Last Updated: Friday, July 10, 2020

Supporting early language development through the targeted use of Early Years Practitioners and baseline assessments in East Ayrshire

What is this?

​This content outlines the experience of St. Andrew’s Primary School in East Ayrshire. It was part of an initiative entitled ‘Embedding Early Level Practice'. This initiative saw early learning and childcare (ELC) practitioners to support primary 1 children with literacy difficulties. It also illustrates the use of an authority developed early level literacy assessment tool which supports targeted approaches to intervention.

Who is this for?

​Senior managers, school and early learning and childcare practitioners.

How to use this exemplar to improve practice

This exemplar could support practitioners in using baseline assessments to help them structure appropriate interventions that can be implemented within the classroom either by support staff or ELC practitioners. The ELC practitioners were seen to be a particularly valuable resource due to their knowledge of children’s development across the curriculum.

Improvement Science, in the form of Plan, Do, Study, Act cycle was also used to help school staff and ELC practitioners set targets and review progress. This could also be adapted to support practice in other settings.

Improvement questions

  • How well do we record, analyse and use assessment information to identify development needs for individual learners and specific groups?
  • To what extent are we able to adapt active, play based learning to support the literacy skills of our learners in a targeted way?
  • How can ELC practitioners be utilised to support learners in the early years of primary school?


PDF file: Embedding Early Level Practice (278 KB)

Powerpoint file: Increase in Literacy - St Andrews Primary School (203 KB)

Excel file: Early Level Literacy Tool (95 KB)

What was done?

Strathclyde University supported this intervention providing training for staff. The training focused on how to develop active play-based learning in literacy including the development of the learning environment and the use of open-ended play experiences.

The children in the intervention were selected following the administration of the Early Level Literacy Assessment Tool (ELLAT) Screening Grid. Children with a score of less than 18 were targeted. Three support sessions of 45 minutes per week were set up for 17 children in the first instance. This was supported by an ELC practitioner following a programme which was adapted from the findings of the ELLAT for each child. The ELLAT continued to be administered at monthly intervals to track progress.


This project was developed following one school’s identification of children who were struggling in literacy.
It followed the findings of the Effective Provision of Pre-school Education study (2004) which highlighted that the highest quality and attainment for children happened when ELC practitioners worked closely with teachers.

What was the impact?

The Early Level Literacy Assessment Tool (ELLAT) was used as both a baseline and follow up assessment to track children’s language progress. The initial target to improve the results of over 90% of primary 1 children to a score of 18 or above on the assessment was achieved. Teachers also reported that children had increased in confidence and were more ready to learn.