Changes to the EYFS 2021

Children drawing

The Department for Education is proposing changes to the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS).

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 DfE sought responses to these proposed changes to the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) between 24 October and 31 January 2020.

What is changing?

The consultation covered:

  • proposed revisions to the educational programmes
  • proposed revisions to the Early Learning Goals
  • proposed changes to the assessment and moderation process for the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile
  • and a proposed change to the safeguarding and welfare requirements to promote good oral health.

The DfE says that the proposals are intended to: 

  • make all 17 ELGs clearer, more specific and easier for teachers to make accurate judgements
  • focus on strengthening language and vocabulary development to particularly support disadvantaged children
  • strengthen literacy and numeracy outcomes to ensure all children have a good grasp of these areas of learning in preparation for year 1
  • ensure the ELGs are based on the latest evidence in childhood development
  • ensure they reflect the strongest predictors of future attainment.

Read our comprehensive guide to the changes

How did the Early Years Alliance respond?

In its response to the consultation, the Alliance warned that the proposed government reforms could result in a ‘tick-box’ approach to early assessment on the issue.

We expressed concerns that the proposal to replace the existing Early Learning Goals (ELGs) into a “series of bullet point statements” will “inadvertently promote a ‘tick-box’ approach to EYFSP assessment” and risk “moving children’s learning and development, and the early years practice that supports it, from an art to a science”, a shift that is a “retrograde step”. 

Our response outlines a number of other concerns about the proposed reforms, including: 

  • A lack of focus on the learning and development of younger children – despite the fact that the EYFS covers children from 0-5 – due to an emphasis on preparing children for Year 1
  • Lack of reference to how best to support the learning and development of children speaking English as an additional language and children with additional needs and/or disabilities
  • The reduction of the number of Communication and language ELGs from three to two
  • The removal of space, shape and measure from the Mathematics ELG.

Alliance chief executive Neil Leitch said: "We are deeply concerned by a number of the proposed reforms to the EYFS. Instead of focusing on how best the early development of all young children can be supported, the changes indicate a clear shift towards a narrow, tick-box approach to both learning and assessment.

"Such a move risks encouraging both early years practitioners and reception teachers to ‘teach to the goals’ rather than developing and maintaining a broad, child-centred approach, underpinned by a commitment to learning through play – practice that we as a sector know is best for supporting early development.

“We urge the Department for Education to listen to the concerns of the sector, genuinely engage with the consultation responses and rethink its planned changes ahead of roll-out. If we are going to make changes to such a fundamental aspect of early years education, we need to make sure those changes are positive ones.”


The Alliance is also part of a coalition of early years sector representatives calling for greater sector involvement in discussions surrounding the proposed changes. Read the coalition’s briefing here


Watch the webinar: EYFS Reforms Consultation Q&A


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