Your browser version is outdated. We recommend that you update your browser to the latest version.

Assessment in the Early Years

Every term (usually just after half term) your child will have an “assessment” observation on their learning journey.

As the terminology related to this may seem a little confusing we are directing parents to this page and the site below to explain how and why we assess the children in nursery.

Development Matters and the EY Curriculum

The document supported by the Department for Education that we look at in reference to whether a child is working at an age appropriate level is called Development Matters and you can access a copy here. Development Matters

In this document you can also look at the 4 themes which underpin the guidance and the principles and practice that are related to this. There is an illustration of an “assessment wheel”, which shows how practitioners observe, assess and plan for the children in their care.


To ensure that the staff  get to know the children well, including their capabilities (strengths) and areas of development they need to work on (targets), we make daily observations. These observations take place while the children play together, explore their environment, take part in planned adult led activities and interact within the world around them. All practitioners have access to the Development Matters guidance through Famly (as well as paper and online copies in the setting). We have good knowledge of the 17 “Areas of learning” and how they are found in the daily activities that the children take part in. Some of these areas are classified as “Prime areas” which are essential  because they lay the foundations for children's success in all other areas of learning and of life: Personal, Social and Emotional Development. Physical Development. Communication and Language.   The other areas of learning are “Specific areas”, Literacy, Mathematics, Understanding the World and Expressive Arts and Design


We look for embedded learning which is demonstrated spontaneously and independently by the child and in a range of contexts. On a termly basis the staff in your child’s room, including their key person and room leader, will get together and have a discussion about where your child sits within these descriptors. We look for a best fit, although there may be some parts of the descriptor that they still need to work on. The assessment observation shows the name of the area of learning, then the age band they are considered to be in and then a final indication of where the staff feel they are within that band. We use the phrases Emerging, Developing and Secure.

Emerging means that they are not securely working in this descriptor but they are starting to and are meeting some of the criteria here

Developing (sometimes called Expected in other settings) means that they are working comfortable on this descriptor and that these expectations fit best

Secure (sometimes called Exceeding in other settings) means that they are capable of demonstrating they have the skills and knowledge of this descriptor and are ready to look at moving on to the criteria of the next age band

However, we would very much appreciate your input, because let’s face it you know your little one best. This is why we ask for your contribution through home observations and love talking to you about them on a daily basis. If you feel that you need to discuss the assessment outcomes for that term please ask to chat to the room leader or key person.

For more information have a look at these trusted sites