Every child deserves the best possible start in life and support to fulfil their potential. A child’s experience in the early years has a major impact on their future life chances. A secure, safe and happy childhood is important in its own right, and it provides the foundation for children to make the most of their abilities and talents as they grow up. When parents choose to use early years services they want to know that provision will keep their children safe and help them to thrive. The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) is the framework that provides that assurance and is mandatory for all schools and early years providers from September 2008.
The EYFS is divided into 4 distinct themes all of which have an underlying principle:
A Unique Child recognises that every child is a competent learner from birth who can be resilient, capable, confident and self-assured.
Positive Relationships describes how children learn to be strong and independent from a base of loving and secure relationships with parents and/or a key person.
Enabling Environments explains that the environment plays a key role in supporting and extending children’s development and learning.
Learning and Development recognises that children develop and learn in different ways and at different rates, and that all areas of learning and development are equally important and inter-connected.
The 6 Areas of Learning and Development are:
Personal, Social and Emotional Development, Communication, Language and Literacy, Problem Solving, Reasoning and Numeracy, Knowledge and Understanding of the World, Physical Development, Creative Development
Play underpins the delivery of all the EYFS and all development and learning for young children. Most children play spontaneously, although some may need adult support, and it is through play that they develop intellectually, creatively, physically, socially and emotionally. Providing well-planned experiences based on children’s spontaneous play, both indoors and outdoors, is an important way in which we support young children to learn with enjoyment and challenge. In playing, children behave in different ways: sometimes their play will be responsive or boisterous, sometimes they may describe and discuss what they are doing, sometimes they will be quiet and reflective as they play. Ongoing assessment is an integral part of the learning and development process. Practitioners must observe children and respond appropriately to help them make progress towards the early learning goals. As judgements are based on observational evidence gathered from a wide range of learning and teaching contexts, it is expected that all adults who interact with the child should contribute to the process, and that account will be taken of information provided by parents. We encourage parents to play an active role in the assessment process for their child and ask parents to complete ‘Home Observation’ forms as often as possible. These observation forms will be used to inform the planning and assessments made by practitioners. If children attend more than one setting, we ask that parents inform us of this so that we can network with the other settings in order to provide a consistent care routine and assessment process for that child.
The following statements have been taken from the EYFS Statutory Framework.
Where children receive education and care in more than one setting, practitioners must ensure continuity and coherence by sharing relevant information with each other and with parents.
‘Parents must be given free access to developmental records about their child (for example, the EYFS Profile).’
‘Providers must undertake sensitive observational assessment in order to plan to meet young children’s individual needs.’
‘Providers must plan and provide experiences which are appropriate to each child’s stage of development as they progress towards the early learning goals.’
The Childcare Act 2006 provides for the EYFS that the learning and development requirements comprise three elements:
the early learning goals – the knowledge, skills and understanding which young children should have acquired by the end of the academic year in which they reach the age of five; the educational programmes – the matters, skills and processes which are required to be taught to young children; the assessment arrangements – the arrangements for assessing young children to ascertain their achievements.
None of the Learning and Development areas can be delivered in isolation from the others. They are equally important and depend on each other to support a rounded approach to child development. All the areas must be delivered through planned, purposeful play, with a balance of adult-led and child-initiated activities.