Module 3 : Understanding Early Years Framework

30 minutes

The Early Years Framework

The EYFS framework explains how and what children will be learning to support their healthy development and provide the foundation children need to make the most of their abilities and talents as they grow up.

The EYFS specifies requirements for learning and development and for safeguarding children and promoting their welfare.

The Characteristics of Effective Learning

The unique child reaches out to relate to others and things through the characteristics of effective learning which move through all the areas of learning, through playing and exploring, active learning and creating and thinking critically.

Children will learn skills, acquire new knowledge and demonstrate their understanding through 7 areas of learning and development.

Children should mostly develop the 3 prime areas first. These are:

  • Communication and language;
  • Physical development; and
  • Personal, social and emotional development.

These prime areas are those most essential for a child’s healthy development and future learning.

As children grow, the prime areas will help them to develop skills in 4 specific areas. These are:

  • Literacy;
  • Mathematics;
  • Understanding the world; and
  • Expressive arts and design.

All 7 areas of learning are used to plan children’s learning and activities. The staff teaching and supporting your child at Burton will make sure that the activities are suited to your child’s unique needs. This is a little bit like the curriculum in the rest of the school but it’s suitable for very young children, and it’s designed to be really flexible so that staff can follow your child’s unique needs and interests.

Children in the EYFS learn by playing and exploring, being active, and through creative and critical thinking which takes place both indoors and outside. It is very important that they develop social skills, such as turn-taking, sharing and independence, which help them greatly in the next stages of their learning.  The guiding principles that shape our practice in the Early Years are that children are born ready, able and eager to learn. They actively reach out to interact with other people, and in the world around them. Development is not an automatic process, however. It depends on each unique child having opportunities to interact in positive relationships and enabling environments.

This does not mean that all your child’s learning is divided up into specific areas.  One experience may provide a child with opportunities to develop a number of skills and concepts across several areas of learning.  Our expectation is that your child’s records will be passed to us from their Nursery or Pre-school setting, enabling us to ensure continuity throughout the Early Years Foundation Stage.

Phonics teaching and learning are a key part of the Foundation Stage and help to develop early reading and writing skills. The EYFS curriculum is delivered through cross-curricular topics, such as ‘Do You Want to be Friends? Why do Squirrels Hide their Nuts?, What’s That Sound?, Do Cows Drink Milk?, What is a Reflection and Who Lives in a Rockpool?’  If you have already visited our Reception class, you will have seen a range of activities taking place such as role-play, practical games, painting, cutting and sticking and reading in the book corner. You will also have seen the outdoor classroom in operation, with equipment such as bikes, cars, sand and water.

Children work and play independently, with a strong emphasis on choice and being able to sustain concentration on projects, as well as joining a variety of teacher-led activities. We strongly encourage a partnership with parents, so they are actively involved in their children’s learning.


Early Leaning Goals

There are a total of 17 Early Learning Goals in EYFS:

The Prime Areas

Communication and language

  • Listening and attention: children listen attentively in a range of situations. They listen to stories, accurately anticipating key events and respond to what they hear with relevant comments, questions or actions. They give their attention to what others say and respond appropriately, while engaged in another activity.
  • Understanding: children follow instructions involving several ideas or actions. They answer ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions about their experiences and in response to stories or events.
  • Speaking:children express themselves effectively, showing awareness of listeners’ needs. They use past, present and future forms accurately when talking about events that have happened or are to happen in the future. They develop their own narratives and explanations by connecting ideas or events.

Physical development

  • Moving and handling:children show good control and co-ordination in large and small movements. They move confidently in a range of ways, safely negotiating space. They handle equipment and tools effectively, including pencils for writing.
  • Health and self-care: children know the importance of good health of physical exercise, and a healthy diet, and talk about ways to keep healthy and safe. They manage their own basic hygiene and personal needs successfully, including dressing and going to the toilet independently.

Personal, social and emotional development

  • Self-confidence and self-awareness: children are confident to try new activities and say why they like some activities more than others. They are confident to speak in a familiar group, will talk about their ideas, and will choose the resources they need for their chosen activities. They say when they do or don’t need help.
  • Managing feelings and behaviour: children talk about how they and others show feelings, talk about their own and others’ behaviour, and its consequences, and know that some behaviour is unacceptable. They work as part of a group or class and understand and follow the rules. They adjust their behaviour to different situations and take changes in routine in their stride.
  • Making relationships: children play co-operatively, taking turns with others. They take account of one another’s ideas about how to organise their activity. They show sensitivity to others’ needs and feelings and form positive relationships with adults and other children.

The specific areas


  • Reading:children read and understand simple sentences. They use phonic knowledge to decode regular words and read them aloud accurately. They also read some common irregular words. They demonstrate understanding when talking with others about what they have read.
  • Writing:children use their phonic knowledge to write words in ways which match their spoken sounds. They also write some irregular common words. They write simple sentences which can be read by themselves and others. Some words are spelt correctly, and others are phonetically plausible.


  • Numbers:children count reliably with numbers from 1 to 20, place them in order and say which number is one more or one less than a given number. Using quantities and objects, they add and subtract two single-digit numbers and count on or back to find the answer. They solve problems, including doubling, halving and sharing.
  • Shape, space and measures: children use everyday language to talk about size, weight, capacity, position, distance, time and money to compare quantities and objects and to solve problems. They recognise, create and describe patterns. They explore the characteristics of everyday objects and shapes and use mathematical language to describe them.

Understanding the world

  • People and communities: children talk about past and present events in their own lives and in the lives of family members. They know that other children don’t always enjoy the same things and are sensitive to this. They know about similarities and differences between themselves and others, and among families, communities and traditions.
  • The world: children know about similarities and differences in relation to places, objects, materials and living things. They talk about the features of their own immediate environment and how environments might vary from one another. They make observations of animals and plants and explain why some things occur and talk about changes.
  • Technology:children recognise that a range of technology is used in places such as homes and schools. They select and use technology for particular purposes.

Expressive arts and design

  • Exploring and using media and materials: children sing songs, make music and dance, and experiment with ways of changing them. They safely use and explore a variety of materials, tools and techniques, experimenting with colour, design, texture, form and function.
  • Being imaginative: children use what they have learnt about media and materials in original ways, thinking about uses and purposes. They represent their own ideas, thoughts and feelings through design and technology, art, music, dance, role-play and stories.

Assessment at the end of Reception

Assessment plays an important part in helping parents, carers and staff to recognise children’s progress, understand their needs, and to plan activities and support. Ongoing assessment is an integral part of the learning and development process.  It involves staff observing children to understand their level of achievement, interests and learning styles, and to then shape learning experiences for each child reflecting those observations. In their interactions with children, staff will respond to their own day-to-day observations about children’s progress, and observations that parents and carers share.  To this end, we make systematic observations and assessments of each child’s achievements, interests and learning styles. We then use these observations and assessments to identify learning priorities and plan relevant and motivating learning experiences for each child.

Each child’s level of development is assessed against the early learning goals (above).  Teaching staff will indicate whether children are meeting expected levels of development.

  • Emerging, not yet reaching expected levels of development for age
  • Expected
  • Exceeding, beyond expected levels of development for age

A good level of development is determined by children achieving the ‘expected’ level (as above) in the Early Learning Goals in the 3 Prime Areas and the Specific Areas of Mathematics and Literacy.

Our Year 1 teacher will have access to the Profile report and hold meetings with the EYFS staff on each child’s skills and abilities in relation to the three key characteristics of effective learning. These will inform transition meetings between Reception and Year 1 teacher about each child’s stage of development and learning needs and assist with the planning of activities at the start of Year 1.

Understanding the EYFS Framework

Every child deserves the best possible start in life and the support that enables them to fulfil their potential. Children develop quickly in the early years and a child’s experiences between birth and age five have a major impact on their future life chances. A secure, safe and happy childhood is important in its own right. Good parenting and high quality early learning together provide the foundation children need to make the most of their abilities and talents as they grow up.

The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) sets the standards that all early years providers must meet to ensure that children learn and develop well and are kept healthy and safe. It promotes teaching and learning to ensure children’s ‘school readiness’ and gives children a broad range of knowledge and skills that provide the right foundation for good future progress through school and life.

The EYFS seeks to provide:

  • Quality and consistencyin all early years settings, so that every child makes good progress and no child gets left behind;
  • A secure foundationthrough learning and development opportunities which are planned around the needs and interests of each individual child and are assessed and reviewed regularly;
  • Partnership workingbetween practitioners and with parents and/or carers;
  • Equality of opportunityand anti-discriminatory practice, ensuring that every child is included and supported.

The EYFS specifies requirements for learning and development and for safeguarding children and promoting their welfare. The learning and development requirements cover:

  • The areas of learning and development which must shape activities and experiences (educational programmes) for children in all early years settings;
  • The early learning goals that providers must help children work towards (the knowledge, skills and understanding children should have at the end of the academic year in which they turn five); and
  • Assessment arrangements for measuring progress (and requirements for reporting to parents and/or carers).

The safeguarding and welfare requirements cover the steps that providers must take to keep children safe and promote their welfare.

Overarching principles

Four guiding principles should shape practise in early years settings. These are:

  • Every child is a unique child, who is constantly learning and can be resilient, capable, confident and self-assured;
  • Children learn to be strong and independent through positive relationships;
  • Children learn and develop well in enabling environments, in which their experiences respond to their individual needs and there is a strong partnership between practitioners and parents and/or carers; and
  • Children develop and learn in different ways and at different rates. The framework covers the education and care of all children in early years provision, including children with special educational needs and disabilities.

A Fair and Flexible Framework

The EYFS sets out the requirements that all early years providers have to meet. Several separate sets of guidance were brought together by the EYFS, which defines requirements relating to:

  • Learning and development– how children learn and develop and how this can be supported and measured; and
  • Welfare– how to keep children safe from harm and make sure that they are in a suitable and safe environment.


Regulation of welfare

Practitioners support the existing welfare requirements

The welfare requirements in the EYFS are designed to set clear standards for a number of aspects of young children’s care. This includes protecting children from harm, employing suitable people, organising provision, ensuring that premises and equipment are safe and suitable, and maintaining the documentation needed to run a setting smoothly. The EYFS includes legal requirements with which all providers must comply, without exception, as well as statutory guidance to which providers should have regard – but may not need to observe in certain circumstances.

People working in the early years generally recognise the importance of these requirements, and research with practitioners shows that the existing welfare requirements are considered largely self-evident. Ofsted’s 2009/10 annual report shows that 97% of registered early years and childcare providers were judged to be at least satisfactory overall in meeting the requirements of the EYFS.

Of over 2,000 respondents to the call for evidence question about which welfare requirements they think are essential, over 70% said that all the current welfare requirements are essential. In qualitative research undertaken by the Daycare Trust, parents stated that regulations enabled them to trust settings to protect and nurture their children. This was echoed in workshop discussions conducted for the review, where participants emphasised that minimum welfare standards and regulations should continue to apply to all settings. Formal research with practitioners reinforced the finding – they viewed the care and welfare arrangements as good practice and acceptable.

Yet nearly one in three settings are not meeting the welfare requirements in full.

However, 28% of registered providers inspected in 2009/10 were required by Ofsted to take specific actions to meet the requirements in full. The most common actions related to safety and welfare, premises, equipment and record-keeping. This included ensuring that proper risk assessments are carried out and that policies and procedures are in place and shared with parents and carers.

And there are some specific suggestions for improvements.

While the current welfare requirements were generally thought to be sensible, practitioners commented that these could, in places, be expressed more clearly. Thirty-three per cent of respondents to the question in the call for evidence on the welfare requirements agreed that some requirements could be simplified or removed. Paperwork, in particular, was highlighted as an area where greater clarity was needed. For example, the amount of time required to complete risk assessments is a cause of frustration for practitioners.

Independent schools highlight the complexity of different sets of welfare regulations

More specific concerns about the welfare requirements were raised by representatives of independent schools. While agreeing that regulation is necessary, they argue that they are already subject to stringent welfare regulation through the Independent School Standards. They consider that the EYFS welfare requirements duplicate the Independent School Standards, and in some areas go further. For example, EYFS staff qualification conditions are regarded as anomalous for the independent sector where there are no other qualification requirements.

Regulation of Learning and Development

Providers can deliver the learning and development requirements

Evidence from Ofsted inspections shows that all types of provider can, and do, deliver the learning and development requirements. This is also highlighted by the increase in the number of registered providers in the early years and childcare sector judged to be good or outstanding since the introduction of the EYFS in 2008.

However, some people do not think all early years settings should have to meet the same requirements

The call for evidence asked for views on the possibility of moving away from a single framework and having different or lighter touch requirements for some types of provider. 44% of respondents to this question said that they wanted all early years settings to meet the same requirements, while other respondents supported lighter touch requirements for certain types of provider. Many of these respondents argued that delivery of learning and development opportunities should be left to different providers and that having the same requirements for all providers limits parental choice. Specific concerns about the learning and development requirements were raised by a number of groups, including representatives of independent schools, childminders, parts of the playwork sector and secondary providers.

Representatives of independent schools had a number of concerns

Representatives of independent schools argue that the generally high quality of their provision could be maintained without the statutory requirements of the EYFS. Moreover, some see these requirements as impeding creativity and innovation and failing to challenge or set high aspirations for brighter children. The Independent Schools Council suggest that some children arrive in reception, or earlier, ready for some age-appropriate structured teaching and already beginning to read

Some childminders think the learning and development requirements are not right for them

“As a childminder, the parents of the children I look after chose me as they wanted a ‘home’ environment for their child. They did not want a blow by blow account of their developments/targets and milestones – after all, I am not their teacher (and do not get paid a teacher’s wage).”

Some childminders also call for lighter touch or exemptions from learning and development requirements. Of respondents to the call for evidence question on lighter touch requirements for some types of provider, 29% thought that childminders should not have to deliver the learning and development requirements in full. Some childminders felt that supporting learning and development and assessment goes against their ethos and argued that parents and carers had made a deliberate choice of home-based provision to provide a homely atmosphere and a ‘home from home’ environment.

Comments on the call for evidence suggest that finding time to make regular recorded observations can be particularly difficult for childminders who have sole responsibility for close supervision of children in their care. Informal feedback suggests that some of the recent falls in childminder numbers could be partly, but not solely, due to the perceived pressures of meeting the EYFS requirements. That said, there is also evidence that some childminders spend far more time recording observations than is actually required by the EYFS.

Although this view is not shared by all childminders some childminders feel that the EYFS validates their intuitive, skilled methods of supporting learning and development. They report that the EYFS has led them to make full use of the observations that they have always made routinely as an essential tool for planning interesting, developmental activities for children. Research by the National Children’s Bureau shows that most childminders recognise the role of the EYFS in providing child-centred guidance, a common framework and a structure for assessment.

Parts of the play sector think the learning and development requirements are not appropriate for them

Some playworkers perceive a conflict between the learning and development requirements and the philosophy of playwork, particularly in relation to observing and assessing children. They have called for a more flexible approach to the regulation of out-of-school playwork provision. Thirty-seven per cent of playwork settings responding to a survey conducted by Skills Active thought that they should be fully exempt from the EYFS. Thirty-one per cent said that playwork setting should have to deliver the EYFS but could be excluded from some requirements, and 9% said they should deliver the EYFS in full.

There were also calls for ‘secondary providers’ to have lighter touch learning and development requirements.

“There should be slightly different frameworks or expectations for the different providers as there is such a difference in the way they work, equipment and resources, setting and provision provided.”

‘Secondary provision’ is support for children during limited times of the day or specific parts of the year. Secondary providers offer services that wraparound other early years provision – for example, nursery provision – as well as services during school holidays, meeting the specific work patterns of busy parents or carers.