Research School Network: Parent views of the two-year old progress check in the Early Years Foundation Stage What do parents say about their experience of the progress check? What might this tell us about assessment in the EYFS?


Parent views of the two-year old progress check in the Early Years Foundation Stage

What do parents say about their experience of the progress check? What might this tell us about assessment in the EYFS?

All children aged between two and three-years old in the Early Years Foundation Stage have a Progress Check completed on them. The check might be completed by their early years practitioner in a setting or school, or by their childminder.

The Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage introduces the check with the following paragraph:

When a child is aged between two and three, practitioners must review their progress, and provide parents and/​or carers with a short written summary of their child’s development in the prime areas. This progress check must identify the child’s strengths, and any areas where the child’s progress is less than expected. If there are significant emerging concerns, or an identified special educational need or disability, practitioners should develop a targeted plan to support the child’s future learning and development involving parents and/​or carers and other professionals (for example, the provider’s Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) or health professionals) as appropriate.

This check, like the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile at the end of the EYFS, has a dual function. It’s a snapshot of the child’s development, learning, health and wellbeing between the age of two and three. It’s also intended to be used formatively, to help the child’s continuing development.

Interestingly, there isn’t much research about effective assessment, and use of assessment information, with respect to children of this age. 

The Education Endowment Foundation’s Guidance Report on Teacher Feedback to Improve Pupil Learning states that formative assessment helps teachers in providing teaching that is adaptive to pupils’ needs and using evidence about learning to adjust instruction to ensure that learning moves forward.’

In the early years, working with children aged between two and three-years old, that might mean a number of things. 

  • If we’ve noticed that a child is putting two words together to make telegraphic sentences, like car go’, we might model language in short sentences in reply: the car is going’. 
  • If a child can catch a slowly-falling tissue when we drop it from on-high, they may be ready for catching objects like balloons or beanbags
  • If a child is showing awareness that they’ve got a wet nappy, that might tell us they are ready for toilet training. 

Formative assessment is about using the information we have to make a positive difference to child’s development (in the widest sense). 

Just noting down how a child is communicating won’t help them at all: we have to take action.

So, what do parents say about the Progress Check in the EYFS, and what might this tell us about whether this assessment is used formatively in the early years?

East London Research School has shared a survey online for parents to complete. At the time of writing, around 150 parents have shared their views. 

This group of parents is self-selecting. We should consider these as interesting findings, but they may not be representative of parents’ views in England. 

What parents said

First of all, most parents who responded said that they were involved in the check. They were asked for their views, and they were given a copy. However a significant number were not involved. 

Chart 1

This is relevant to the issue of formative use of assessment. It is important for parents to know what their child is learning in their early years setting. If parents don’t know, then they can’t have an informed discussion with their childminder or key person about adapting what they do at home to help their child. The best evidence we have suggests that the early home learning environment makes the biggest impact on children’s learning.

Equally, if practitioners don’t know about children’s learning at home, they too are unable to adapt what they do to maximise the child’s learning in their early years setting. 

The hypothesis that some practitioners might be missing an opportunity to support early home learning is supported by the answers to the next question: 38% of parents say that the check didn’t give them clear ideas about supporting their child’s learning at home. That also means, of course, that the majority of EYFS Progress Checks do give parents help with home learning.

Many parents seem to be unaware of how their nursery or childminder uses the information in the check to support their child’s continuing learning in the setting. Whilst many parents report that the assessment is used formatively to improve the child’s learning, a large number appear to say that they don’t think this is the case. 

Chart 2

Overall, a majority of parents are positive about the check. All the same, a substantial proportion of those who responded to the survey are not sure of the check’s usefulness. 

Given the time it takes for practitioners to complete these checks, that might be significant. 

Time taken on the check is time taken away from other useful work with children and their families. Equally, time spent on the check without effective information-sharing means that parents don’t benefit from the practitioners’ insights. As a result, parents are unable to consider professional guidance which might help them to adjust the support they give their children at home with their early learning. 

That matters. As the EEF Guidance Report on Working with Parents to Support Children’s Learning comments, we know that a parent’s job, education and income matters less to their child’s development than what they actually do with them.’

Chart 3

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