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Progress stalls on closing the inequality gap

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Friday, 19 October, 2018

The publication of the latest statistics from the Early Years Foundation Profile results for 2017-18 show a mixed picture:

  • Results overall continue to improve, although the rate of change has slowed - 71.5% achieved a "Good Level of Development" in 2018 compared to 70.5% in 2017, up from 51.7% in 2013 (the first year of the current version of the EYFSP)
  • The gender gap closed slightly, from 13.7% to 13.5%
  • The gap between the lowest attaining 20% of children and all children has increased for the second year in a row: from a total pointsi score of 31.4 in 2016, to 31.7 in 2017 and 31.8 in 2018.

The results also pose some difficult questions for the DfE to consider in relation to the likely impact of the proposed changes to the Early Learning Goals:

  • Technology - which has been totally removed from the new draft - is the specific area of learning in which the highest number of children currently achieve the expected level, and also the ELG where the gender gap is smallest (only 2.9%)
  • The increased focus on literacy could well further disadvantage boys, as the gender gaps in reading (10.5%) and writing (12.8%) are the largest of all the ELGs

Early Education's Chief Executive, Beatrice Merrick commented:

"The sector has achieved steady progress year by year in helping more children to reach the so-called 'Good Level of Development'.  But we should ask why this appears to be stalling - is this a sign of underfunding of the sector, of the reduced resource within local authorities to support quality improvement and professional development? 

"Looking forward, before government introduces any changes to the ELGs it needs to consider the impact those changes will have - removing the ELG in technology, based on current data, would bring down the overall score, as well as increasing the gap between boys and girls, and increasing the focus on reading and writing could also increase the gender gap, as these are the areas where it is currently highest.  These differences should lead government to ask if it is setting expectations at an appropriate level - the "Good Level of Development" is a very blunt tool that has never taken account of differences such as the age of the child at the end of the Reception year, and the uneven levels of achievement across the ELGs demonstrate that not all the goals are set at an appropriate level.  These are decisions that need to be grounded in evidence and extensive understanding of how children learn and develop.  This is sorely lacking in the version of the ELGs currently being piloted for the DfE."


Notes to editors: 

Early Education (The British Association for Early Childhood Education) is the leading independent national charity for early years practitioners and parents, campaigning for the right of all children to education of the highest quality. Founded in 1923, it has members in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and provides a national voice on matters that relate to effective early childhood education and care of young children from birth to eight. The organisation supports the professional development of practitioners through publications, training, conferences, seminars and access to a national and regional branch network. For more information on the work of Early Education visit