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Finding things audit (2/2): how early years went

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Education is the first theme of the GDS finding things project, and early years is the first content area.

As we’ve now completed our audit of the early years content, and it went pretty smoothly, other departments have been asking how we did it. Our friends at GDS suggested a blog would be the best way of sharing what we did.

Prep work

We started by posting an article on our intranet to let the department know about the finding things project. The article has come in handy several times since then – whenever we talk to someone new about the project, we make sure we send them the link.

We then set about finding someone in the early years policy team who’d be happy to help us review the content. Our grade 6 helpfully found us a grade 6 with an overview of early years content who was willing to help, and we arranged to meet him.

Meeting with the policy contact this early on was crucial – it allowed us to explain why the project was worthwhile and to reassure him that we’d make things as painless as possible for him and his team.

The inventory

Our first task was to review the list of early years content GDS put together to make sure nothing major was missing. We weren’t trying to identify every single page we’d ever published about early years, but rather to make sure that the list included content on every early years area or initiative.
To make this review easier for the policy team, we shared a stripped-down version of the inventory with them. We removed the following content types from the list:

  • all announcements (including news stories, press notices and government responses)
  • FOIs
  • speeches (including statements to parliament)
  • official and national statistics

This made the list shorter and less scary – from an original inventory of 430 pages, we showed 196 to our policy contact, who was able to confirm pretty quickly that all the important content was there.

The audit

The next task was to audit all the content in the inventory to identify duplicated or out-of-date information. This audit also offered an opportunity to recommend quick fixes and improvements to content we were keeping.
After auditing all the content, we got back in touch with our contact in policy to ask them to review our recommendations. This time, we were able to give them an even shorter list – we only sent them our recommendations for:

  • guidance
  • correspondence
  • policy papers

This meant that from an audit of 430 pages, we showed 87 to our policy contact.

We felt we didn’t need to check the other content types with them because, for transparency reasons, there was no question of getting rid of any of our:

  • announcements (including news stories, press notices and government responses)
  • speeches (including statements to parliament)
  • official and national statistics
  • consultations
  • research reports

While we did recommend changes to some content in these content types, these weren’t significant. For instance, we improved a few summaries, fixed some broken links and redirected some duplicated publications.


Policy colleagues had a few concerns about some of the recommendations. We met with the team to explain why we’d made those recommendations and to hear their point of view. In the end, they agreed with all but 2 of our recommendations.
As soon as we got agreement, we logged the final signed-off recommendations in the googledoc we were sharing with GDS, and started working on them immediately.


This work had 2 positive results:

  1. GDS now has a definitive list of every page on GOV.UK that’s relevant to early years, agreed by the DfE digital content and policy teams. They’ll use this list to carry out user research and rethink the taxonomy to make this content easier for our users to find.
  2. We improved our content. We identified the pages that needed action (revising page text to improve readability and searchability, withdrawing out-of-date pages, redirecting duplicated pages). We made the necessary improvements to the content in the audit, and reduced the overall amount of pages by 11%.

Ale del Cueto and Dave Hallworth are the lead digital editor and managing editor from the Department for Education.

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