Early years teaching reforms

All MPs have received the letter beneath from the Schools Minister concerning early years teaching which I will share with you for interest:

Reception Baseline Assessment and Early Years Foundation Stage reforms
I am writing to inform you that we are proceeding with the introduction of the new
Reception Baseline Assessment and the Early Years Foundation Stage reforms on
a statutory basis from the start of the 2021/22 academic year. The necessary
legislation will be laid before Parliament today. I would also like to take this
opportunity to provide a reminder of the purpose and aims of both and why they are
being introduced at this time.
As you will be aware, following the cancellation of primary assessments in summer
2020/21, the Government announced its intention to run a full programme of primary
assessments in the 2021/22 academic year, including the introduction of the
statutory Reception Baseline Assessment. This assessment was due to be
introduced as statutory in September 2020, but due to the impact of the Coronavirus
pandemic on schools, the 2020/21 academic year has instead been an “early
adopter” year. For the Early Years Foundation Stage reforms, academic year
2020/21 was also an early adopter year as planned, ahead of planned statutory
rollout from September 2021.
Reception Baseline Assessment
The purpose of this assessment is to act as the starting point to measure the
progress schools make with their pupils between Reception and the end of primary
school. It will be administered as a short, teacher-mediated, age-appropriate
assessment covering material that many pupils will already be familiar with, and will
be carried out in normal teaching time using materials and guidance provided. The
assessment will assess all children on-entry, accounting for any impact on their
education up to this point. The new progress measure will ensure schools are
recognised for the work they do with their pupils, in particular for those schools with
a challenging intake and those who have been significantly affected by the COVID19 pandemic.
Additionally, the Reception Baseline Assessment itself will provide valuable one-toone time with each child, particularly during those important first weeks. It is also
important to note that its introduction will mean that statutory assessments at the end of year 2 (Key Stage 1) will be made optional, lessening the overall assessment
burden on schools, lightening teacher workload and giving them greater flexibility
on how best to carry out end of year assessments. A factsheet which clears some
common misconceptions regarding the Reception Baseline Assessment is attached
at Annex A.
Early Years Foundation Stage reforms
The Early Years Foundation Stage statutory framework sets the standards that all
early years providers must meet. This includes curriculum, assessment and health
and safety requirements.
Following the Government’s response to the Primary Assessment Consultation in
2017, we developed, piloted and consulted on reforms. The two overarching aims
are to improve outcomes for all children at age 5 and to reduce practitioner and
teacher administrative workload so that more time can be spent interacting with
children in their care.
An independent review of the reforms pilot was published by the Education
Endowment Foundation and NatCen in 2018 and the Government then launched a
full public consultation on the proposed changes. The consultation concluded on
31 January 2020 and received 2,452 responses.
The pilot report and consultation responses informed the final reforms, which are
as follows:
• Revisions to the educational programmes, which form the high-level
curriculum for children in the early years.
• Revisions to the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile assessment, which
takes place at the end of Reception year to make the Early Learning Goals
clearer, more specific and easier for teachers to make accurate judgments.
The ‘exceeding’ assessment criteria will also be removed from the Early
Years Foundation Stage Profile to ensure a focus on supporting all children
to reach the expected level before year 1, and there will no longer be a
requirement for local authorities to externally moderate these judgements in
schools to reduce bureaucracy and free teachers up to spend more time
interacting with children.
• A change to the safeguarding and welfare requirements to promote good
oral health.
Over 3,000 early adopter schools have been implementing the reforms since
September 2020. The reforms will serve as an important platform to help children
catch up in key areas such as communication and language and personal, social
and emotional development, which are important now more than ever in the
context of COVID-19.
Preparedness of schools and early years settings
The Department believes that early years settings and schools will be able to
prepare appropriately to implement these two reforms. Extensive preparatory work has been undertaken to enable the reforms to proceed, while the third period of
national Covid-19 restrictions has reduced infection rates, and the parallel
vaccination rollout is progressing well. Schools in England have returned to full
attendance since 8 March.
In addition, in acknowledgement of the impact of disruption on schools and early
years settings up to this point, the Department has announced a range of recovery
support and is developing longer term plans. The Department also recognises the
key role of these reforms in supporting children who have spent extended periods
of time out of their nursery, school or childminder setting this year. The reforms aim
to improve outcomes for all children in early years settings, particularly
disadvantaged children, and to provide a powerful basis for supporting children’s
catch up from the implications of COVID-19. Reception Baseline Assessment
reforms will have a less immediate impact on catch up but remain essential to the
Department’s aim of creating a better progress measure to improve school
performance and reduce attainment gaps in the long-term.
We believe it is the best approach to proceed with the reforms, given the policy goals
of the Department and the momentum built up in the sector. We also believe it is
right to take and communicate a final decision now, in order to give much needed
certainty and ensure early years settings and schools prepare for statutory
implementation. The Department will ensure overall workload demands are
managed, including inputting to wider discussions on burden on schools and early
years settings in 2021/22 to ensure the Department accounts for the introduction of
these reforms.