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 childcare 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?

Childcare 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 childcare policies, procedures and practices.

Why are policies and procedures important?

Policies and procedures play a vital role in improving the quality of childcare 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, Essential Policies & Procedures for the EYFS 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 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. 

Read more about changes to the EYFS 2021

September 2020 update

Development Matters

The Department for Education (DfE) has published a revised version of Development Matters.

The new non-statutory guidance supports the delivery of the new EYFS Framework that early adopter schools can use from September 2020 onwards.

The current version of the EYFS Framework is still available for all other non-early adopter schools and providers to continue to use. 

From September 2021 onwards, early years providers and schools will need to use the new version of the EYFS Framework.


Read the Development Matters guidance in full
Read the new EYFS Framework

Watch our Introducing the new Development Matters webinar:


Early Years Foundation Stage: coronavirus disapplications have ended

The temporary changes (or 'disapplications') to the EYFS introduced during the coronavirus pandemic came to an end on 25 September,

The changes originally came into force on 24 April 2020 to "allow providers greater flexibility to respond to changes in workforce availability and potential fluctuations in demand, while still providing care that is high quality and safe" during the outbreak.

The Department for Education has confirmed that:

  • all the learning and development and assessment disapplications will be removed as of 25 September 2020, meaning that providers will be required to reinstate the EYFS for these areas in full from 26 September 2020.
  • for safeguarding and welfare disapplications (including requirements on Paediatric First Aid training), there will be a two-month transitional period between 26 September 2020 to 25 November 2020. This means that providers will need to meet these requirements in full by 26 November 2020.

In addition, the Department has now announced that between 26 September 2020 and 31 August 2021, all EYFS disapplications (other than for the EYFS Profile) will be reapplied if the ability of providers to comply with the EYFS is impacted by coronavirus-related restrictions that have been imposed by the government.

This essentially means that if the government makes changes, such as announcing a local or national lockdown, that prevent early years providers from adhering to normal EYFS requirements, the EYFS disapplications rolled out in April will be reapplied - so for example, early years providers would once again be expected to use 'reasonable endeavours' to meet the learning and development requirements of the EYFS, instead of this being something they ‘must do’.

In instances of local lockdown, providers don't need to be located in the geographical area where the restrictions are applied but the restrictions do need to prevent them from complying with the EYFS - for example, because their staff live in the area where the restrictions apply and are not able to get into work.

Read our summary of the different EYFS disapplications.

Read the full statutory guidance here.


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