school


Recent press stories have made much of the low numbers of 5 year-olds starting school at the expected standards in maths and literacy, with the implication that the EYFS, or those delivering it, are at fault.

The report shows that nearly half (48%) of children failed to achieve a “good” level of development, which is considered to be at least the expected level within the three prime areas as well as the expected standards in literacy and mathematics.

The figures make interesting reading, with 61% achieving the expected level in literacy and 66% in maths, according to data published by the Department for Education (DfE).

Other areas achieve better results with 89% at the expected level in physical development and 87% in expressive arts and design.

The figures are based on the new EYFS measures introduced just over a year ago, and are taken from the first assessments conducted this summer. The previous Early Years Foundation Stage, with its 69 measures, was criticised as being too bureaucratic.

There was a substantial disparity between the achievement levels of girls and boys.

“Girls outperformed boys in all areas of learning,” says the DfE’s summary of the findings, with 60% of girls achieving a good level of development, compared with 44% of boys.

In literacy, 69% of girls achieved at least the expected level, compared with 53% of boys.

The gap is closer in maths, with 70% of girls at the expected level, against 63% of boys.

A DfE spokeswoman said the new streamlined profile for the foundation stage “places a stronger emphasis on the areas which are most essential for a child’s development and a greater focus on the key skills children need for a good start in life”.

‘Our reforms are also focusing on improving the quality of professionals working in the early years, by introducing early years teachers and early years educators into nurseries who will specialise in early childhood development.

‘Ofsted is introducing a tougher early years inspection framework to improve outcomes, and put a stronger emphasis on the areas which are most essential for a child’s development, such as strong communications and a good vocabulary’, she added.

Liz Bayram, chief executive of the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY), said, ‘PACEY recognises that the Early Years Foundation Stage framework has had a positive impact on raising standards within the early years. As this is the first use of the revised EYFS, it gives us a starting point, rather than telling us a direction of travel.

‘These figures paint a really positive story of how children are building social skills. However, there are areas of concern highlighted by these figures, particularly that only 52 per cent of children have achieved a good level of overall development, and there is an attainment gap between boys and girls. We need to do more to support childcare professionals, who are central in helping children to be both school-ready, and life-ready too. Low status, low pay and declining funding and support threatens the attempts by childminders, nannies and nursery workers to improve their professional status and their ability to deliver a high quality care.

‘PACEY is supportive of Ofsted and the EYFS in its role to provide children the best quality standard of care for children, but we need greater efforts from Government to support childcare professionals, who play a vital role in this process.’

Anne Longfield, chief executive of 4Children, added, ‘These figures reaffirm the challenge that is faced to make sure that every child in the Early Years Foundation Stage gets the best possible start and makes the progress that they are entitled to make.

‘As the figures show, nearly half of all children are not reaching a good standard of early learning goals. Of particular concern is that boys are doing less well than girls and children from poorer families and in more deprived areas are underachieving in comparison with those from more affluent areas.

‘We know that quality provision is the key to improving children’s outcomes hence it is imperative that the most is made of the new two year old offer and the focus on early intervention to ensure all children leave the EYFS with at least the expected level of development.’

One year in, how do you feel the new EYFS measures up? Are children better prepared for school at 5 years old? We’d welcome your comments below.


7 thoughts on “Nearly half of 5 year olds are not achieving expected standards at school

  • October 29, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    I agree with Fiona, if children were able to stay in a good nursery school until they were 5 they would be able to embrace the ‘formal schooling’ much better and with more confidence. Generally nursery classes are small groupings and there is a lot of individual attention. I am somewhat bemused by the word ‘expectations’ and ‘school readiness’ surely we all know that at age 4 and 5 and beyond, children still develop individually and at their own pace. Maybe top of the list should be ‘happy childhood’!! Experts sometimes forget about this, we are actually talking about human beings, i.e. small children, not targets and school readiness etc. and the longer a child has been able to experiment, find out, dream, learn in their own way, the better they will be able to cope with schooling at a later stage. I never forget Frazer who used to come to nursery in the morning, clutching an encyclopedia, with a bookmark, saying: look at this, did you know that …..
    Thildy Lowe

  • October 29, 2013 at 9:25 am

    Somebody commented that somebody with EYPS is better qualified to teach than a Primary School teacher. My experience of working with those who have EYPS, is that they are not. The EYPS has not equipped them to teach young children, it has merely asked them to provide evidence of a set of criteria and in all cases, I’ve found the individuals cannot lead others and in one case, the individual had poor literacy skills.

  • October 29, 2013 at 7:23 am

    Of course 5 year olds are not reaching their full potential, that’s because the teachers are not qualified to teach them!
    A teacher in a reception class has to have an educational qualification such as a PGCE, but does not HAVE to have the Early Years Qualification (EYPS).
    Yet an early years specialist who has the training experience and of course the QUALIFICATION still cannot teach a reception class!
    Michael Gove get your priorities right, get the right staff in to teach our children in their most important formative years.

  • October 28, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    Anthony you are quite correct, the achievements of 18 year olds in both Switzerland and Sweden lie way above the achievements of their UK counterparts. Surely our duty as childcarers should be to get our children emotionally developed enough to enter school being able to communicate and understand, putting in a far better position to deal with formal schooling. I believe like you Anthony that the ‘expectations’ of our children are excessive as most children enter school at the age of 4.

  • October 28, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    The article finishes “Are children better prepared for school at 5 years old?” Children are in school at four predominantly – if they remained in good quality early years provision until they WERE 5, I think we might see a completely different set of statistics.

  • October 28, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    This makes interesting reading, but has the survey been conducted based on all new school starters, irrespective of whether they have actually attended a pre school setting? What were the figures broken down between stay at home family, nanny, child minder and Ofsted inspected settings? It will be an easy target for the Daily Mail to report yet again how poor Nurseries are at delivering quality child care without getting behind these figures!

  • October 28, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    One wonders to what extent it is the *expectations* that are at fault. What, for example, would the expectations be for a five year old in Switzerland where compulsory education does not start until a child is six, or Sweden where that age is seven? I am not certain of the “league tables” for the achievements of 18 year olds in European countries but I’m willing to bet that both Switzerland and Sweden lie above the UK.


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