What is the EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage)?

Posted: 28th May 2021

EYFS stands for Early Years Foundation Stage. It applies to school settings, Nurseries and other Early Years (EY) settings or establishments within England. The EYFS sets the standards of development and learning for all children from birth to 5 years of age. All Ofsted registered child care settings and schools must adhere to the EYFS to ensure cohesion in Education for all children throughout England. 

Whether you’re a nursery nurse, a reception teacher, a childminder or any other Early Years professional, the EYFS will sit at the centre of your daily working life. 

The EYFS is extremely important for all children. It ensures settings provide the highest quality learning experiences as well as keeping children healthy and safe. The EYFS is likely to have a major impact on young children throughout the rest of their lives, so it’s really important that it’s implemented effectively in all settings. 

The EYFS is outlined in the Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage found here. This document underpins all the other documents for EYFS. For example, the Development Matters document is not the actual curriculum. It’s a non-statutory framework to help you deliver the statutory requirements that are outlined in the EYFS framework. 

View the updated Development Matters July changes here   

In this blog, we’ll provide an all-encompassing run down of the EYFS. We’ll talk about why it’s important, what the new statutory changes are and which resources can support EY practitioners.

What is the EYFS curriculum? Who is it for?

Guidance has been set out for the Early Years Foundation Stage for Early Years settings by the department of education, in consultation with other Early Years professionals. It applies to all children in England from birth to the age of 5. Settings in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland do not follow the EYFS. Children stop learning through EYFS curriculum guidance once they enter Key Stage 1. The EYFS curriculum can be found in the Statutory Framework for EYFS.

Edubox provide an A5 printed version of the document which can be purchased here. This sets the expectations for Early Years Education throughout England, as outlined by the Department of Education. Curriculum guidance has been produced to support the implementation of the EYFS, as outlined by the framework. 

Buy EYFS Statutory Framework A5 booklet

Eyfs Framework Web Visual

The curriculum guidance can come in the form of the development matters or Birth To 5 matters. Then, children are assessed at the end of Reception against the final Early Learning Goals, found in the EYFS statutory framework document. In this blog, we’ll be referring more to the Development Matters document as it has been a long standing document (albeit updated) that many of us are familiar with. 

The EYFS is made up of 7 areas of learning which are made up of both ‘Prime areas of learning’ and ‘Specific areas of learning‘. The ‘Prime areas of learning’ set the foundation for learning. They need to be established to enable children to develop within the ‘Specific areas of learning’. The 7 areas of learning are below.

Prime areas of learning

  1. Communication and Language.
    Supporting children developing their listening, understanding, speaking and communication skills.
  2. Physical Development.
    Supporting children to improve their skills of coordination, control, manipulation and movement. Children need to develop an understanding of healthy living practices and how to make daily healthy choices in their lives.
  3. Personal, Social and Emotional Development.
    Supporting children to understand their own feelings and behaviours through developing a strong sense of themselves. They will also develop their social skills throughout their time within EYFS to set them up for future school life and beyond.

Specific areas of learning 

  1. Literacy.
    The early learning skills needed for reading and writing in order to become school ready.
  2. Mathematics.
    Supporting children to develop their understanding of numbers and numerical patterns.
  3. Understanding the World.
    Supporting children in developing the knowledge, skills and understanding to help them make sense of the world around them. It develops children’s thinking skills, preparing them for History, Geography and Science in readiness for primary school.
  4. Expressive Arts.
    Supporting children in developing their creativity through a variety of means and media.

The EYFS, statutory framework and non-statutory guidance have all been developed keeping the 4 principles of the EYFS at the heart of all decisions and documentation. The principles that underpin the EYFS refer to the foundations needed for children to be able to access the ‘Prime’ and ‘Specific’ areas of learning, enabling them to succeed against the final Early Learning Goals. 

  1. A Unique Child: Every child is a unique child, who is constantly learning and can be resilient, capable, confident and self-assured.
  2. Enabling Environments: Children learn and develop well in enabling environments, in which their experiences respond to their individual needs and there is a strong partnership between practitioners and parents and/or carers;
  3. Positive Relationships: Children should be encouraged to be strong and independent when required, forming the basis for positive relationships that they will go on to have. 
  4. Learning and Development: By following the EYFS 7 Areas of Learning, both Prime and Specific, each child will be taught a wide range of skills to prepare them for future school life and beyond.

What’s it like to teach in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)?

Have you decided that becoming an EYFS teacher is for you? Are you already a primary school teacher and would like to transition to EYFS teaching? Are you aiming for Early Years Teacher status or QTS? Below are some things to expect when working within the EYFS.


If you decide to work in the EYFS, the children will vary in age from birth to 5 years old. They’ll be following the EYFS curriculum, which is in the form of a document called ‘The Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage’. The development matters document is a non-statutory document that you can use to support you to implement the EYFS framework. We’ve covered parts of what to expect from the EYFS curriculum and we’ll discuss some of the changes that have already been made, ready to implement in September 2021. 

The EYFS curriculum is different to that of children who are in Year 1 upwards. Children who attend Year 1 and above will be working with the National Curriculum. The EYFS curriculum has been designed to get children ready for the start of the primary curriculum.

Play Based Learning 

The Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum is delivered through a play based approach. Learning through play builds on children’s natural motivation to play. It’s the responsibility of the teacher or Early Years practitioner to plan both child-initiated and teacher-supported learning through play based means. 

Learning through play doesn’t mean taking a backseat whilst children ‘get on with it’. The teacher will be making observations, encouraging children’s learning and inquiry through interactions, as well as scaffolding learning that’s taking place. 

An example of play based learning could be; while children are playing with blocks, a teacher can pose questions that encourage problem solving and predicting. The teacher can link these questions with mathematics, literacy and science. 

If you’d like some examples of play based learning, we highly recommend a blog from the Early Years Staffroom called ‘Exploring, inquiring and learning through water play’. There’s a wealth of content to look through for learning through play.

Teacher Showing Robotic Hand To Children In Classroom


An Early Years teacher salary will vary depending on experience and qualifications. According to https://www.payscale.com/research/UK/Job=Nursery_Worker/Hourly_Rate the average pay for a Nursery nurse is £8.22 an hour. If you decide to become an Early Years Teacher with QTS (qualified teacher status), you can expect to be on the teachers pay scale which ranges from £25,714 – £41,604 a year. For more information on teachers salaries and a breakdown of the scale, go to https://neu.org.uk/pay-scales.

What are the changes in the new EYFS?

Big changes are happening for teachers, nursery nurses, pre-school teachers and childminders in the Early Years Foundation Stage. Expectations for the final Early Learning Goals have been raised. The Early Years Foundation Stage Development Matters document has had a complete revamp based on the changes in the Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage. We’ve been hearing mixed opinions about the new EYFS curriculum guidance – some are excited while others are overwhelmed. However you feel about the changes, now’s the time to get to know the new EYFS.

The department of education has stated that the changes to the Early Years Foundation Stage framework are being made to:

  • improve outcomes at age 5, particularly in early language and literacy
  • reduce workload such as unnecessary paperwork, so you can spend more time with the children in your care.

Read on to find out more about these changes and how they’ve affected the Development Matters document as well as the 7 areas of learning.

EYFS development matters

The new Development Matters 2020 document is a non-statutory guidance that sits alongside the Early Years Foundation Stage Statutory Framework. It supports the implementation of the EYFS in schools and settings. First written in 2012, it laid out ages and stages for children aged birth to 5, to support planning and assessments within the Early Years (http://www.foundationyears.org.uk/files/2012/03/Development-Matters-FINAL-PRINT-AMENDED.pdf). It has since been updated ready for full implementation in September 2021 and can be found here.

The most obvious change to the Development Matters document is the ages and stages. Rather than being laid out in overlapping age bands such as 8 – 20 months, 16 – 26 months, 30 – 50 months etc, it’s now broken down into 3 age ranges, which are:

  • Birth to three – babies, toddlers and young children
  • 3-4-year-olds
  • Children in reception

Among the age ranges are clear observation checkpoints, which can be used to monitor a child’s development throughout their time in Early Years. It also recommends that teachers, nursery nurses, childminders and other EYFS practitioners are familiar with the 3 characteristics of effective teaching and learning:

  • Playing and exploring
  • Active learning
  • Creating and thinking critically

The Characteristics of Effective Teaching and Learning focus on the processes of learning, the thinking that is applied and the attitudes that are being displayed. These characteristics should be at the heart of planning provision to make sure curriculum content is delivered in ways that all children can access, depending on their learning styles. It’s also important for evidence to be collected about these characteristics at the end of EYFS, so Key Stage 1 teachers can plan according to their new cohorts’ learning styles.

Kids In Classroom

EYFS areas of learning

The EYFS 7 areas of learning have stayed the same with a few changes to the sub areas. The EYFS areas of learning can be found in the EYFS framework. The 7 areas of learning along with their new sub areas are:

1.Communication and Language

  • Listening
  • Attention and Understanding
  • Speaking. 

2. Personal, Social and Emotional Development

  • Self Regulation
  • Managing Self
  • Building Relationships. 

3. Physical Development

  • Gross Motor Skills 
  • Fine Motor Skills.

4. Literacy

  • Comprehension 
  • Word Reading 
  • Writing. 

5. Mathematics

  • Number
  • Numerical Patterns

6. Understanding the world

  • Past and Present
  • People, Culture and Communities
  • The Natural World.

7. Expressive art and design

  • Creating with Materials
  • Being Imaginative and Expressive

Each of the 17 sub areas (under the umbrella of the 7 areas of learning) have a correlating Early Learning Goal or ‘ELG’. At the end of the EYFS, the Reception teachers assess each child against the Early Learning Goals and report this data to the children’s families, Key Stage 1 teachers and the department of education. 

The biggest change is the removal of ‘Shape, Space and Measures’ under Mathematics. A well rounded curriculum still needs to be delivered to ensure Shape, Space and Measures is covered. ‘Comprehension’ has been added under Literacy with a big emphasis on children being able to understand the texts they are reading for both academic and enjoyment purposes. Physical Education has also been separated into gross motor and fine motor skills, removing the ‘Health and Self Care’ element from the old Development Matters and EYFS. 

You can find the new Early Learning Goals 2020 in the new EYFS framework 2021. You can buy the EYFS Early Learning Goals from Edubox as a compact A5 booklet.

Buy EYFS Early Learning Goals A5 Booklet

Eyfs Elg Booklet Render

So what does this mean for Early Years Foundation Stage assessment?

Progress check at age 2

Similarly to how assessment was carried out before the new EYFS, practitioners must review the progress of the children within their setting once they turn 2 years of age. They must provide parents and/or carers with a short written summary of their child’s development in the prime areas. This will inform the setting of areas of strength and areas for development, for each child. It also gives professionals an opportunity to get the ball rolling for any additional support from the provider’s Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) or other outside agencies. Practitioners are then required to share this information with the parents/carers. 

Assessment at the start of the Reception Year

At the start of the Reception year, children will be required to be assessed against the Reception Baseline Assessment (RBA) within the first six weeks of starting reception. The purpose of this is to provide an on-entry assessment of pupil attainment. This can be used to measure progress to the end of Key Stage 2 (KS2). For more information, the assessment framework can be found here.

Assessment at the end of the Reception Year 

At the end of the Reception, an EYFS profile must be completed for each child. This involves assessing children against the final Early Learning Goals as outlined in New EYFS framework 2020.

The profile or assessment against the final ELGs will be based upon the practitioners’ own judgement of; a child’s knowledge, understanding and abilities, their attainment against expected levels, and their readiness for year 1. Practitioners must indicate whether children are meeting expected levels of development, or if they are not yet reaching expected levels (‘emerging’). This has changed from the last EYFS requirements where teachers and practitioners had the option to assess the children as ‘Exceeding’ and could assess children against exceeding descriptors. This has been removed from the EYFS framework 2021. 

The results of the EYFS profile will be shared with the department of education, families and the Key Stage 1 (KS1) teachers. The results will also be reviewed for correlations at the end of Key Stage 1, Key Stage 2 and beyond.

Children Drawing And Painting

Must have resources for EYFS curriculum planning

As teachers and early years professionals we love to be organised and familiar with essential documentation to inform our practice. This is challenging when a new framework or curriculum guidance is released. All of a sudden we find ourselves looking through documents, searching the government/department of education website (https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-education) and trying to remember important parts of the curriculum. 

Our mission at Edubox is to guide teachers through the transition of the new EYFS and we’ve created a variety of products to support this. Planning, assessing and assigning next steps relies heavily on curriculum content and guidance. We’ve created resources that put the curriculum at your finger tips. Here are our top 3 ‘must have’ products for all professionals working in Early Years.

EYFS Curriculum Planner

Our most popular product has been updated to align with the new EYFS curriculum guidance.  Each EYFS Planner has all the information you need to plan, assess and assign the next steps for your students. This is the perfect resource to support all of your EYFS curriculum planning.

Find out more about the EYFS Curriculum Planner here

Purchase an EYFS Curriculum Planner 2021-2022 here

Eyfs Curriculum Planner 2021 2022 Mockup

EYFS Curriculum keyfob

Our Curriculum Keyfob is an excellent pocket sized tool to support your EYFS curriculum planning. You can use it as an individual product or alongside your EYFS planner.

Find out more about the EYFS Curriculum keyfob here

Purchase an EYFS Curriculum keyfob here

Eyfs Keyfob 2021 Cover Mockup

EYFS Statutory Framework

The EYFS framework sets the standards that all early years providers must meet to ensure that children learn and develop well. It ensures children are kept healthy and safe and they have the knowledge and skills they need to start school.

Find out more about the EYFS Statutory Framework here

Purchase an EYFS Statutory Framework A5 booklet here

Eyfs Framework Web Visual

Teachers’ Standards Notebook

Are you new to being an Early Years teacher? Are you training to be an Early Years teacher? Or are you about to start your journey as a newly qualified Early Years teacher? If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, then we think you will find this notebook very useful.

Find out more about the Teachers’ Standards notebook here

Purchase a Teachers’ Standards notebook here


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