Schools to pilot measures to boost early language skills

Twenty-five schools will be piloting improved measures to support children’s early development in language and vocabulary in the Reception year from September.

The schools will trial revised Early Learning Goals, the key measures teachers use to decide how prepared children are to begin Year 1 at the end of Reception year. The changes are aimed at reducing teachers’ workload and produce engaging lessons.

The pilot will help to address the problem of children arriving at school struggling with language and social skills, helping to close the so-called ‘word gap’ – the gap between disadvantaged children’s communication and that of their peers when they start school.

They mark the first step of a full consultation process working closely with the early years sector, following the Government’s commitment to improve the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile in response to the Primary Assessment consultation last September.

The proposals will help reduce teacher workload, in response to feedback from teachers during the consultation that they feel pressured to collect multiple pieces of evidence that justify their own observations of how a child is progressing.

The pilots build on two schemes announced by the Education Secretary in April that will improve children’s early language and literacy skills at home before they start school. These include £5 million with the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) to trial projects that offer parents practical tools and advice on learning new words with their children, and an £8.5 million programme open for councils to fund projects that help disadvantaged children’s language and literacy.

The Early Years Foundation Stage Profile is carried out in the final term of Reception year, and is a summary of a child’s development that year against 17 Early Learning Goals. These look at each child’s development across a broad range of skills including language and communication, reading and writing, numbers, art and design, physical development, self-confidence and ability to build relationships, and understanding of the world.

The reforms to the Profile will cut down the administrative burden required of teachers, freeing them up to spend more time teaching, interacting with and supporting their pupils so that they are prepared to move on to Year 1.

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