The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) is the period of learning and development from birth to the end of their first year in school (Reception). It is called the Early Years Foundation Stage because it gives children secure foundations to make the most of their skills, talents and abilities as they grow up. The EYFS Framework describes how Nursery (F1) and Reception (F2) classes should work with children and their families to support their development and learning. It describes how your child should be kept safe and cared for and how all concerned can make sure that your child achieves the most that they can in their earliest years of life. This framework is built upon the Characteristics of Effective Learning, which are embedded within the principles of A Unique Child; Positive Relationships Enabling Environments and Learning and Development. We therefore strive to provide interesting, varied and creative indoor and outdoor learning opportunities which motivate children to engage in their learning, in order to challenge and develop critical thinking skills.
Characteristics of Effective Learning
The opportunities children have to engage with other people and their environment underpin learning and development across all areas of the EYFS and support them to become effective life-long learners. The characteristics of effective learning are:
- Playing and exploring encourages children to ‘have a go’ and investigate activities and resources on offer
- Active Learning enables children to build resilience through achievable challenges, by encouraging them to concentrate and keep on trying if they encounter difficulties and enjoy achievements
- Creating and Critical Thinking supports children to have and develop their own ideas, make links between these ideas and develop strategies for doing things
Four Themes of the EYFS
These underpin all the guidance and are intended to be used in conjunction with the characteristics of effective learning and the prime and specific areas of learning.
The Four themes of the EYFS are:
1. A Unique Child
Every child is unique, constantly learning and has the potential to be resilient, capable, confident and self-assured. This means we recognise that children develop in individual ways and at varying rates. We are inclusive and ensure that no child or family is discriminated against, and that the health, well-being and safety of the children in our care is paramount.
2. Positive Relationships
Children learn to be strong and independent from a base of loving and secure relationships. We see parents as partners – when parents and practitioners work together it has a positive impact on children’s learning and development. All children are encouraged and supported to develop warm, trusting relationship with practitioners, who in turn give them the reassurance to feel safe and cared for.
3. Enabling Environments
Children learn and develop effectively in enabling environments, in which their experiences reflect their individual needs alongside a strong partnership between practitioners and parents and/or carers. By giving the children a rich, interesting and varied learning environment; making use of both indoor and outdoor areas, we believe will support every child in their learning and development. Learning is planned for by observing the children to ascertain a schema (a particular learning behaviour, such as, positioning objects, working in corners, transporting objects etc.), followed by matching activities to reflect the schema to move learning forward.
4. Learning and DevelopmentChildren develop and learn in different ways and at different rates. The framework covers the education and care of all children in early year’s provision, including children with special educational needs and disabilities. Practitioners act as a ‘partner in learning’ and teach, guide and support children to acquire and refine skills and knowledge by ensuring challenging, playful opportunities across the prime and specific areas of learning and development.
Prime and Specific Areas of Learning and Development
We recognise play as the highest form of learning at this stage of children’s development. Play is a child’s work and research show that children learn best through physical and mental challenges. Playing is the child’s way of discovering the learning about how the world around him/her operates. Play is a vehicle for learning because it naturally motivates young children. Learning experiences using a variety of resources provide opportunities for exploration and experimentation, construction and representation, creation and imagination, skills acquisition and concept building, repetition, consolidation, socialisation and emotional security. It is these early experiences which affect children’s attitudes to all future learning.
There are seven areas of learning and development, all of which are important and inter-connected.
There are seven areas of learning and development, all of which are important and inter-connected.
The prime areas, which are crucial for building children’s capacity to learn, form relationships and thrive are:
- Personal, Social and Emotional Development
- Communication and Language
- Physical Development
There are four specific areas, through which the three prime areas are strengthened and applied. The specific areas are:
- Understanding the World
- Expressive Arts and Design
In the EYFS we provide learning opportunities that involve activities and experiences for children, as follows:
Personal, Social and Emotional Development involves helping children to develop a positive sense of themselves and others; to form positive relationships and develop respect for others; to develop social skills and learn how to manage their feelings; to understand appropriate behaviour in groups; and to have confidence in their own abilities.
All children will have their own Learning Journal, which is a much treasured possession. The purpose of this book is to document the learning journey and make the learning visible and tangible to parents/carers, children and practitioners. Significant milestones will be documented across the curriculum and parents and children are encouraged to contribute information from experiences at home and through sharing the journal by asking the child to talk about it with parents.
Communication and Language Development involves giving children opportunities to experience a rich language environment; to develop their confidence and skills in expressing themselves; and to speak and listen in a range of situations.
All children are encouraged to talk about themselves and their learning. We warmly encourage parents/carers to come and share their home languages by sharing a story or song. Practitioners support children to extend their language skills by getting involved in their learning activities and introduce new vocabulary in meaningful contexts. We also work on a speaking and listening ‘technique of the week’ to ensure all children have had the opportunity to practise skills. A favourite speaking opportunity is that of Show and Tell, where children excitedly bring in a special item and share it with the class on a weekly basis.
Physical Development involves providing opportunities for young children to be active and interactive; and to develop their co-ordination control and movement on a large and small scale. Children must also be helped to understand the importance of physical activity and to make healthy choices in relation to food.
We have a fantastic outside play area for children to explore and to develop their gross motor skills and co-ordination. Gross motor skills are large body movements that we use to move such as: walking, running, climbing, crawling and balancing. To encourage the development of these skills we have a climbing frame with a slide. We also have a selection of bikes, trolleys and ride on toys and outside equipment such as hoops, bats, balls and a basketball net.
Literacy involves encouraging children to link sounds and letters and to begin to read and write. Children must be given access to a wide range of reading materials (books, poems and other written materials) to ignite their interest.
All children participate in a regular adult led phonics session where they have the opportunity to identify and describe environmental sounds and participate in listening games and activities. Creative approaches to phonics teaching ensure that children are singing, talking, mark making and writing in all areas of the curriculum.
Mathematics involves providing children with opportunities to develop and improve their skills in counting, understanding and using numbers, calculating simple addition and subtraction problems; and to describe shapes, spaces and measures.
Our huge covered sand pit enables children to play in all weathers. Sand play provides many learning opportunities where children can develop their fine motor skills by digging, scooping and sieving. They can learn early mathematical concepts such as capacity and volume, full and empty, heavy and light. They can also develop their language skills, vocabulary and social skills as they play and explore alongside their friends. Likewise, water play allows children to cover a number of learning experiences. We have a great tube/guttering system that children can construct and then use to pour water down to investigate and experiment with. We also have water trays that the children enjoy playing with, whilst developing skills across all areas of learning.
Understanding the World involves guiding children to make sense of their physical world and their community through opportunities to explore, observe and find out about people, places technology and the environment.
We have a log pile, insect homes and bird boxes in the garden. We also have trees, flower beds, and hanging baskets. We encourage the children to investigate the natural world, to take care of their environment and to look for wildlife such as mini beasts in the log pile and birds in the garden. We plant and cultivate flowers and plants and grow our own vegetables and produce such as tomatoes and potatoes. We also have a compost bin which we put all of our fruit skins and vegetable waste into to create our own compost.
Expressive Arts and Design involves enabling children to explore and play with a wide range of media and materials, as well as providing opportunities and encouragement for sharing their thoughts, ideas and feelings through a variety of activities in art, music, movement, dance, role play and design technology.
To nurture imagination, we often create ‘dens’ or special role play areas in the outdoor learning area with children to play imaginatively. In the past we have had bear caves, shops an airport and a car wash! We have small houses and kitchens to role play in and provide children with pushchairs, dolls and other domestic role play equipment so they can be mummy or daddy. We also have a wonderful pirate ship that the children love to set sail on and create their own adventures!
We want all children to have enjoyable and satisfying childhood experiences.