Early Years Toolbox

Pilot Report

Dawson A, Stokes L, Huxley C, Runge J, Takala H, Manzoni C, Hudson-Sharp N, Williams C |   | Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) | May 2020

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The Early Years Toolbox (EYT) is a set of iPad-based assessment tools suitable for use with young children by early years staff. It includes eight brief, engaging, and game-like assessment apps that aim to capture abilities that research has shown to be the most predictive of later academic, social, emotional, cognitive, and life outcomes. There is evidence that knowledge of children’s skills enables more effective instruction related to individual needs.

However, in the early years much less is known about how formative assessment, and knowledge of child development and skills, influences practice and outcomes. The one-year pilot PD programme consisted of an initial training day in regional locations for two staff per nursery, and a two-hour follow up training session held within each nursery for all staff to attend. The nurseries committed to using the apps to assess children once every term and they received a bespoke support visit, timed for after each assessment point, which was tailored to their nurseries’ needs. The pilot programme also included an online forum for nursery staff to ask questions or share experiences, a digital pack of evidence-informed resources for language, numeracy, and selfregulation development taken from research literature, and a consolidation day at the end of the year for all nurseries to share best practice.

Observations were carried out of the initial training day, the follow-up training, the support visits, and the consolidation event. In addition, all settings were interviewed, either during a case study visit or by telephone interview. An online survey was sent to all practitioners and setting managers before the training and towards the end of the intervention, as well as feedback questionnaires administered by the delivery team at the initial training and consolidation event. A series of three Intervention Delivery and Evaluation Analysis (IDEA) workshops were conducted with the delivery team to help construct and test a theory of change model for the intervention. Analysis of the data collected through the apps was also undertaken with a focus on issues related to feasibility of use, such as time required to play the apps.

The pilot took place over the academic year 2018/2019 in 27 nurseries across three regions in England (South, NorthEast, and Midlands) with children aged three to four years old. The nurseries were a mix of private, voluntary, independent (PVI), local authority maintained, and school-based settings.