The revised Early Years Foundation Stage: a brief introduction

Written by: Martin Bradley 07 January 2013


The English government has introduced a revised version of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) mandatory framework with effect from the 1st September 2012. All schools and other services working with children aged between birth and five years must follow this guidance unless they have sought special exemptions from it. At present Cognita fully intends to follow the guidance.

Four aims have been set for the EYFS: quality and consistency in all early years’ settings; a secure foundation for learning and development planned around the individual child’s needs and interests; partnership working between practitioners and parents and/or carers; and equality of opportunity.

Besides these aims, clear principles are set for working with children: that each child is to be regarded as unique; that children learn to be strong and independent through positive relationships; that the environment in which they learn should be stimulating, using play and appropriate learning opportunities; and that they learn and develop in different ways.

The revised EYFS identifies seven ‘areas of learning and development’, extending and modifying the previous six. All the areas of learning are seen as interconnected. Well planned learning experiences will address several learning goals and aim to spark children’s interest as well as supporting well-being and a sense of belonging. Three of the areas are termed ‘prime areas’ and apply from birth to five. The first, communications and language, covers aspects of listening, understanding and speaking. Physical development includes moving and handling such as skills of walking, being able to hold objects and improving coordination. It also includes aspects of health care. Personal, social and emotional development deals with making relationships, developing self confidence and self awareness, and managing feelings and behaviour.

As your child develops, the school staff will gradually introduce four ‘specific areas of learning’. Literacy, including reading and writing, begins with the child showing an interest in books. Your child will increasingly enjoy rhyming and rhythmic activities and join in familiar stories and poems. Children learn how to handle books, and will gradually link sounds to letters and begin to read simple words. By the end of the Reception year most children can read and understand simple sentences, use their phonic knowledge to read new words and be able to talk to others about what they have read. Their writing skills develop from giving meaning to marks drawn or painted, then identifying letters and increasingly linking these to sounds, moving on to writing their own name and other things like labels and captions. By the end of the Reception year children should be able to write simple sentences, and use their phonic knowledge to write words in ways which match their spoken sounds. Mathematics, another area of learning, ensures that by the end of Reception children can count from 1 – 20, say which number is one more or one less than a given number, use objects and quantities to add and subtract two single digit numbers, and solve problems including doubling, halving and sharing using single digit numbers. Mathematics also includes learning about shape, space and measures so that by the end of Reception the child can talk about size, weight, capacity, position, distance, time and money, be able to recognise patterns and create these, and explore the characteristics of everyday objects and shapes, using mathematical language to describe them. The third specific area of learning is understanding the world. This covers a range of later subjects, including an awareness of the past in their own lives, appreciating similarities and differences between themselves and others, being able to talk about features of their environment, make observations of animals and plants and talk about changes. It also includes technology, not only computers, but experience of using tools and mechanical toys. Finally expressive arts and design involves exploring and using different materials and media ranging from music and singing, dancing, using construction materials and exploring colour. It involves the child’s use of imagination to represent their own ideas, thoughts and feelings through design and technology, art, music, dance, role play and stories.

Besides the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile which continues to be completed by the end of the school year in which the child is five, there is a new progress check at age two. This is a short summary of the child’s development in the Prime Areas of learning which must be completed for all children between the ages of two and three. It should contribute to the Healthy Child Programme review which health visitors undertake. If your child has not had such a progress check before coming to school and is still under three, then the school must make the check, inviting you to comment and share your views on your child’s development. If your child has had the check before starting school, it would be most helpful for you to give a copy to the teachers when he or she starts.

This is only a brief introduction: Cognita staff at your child’s independent school will be able to give you more details and share with you how they are working with the Statutory Framework.

Headed by leading educationalist, Sir Chris Woodhead, Cognita is the UK’s largest group of independent schools and is run by education experts with specialist expertise in all areas of independent education. With 56 schools world-wide, Cognita is dedicated to the continuous improvement of its schools, raising standards through rigorous quality assurance and school inspection programmes, enhancing provision through curriculum development and improving the learning environment through investment in schools’ facilities and infrastructure.

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