Assessing young children from diverse backgrounds: novel ways to measure language abilities and meet the requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage
- This paper examines the communication, language and literacy assessment required by the 2017 Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and the challenges from this mandate in particular: ‘If a child does not have a strong grasp of English language, practitioners must explore the child’s skills in the home language with parents and/or carers, to establish whether there is cause for concern about language delay’ (p. 9).
- If there is cause for concern, practitioners face three challenges:
- Challenge 1: Providing consistent and objective assessment when relying on parental reports;
- Challenge 2: Assessing children’s skills in the 300-plus home languages of the one million children in English primary schools who do not have English as their first language (DfE, 2019);
- Challenge 3: Determining whether low performance on English assessments is due to (a) limited English language exposure, likely to be resolved through additional exposure in primary school and not requiring specialist intervention, or (b) an underlying language disorder that cannot be resolved through additional exposure alone.
- To address these challenges, we argue for a policy that utilises a small range of evidence-based and easily-administered tests that evaluate language-learning skills, focusing on skills needed to learn word forms (the sounds that make up a word) and word meanings.