Things EYFS practitioners want you to know: What is the Early Year Foundation Stage? Part 2

This is part 2 of a series by @Emmcatt

Part 1 can be found here.

Early Years Foundation Stage can seem overwhelming to those on the outside looking in. It’s a complex series of documents that places the child at the centre. All schools and Early Years providers who are Ofsted registered follow the EYFS. It is important to remember that this does not just include reception classes but also nurseries, preschools and private childminders. It is also important to remember that EYFS applies specifically to England. Both Scotland and Wales have different standards that can be found here and here. To truly understand the complexities it needs to be understood that the entire Foundation Stage has been informed by essential principles that are reflected throughout the framework. They 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
  • 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, are covered by the EYFS

These principles are fundamental to the framework. They provide practitioners with a set of standard criteria to base learning and delivery upon. Whilst most teachers will be familiar with the Early Learning Goals assessment makes up one part of the framework (and will be discussed in more detail in a future blog). The framework covers:

  • The legal welfare requirements that must be followed to keep children safe
  • The 7 areas of learning and development which practitioners use to guide both their planning and the child’s acquisition of new skills
  • Observation based assessments that track progress through the EYFS
  • Expected levels at the end of the reception year called the “Early Learning Goals” (ELGs)

Obviously, assessment is a crucial tool for teachers and should not be undervalued but it is not the only important aspect of the framework and the framework is so much more than just assessment. An important aspect for me is that within the EYFS there is a set of mandatory welfare regulations. These include the numbers of staff required in a nursery, how many children a childminder can look after and things like administering medicines and carrying out risk assessments. Having clear, comprehensive, cohesive safeguarding checks for all EY settings means that children are kept safe.

The Seven Areas of Learning and Development

Alongside Safeguarding and welfare, Learning and Development is the other key area of the EYFS. Essentially, L&D informs all of the activities provided for children in EY settings. The framework tells us that there must be activities and experiences given to children that cover the seven areas. The seven areas are grouped into two distinct areas – Prime (blue) and Specific (red). They are as follows:

The Prime Areas

The Prime Areas are especially important as they provide the foundations for all other areas of learning. They are fundamental in a child’s life and need to be firmly established in order for the specific areas to be developed well and without misconceptions. EY practitioners focus on the prime areas with younger children with the specific areas being gradually build upon throughout foundation stage. Here is where it is important to reiterate that Early Years is not just the reception year!

The three areas are important to develop from a young age and should be seen as the building blocks that all of their future schooling will be built upon. PSED will allow them to understand their own identity and teach them how to positively form relationships. C&L is early oracy and allows for development in children who lack specific communication skills. PD does just what it says on the tin and is paramount to a child eventually holding a pencil or using a knife and fork. These are fundamental building blocks which will impact a child’s schooling journey.

The Specific Areas

Learning and exploration in the specific areas allows for children to expand their knowledge and skills in each of the four areas. It must be remembered, however, that these skills cannot be built upon in isolation. The skills are developed from the learning that has taken place and will continue to take place in the Prime Areas. Writing for example sits within the area of Literacy, however, without Physical Development (which is a Prime Area) it would be impossible for a child to write effectively as children need to develop the physical skills such as wrist control and the tripod grip. We must also remember that EYFS is from 0-5 and any learning based on the four specific areas will look very different throughout that age range.


As with all teaching, assessment is used continuously in EYFS. Formative assessment is used by practitioners to ascertain what the child has learned effectively, any potential misconceptions and how the child can be moved forward in their learning. Summative assessment takes place twice during EYFS. First between 24-36 months and again when a child nears the end of Reception Year to assess what a child has achieved in EYFS. In both cases no testing takes place and all assessment is done via teacher observation.

The EYFS Progress Check at age two 

This assessment is statutory for children who are in an EYFS setting at the relevant age. Providers are required to give parents/carers a written summary of their child’s development when they are between 24 and 36 months old. The focus of the check concentrates on the 3 Prime Areas of Learning and Development. Through this progress check practitioners are also able to identify which children may need additional support.

Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP)

This assessment puts together all of the ongoing assessments and observations that have been made about each individual child. Attainment is assessed in relation to the 17 Early Learning Goals descriptors, (ELGs) together with additional information detailing the individual child’s ways of learning. For each ELG, practitioners will assess if a child is meeting the level of development expected at the end of the Reception Year (expected), exceeding this level (exceeding), or not yet reaching this level (emerging). A future blog will discuss the EYFSP in more detail.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to explaining EYFS but I hope it goes some way of giving brief overview and outline when it comes to understand the framework and how it guides EY practitioners.

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