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.

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