Early years foundation stage (EYFS) statutory framework

To gain more advanced knowledge of the EYFS it is crucial that you hold an understanding of the key principles which the EYFS is built upon. These principles, known as the ‘themes’ which underpin the EYFS, refer to the foundations needed to enable children to thrive and develop across each of the EYFS seven areas of learning. Knowing the EYFS themes enables practitioners to create an optimum learning environment in which children can continuously learn, develop and thrive.
The key focus during EYFS is on teaching children routine and easing them into the idea of learning in a structured environment. This gets kids ready for beginning more formal teaching in KS1.
The four main EYFS principles that schools and practitioners work to adhere to are:

  • A Unique Child: Every child is unique and each one responds to different learning methods in different ways. Importantly, every child is capable of being strong, resilient and capable learner with the right guidance.
  • Enabling Environments: The environment in which a child learns should prompt and encourage good learning techniques. An enabling environment is one which caters to each individual child’s needs and gives them the freedom to expand their knowledge and development.
  • Positive Relationships: Children should be encouraged to be strong and independent when required, forming the basis for positive relationships that they will go on to have. They should also be given the safety and security to bolster the relationships they have with those closest to them.
  • Learning and Development: By following the EYFS Seven Areas of Learning, both Prime and Specific, each child will be taught a wide range of skills to aid their physical and mental development.

To gain more advanced knowledge of the EYFS it is crucial that you hold an understanding of the key principles which the EYFS is built upon. These principles, known as the ‘themes’ which underpin the EYFS, refer to the foundations needed to enable children to thrive and develop across each of the EYFS seven areas of learning. Knowing the EYFS themes enables practitioners to create an optimum learning environment in which children can continuously learn, develop and thrive.
The key focus during EYFS is on teaching children routine and easing them into the idea of learning in a structured environment. This gets kids ready for beginning more formal teaching in KS1.
The four main EYFS principles that schools and practitioners work to adhere to are:

  • A Unique Child: Every child is unique and each one responds to different learning methods in different ways. Importantly, every child is capable of being strong, resilient and capable learner with the right guidance.
  • Enabling Environments: The environment in which a child learns should prompt and encourage good learning techniques. An enabling environment is one which caters to each individual child’s needs and gives them the freedom to expand their knowledge and development.
  • Positive Relationships: Children should be encouraged to be strong and independent when required, forming the basis for positive relationships that they will go on to have. They should also be given the safety and security to bolster the relationships they have with those closest to them.
  • Learning and Development: By following the EYFS Seven Areas of Learning, both Prime and Specific, each child will be taught a wide range of skills to aid their physical and mental development.

Early Years Setting Definition

In EYFS, practitioners often don’t have to work in classrooms and so the places where young children learn are called Early Years settings or Learning Environments.
Early years settings can include childminders, day nurseries, pre-schools, holiday playschemes and childcare in your own home. The law refers to these as early years settings and providers.
Early Years Settings should be safe engaging spaces which seek to enable children to feel comfortable. For some lovely resources to help you to build or decorate your own Early Years Setting check out our EYFS Area Signs.

EYFS Curriculum Aims

The Early Years Foundation Stage guidelines aim to provide:
  • Quality and consistency in all early years classes
  • A secure foundation through learning opportunities tailored to the needs of pupils of this age group
  • Partnership working between parents and practitioners
  • Equality of opportunity to support children of all backgrounds

What is the current Framework for Early Years?

It is crucial that those working with any of these early years settings are familiar with the Early Years Foundation Stage Statutory Framework. This sets out the required standards that Early Years practitioners need to follow. Broken down into Seven Areas of Learning and Development, it aims to provide an all-over development plan for children, pushing the core skills that will benefit their educational success in the future but also helping them become more fully-rounded and emotionally aware individuals. A crucial aspect of the EYFS are recommendations on safeguarding and child well-being. Safeguarding is a key part of the EYFS, and all those working within Early Years within any capacity (including voluntary roles) should be aware of EYFS safeguarding measures. There are 10 areas of safeguarding and wellbeing which childcare providers must follow. These are:
  • Child protection
  • Suitable people
  • Staff qualifications, training, support and skills
  • Key person
  • Staff-child ratios
  • Health
  • Managing behaviour
  • Safety and suitability of premises, environment and equipment
  • Special educational needs
  • Information and records

What are the EYFS Seven Areas of Learning and Development?

The EYFS is divided up into Seven Areas of Learning and Development, which are:

  • Personal, Social and Emotional Development (PSED)
  • Communication and Language (C+L)
  • Physical Development (PD)
  • Literacy (L)
  • Mathematics (M)
  • Understanding the World (UTW)
  • Expressive Arts and Design (EAD)
 
Practitioners use these seven areas as the basis for their planning. Each area is divided up into more distinct areas, making 17 in total. These initially consist of the prime areas of learning. Within these initial areas, children can develop a secure foundation. The skills included in the Prime Areas are Personal, Social and Emotional Development, Communication and Language and Physical Development. By focussing on these first, children can secure the skills needed to progress within their development.
Children will then move on to more refined topics in the Specific Areas of Learning. These include Literacy, Mathematics, Understanding the World and Expressive Arts and Design.
To build a secure knowledge of the EYFS you can refer to the positive relationships and enabling environments sections set aside the learning goals within each of the areas of development. These will help develop your knowledge of the EYFS curriculum. They’ll also support your understanding of how you can support children to reach the various milestones.
 
Each of the EYFS Seven Areas of Learning and Development and the areas within each one are:
1. Personal, Social and Emotional Development (PSED) focusses on children’s mental and physical wellbeing. Children work on long-term skills and awarenesses to build a healthy foundation they can take forward. It’s divided into these topics:
  • Self-Confidence and Self-Awareness
  • Managing Feelings and Behaviour
  • Making Relationships
2. Communication and Language (C+L) encourages conversations and spoken language skills. Underpinning all skills, its foundational for children to be able to interact with their peers and their learning environment. It’s split into the following distinct areas:
  • Listening and Attention
  • Understanding
  • Speaking
3. Physical Development (PD) is vital for healthy lives as well as affecting other areas of learning. Both gross and fine motor skills are developed over Early Years in activities like writing and cutting. Practitioners plan by looking at these specific areas:
  • Moving and Handling
  • Health and Self-Care
4. Literacy (L) skills will form a strong foundation for children’s school careers, and are split simply into:
  • Reading
  • Writing
5. Mathematics (M) area of learning focusses on simple concepts that are foundational to higher maths topics in KS1 and up. In EYFS children focus on the maths areas of:
  • Number
  • Shape, Space and Measure
6. Understanding the World (UTW) supports children’s learning about the environment around them. In this area of learning children can explore new cultures and better understand basics that we often take for granted.
  • People and Communities
  • The World
  • Technology
7. Expressive Arts and Design (EAD) supports children’s creative development and expression. It helps children create their own art works and encourages them to value their own thoughts, opinions and skills. The two areas in this area of learning are:
  • Exploring and Using Media and Materials
  • Being Imaginative
 
Early Years practitioners will plan activities to cover these Areas of Learning. Throughout the day or session, children will have the opportunity to complete activities that cover many, if not all of EYFS Seven the Areas of Learning and Development.

Early Years Assessment:

Assessments take place on a daily basis in EYFS through the form of observations – rather than formal testing. A child’s progress is reviewed around two to three years old, before they start more structured learning, and again at the end of reception before they move on to KS1. The goals and expected development for early years children across the seven areas of learning and development, as well as changes between different ages and stages and these expectations, will inform practitioners observations.


Children in Early Years will all have a learning journey. These are documents which record observations about the child. EYFS practitioners will observe children as they play to understand the child’s current attainment and to plan for their next steps. These observations form the majority of EYFS assessments and are shared with parents and carers.


Parents and carers are also invited to contribute their own observations of their child’s learning at home so that a more complete picture of a child’s development can be achieved. Sharing the EYFS curriculum aims with parents and carers will help their understanding of the EYFS and the stages of their child’s development. This will help them to best support their child’s learning at home and to begin doing some home observations which can support practitioner assessments.

Early Learning Goals:

At the end of the reception year, children are assessed against an Early Learning Goal in each area. These goals may inform observations at earlier ages, and can offer a good insight or structure when reading or writing a child’s learning journey.


They are considered emerging’, ‘expected’ or ‘exceeding’ within each area. Schools The aim for a school is to ensure that all its children achieve a ‘good level of development’, also known as GLD. These assessments are a good tool for helping the child’s new teacher to baseline their current development and plan initial activities to support their learning.


Having an in-depth knowledge of the EYFS ensures that these final assessments are accurate and can be used to gage children’s final attainment in regards to the EYFS. Completing these Foundation Stage profiles is crucial in enabling children’s transition to the National Curriculum.

Characteristics of Effective Learning at EYFS:

A common misconception that occurs within EYFS is that children ‘just play’. However, practitioners understand that play can lead to valuable learning. The EYFS has Characteristics of Effective Learning which are key characteristics that children develop within their play. These characteristics of effective learning ensure that children gain the skills which underpin their learning and development across all the prime and specific areas of learning. Having these required characteristics of learning in mind helps to support practitioners’ abilities to support ongoing development and underpin their holistic knowledge of the EYFS.
  • Playing and exploring shows how the child is engaging as they investigate and experience things first hand.
  • Active learning which shows how a child is motivated to keep on trying when they encounter difficulties or how they enjoy achievements.
  • Creating and thinking critically shows the process of thought behind learning, developing their own ideas and creating strategies for carrying these out.

What does the EYFS say about play?

Play in the Early Years Foundation Stage is essential to young children. Through play, children will learn and develop in all seven areas of their learning. Children will be able to engage creativity and team-building skills with solo and group play, all of which can benefit their Communication and Language development.
By deviating between indoor and outdoor play, it can help children with their learning outcomes on Understanding the World as well as giving them opportunities to explore new ideas and engage problem-solving skills. Equally, by using play to teach children about a range of events and also the necessity of proper safety precautions, you can relate it to their History and Personal, Social and Emotional Development outcomes.

Adult-led Learning:

Adult-led learning forms key elements of the EYFS curriculum, particularly when helping children to develop specific skills. Having an insight and knowledge of the EYFS curriculum helps practitioners differentiate their approach and know when to apply adult-led learning and when children may benefit from a child-led approach. Children, particularly in reception, will also engage with some more ‘formal’ learning techniques.


For example, children will be involved in carpet sessions, often with a specific focus. Sometimes this focus may be around phonics or maths and on other occasions, it may be based around Understanding the World or Personal, Social and Emotional Development.