Select Committee on Children, Schools and Families Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF)


  The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) brings together three sets of existing requirements and guidance: Birth to Three Matters, the Curriculum Guidance for the Foundation Stage, and the National Standards for Under 8s Daycare and Childminding. It is underpinned by the Childcare Act 2006, and along with that Act removes the legal distinction between learning and care in the early years, and recognises that young children's development should be through play.

  At its heart the EYFS has a commitment to recognise and meet the needs of all children. Practitioners can support this in a way which reflects their professional judgement of children's needs. Evidence shows that early education has a powerful and sustained impact on children's learning throughout their primary years education and that high quality integrated learning, development and care enables children to achieve the best outcomes.

  The EYFS sets consistent standards for children's learning, development and care so parents can be sure that their child will receive the right support to progress at a pace which takes into account their individual needs, wherever they choose to place them.

  Parents are the most important people for children's early learning. The EYFS recognises this and puts emphasis on the importance of practitioners working closely with parents—keeping them informed of children's progress, and taking account of the learning and development of children when they are with their parents.


  The EYFS was created as a framework for practitioners, to help increase quality and consistency across the early years sector. It consists of a statutory framework, which all early years providers are required to follow, and non-statutory guidance which practitioners may use as a resource to support their practice.

  The statutory part of the EYFS has two main sections:

    —  the welfare requirements—these carry forward existing national standards on issues such as child safety and the suitability of people working in childcare settings; and

    —  the learning and development requirements—these set out a framework for young children's learning and development, but without requiring any specific approach for day to day practice.

  The whole of the EYFS is based around four key principles:

    —  A unique child—every child is a competent learner from birth.

    —  Positive relationships—children need loving and secure relationships to learn to be strong and independent.

    —  Enabling environments—the environment plays a key role in supporting and extending children's development.

    —  Learning and development—children develop and learn in different ways and at different rates.


  The learning and development requirements are organised around six areas of learning and development, all of which are equally important:

    i) Personal, social and emotional development.

    ii) Communication, language and literacy.

    iii) Knowledge and understanding of the world.

    iv) Problem solving, reasoning and numeracy.

    v) Physical development.

    vi) Creative development.

  The requirements are in three areas:

    —  Educational programmes—these are short paragraphs which illustrate the overarching skills within each area of learning and development and set out the expectation that practitioners will support children in putting these skills into practise as they are acquired, and in a broad range of contexts. Practitioners are required to support children in these areas, but the approach and the pace at which they do so is up to them.

    —  Early learning goals—developmental milestones describing the knowledge, skills and understanding which most, though not all, young children should be able to achieve by the end of the academic year in which they turn five. There is no requirement for children to achieve these milestones, and it is a matter of professional judgement how they should be supported towards them.

    —  Assessment requirements—assessment in the EYFS is through observation of day to day activities—there is no testing. In the year in which children turn five, practitioners are required to record their observations and provide these to the local authority, who will use the information to help them understand how children in their area are developing, and to plan and target the support they offer to providers, schools and families.

May 2008

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