The Early Years Foundation Stage

Two children playing together to illustrate Early Years Foundation Stage page

The Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) sets the standards for promoting the learning, development and safety of children from birth to five years in Ofsted registered settings. The EYFS lays down the legal requirements that early years providers must meet, including:

  • learning and development requirements: specific areas of learning and development which should shape the activities and experiences you offer
  • assessment requirements: how you measure children’s progress and feedback to parents or carers
  • safeguarding and welfare requirements: what you must do to keep children safe and promote their welfare

What are the EYFS learning and development requirements?

The learning and development requirements cover three prime areas, which are considered particularly important for stimulating children’s interest in learning, and in building relationships:

  • communication and language: giving children opportunities to experience a rich language environment, develop their confidence and skill in expressing themselves, and speak and listen in a range of situations.
  • physical development: providing opportunities for young children to be active and interactive, develop their co-ordination, control, and movement, understand the importance of physical activity, and make healthy choices about food.
  • personal, social and emotional development: helping children to develop a positive sense of themselves and others, form positive relationships and respect others, develop social skills and learn how to manage their feelings, understand appropriate behaviour in groups and to have confidence in their own abilities.

The three prime areas are strengthened by four specific areas of learning: literacy, mathematics, understanding of the world, and expressive arts and design. These areas are connected, with learning in one particular area supporting learning in the others.

What are the EYFS assessment requirements?

To plan for successful learning, early years practitioners need to observe children to identify their interests, explore how they learn, and monitor their progress in each area of learning and development.

Reflecting on these observations means practitioners can shape learning experiences for individual children. As part of the assessment process, parents and carers should be encouraged to share their own observations of their child’s progress.

When should the EYFS progress checks take place?

Assessment is an ongoing process, but there are times when it is a statutory requirement to provide a summary of how children are developing in relation to expected levels of progress for their age.

Under the EYFS, it is a requirement to review children’s progress between the ages of two and three. This integrated review involves early years practitioners, health visitors and parents sharing their knowledge and understanding of the child to provide an overall picture of the child’s development and take joint decisions on any specific support necessary.

The Early Years Foundation Stage Profile is a statutory review of children’s progress in the year they reach five. It is designed to inform parents about the child’s progress in relation to the early learning goals and support the transition to Year 1.

The Alliance publishes a helpful guide, Observation, Assessment and Planning which is grounded in the EYFS and provides useful templates for effective practice.

What are the Safeguarding and Welfare Requirements?

Providers must take all reasonable steps to keep children safe and well. The EYFS requires early years providers to show consideration of the following ten areas of safeguarding and welfare.

  • Child protection: being alert to any issues for concern in a child’s life and following appropriate safeguarding policies and procedures
  • Suitable people: checking the suitability of practitioners and other people who have regular contact with children
  • Staff qualifications, training, support and skills: ensuring staff are sufficiently qualified and have the knowledge and understanding necessary for their role
  • Key person: assigning a named member of staff to build relationships with the child and parents in order to meet the child’s individual needs
  • Staff-child ratios: ensuring children are adequately supervised at all times
  • Health: promoting the health of children and implementing procedures regarding illness, infection, food and drink, and accidents
  • Managing behaviour: using appropriate strategies to understand and manage unwanted behaviour
  • Safety and suitability of premises, environment and equipment: ensuring that indoor and outdoor space is fit for purpose and suitable for the age of the children and the activities offered
  • Special educational needs: putting the necessary arrangements in place to support children with SEN or disabilities in accordance with the SEND Code of Practice
  • Information and records: maintaining records and sharing information with parents and professionals as appropriate to meet children’s needs

Each area carries specific requirements to guide early years policies, procedures and practices.

Why are policies and procedures important?

Policies and procedures play a vital role in improving the quality of children's services and are an integral part of best practice.

Well-formulated policies and procedures give essential, clear information to staff and parents on your provision’s aims and the steps you take to put these into action. The Early Years Foundation Stage requires that settings must have written copies of certain policies and procedures. Published by the Alliance, Policies & Procedures for the EYFS 2021 provides you with templates for policies and procedures covering all the required areas, and recommends other policies designed to promote efficiency and good practice.

Changes to the EYFS 2021

The Department for Education changed the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) in 2021. The government says the changes will improve outcomes for all children, but particularly the language and literacy outcomes for disadvantaged children and reduce teacher workload. 

The Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage (DfE 2021) became effective from 1 September 2021.

Read more about changes to the EYFS 2021

July 2021 update

Development Matters

The Department for Education has published a revised version of Development Matters, government’s non-statutory curriculum guidance for the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), and said, ‘to reflect feedback received from our Early Adopter schools that have adopted the reforms to the EYFS over the 2020/21 academic year. Please note that changes to content are minor and providers will not need to alter any planning based on the September 2020 version that they may have already made.

These minor changes include:

  • updated links, making minor tweaks to wording for clarification purposes,
  • updates to the Introduction and Characteristics of Effective Teaching and Learning sections to ensure the wording is aligned with the aims of the reforms and reflects the most recent research and evidence and,
  • ensuring the document is accessible, inclusive, and easier to navigate which includes a new design, layout and colour coding.

No major changes have been made to the curriculum guidance under the seven areas of learning and therefore this update should not impact planning based on the early adopter version of Development Matters’.



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  Essential policies for the EYFS


Where next?

Changes to the EYFS 2021

Involving parents in their child's learning


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