In this report I am going to be reviewing the Early Years Foundation Stage Framework (EYFS) looking at the principles, how they underpin our Early Years settings and are based on the theory of pioneers. I will then cover the value and importance of play and how this is a major part of children’s learning. I will outline how we got to where we are today with the EYFS Framework including the importance and the impact it has had on today’s practitioners. At the end of the review I will look at how training and the continuing professional development of practitioners is essential.
Dictionary definition – ‘a truth or general law that is used as a basis for a theory or system of belief’ Oxford English Dictionary, third edition 2005
Early Years Foundation Stage principles:
- A unique child – every child is a competent learner from birth who can be resilient, capable, confident and self-assured.
- Positive Relationships – children learn to be strong and independent from a base of loving and secure relationships with parents and/or a key person.
- Enabling Environments – the environment plays a key role in supporting and extending children’s development and learning.
- Learning and Developing – children develop and learn in different ways and at different rates and all areas of Learning and Development are equally important and inter-connected.
Today’s children are the main priority in every Early Years practice. The Early Years Foundation Stage must be underpinned by principles supporting every area of a child’s development. They are all of equal importance and need to be in place when caring for children. They work together providing a stimulating and valuable practice, delivery of the EYFS and putting the legal requirements in to perspective. They also support child’s needs and interest which means appropriate activities are delivered.
Key pioneers and theorists such as Montessori and Margaret MacMillan have been studying how children learn for over 200 years. Through studying and observing children they realised and established what was important for a child to develop and learn. Margaret MacMillan came to her theory after noticing the affect poverty was having on children. She became aware of the importance of exploring the natural world, being outside in open spaces and receiving regular meals, bath time and plenty of sleep. As according to M.MacMillian ‘In open-air nursery children had no examinations to sit, no formal structure to the day but had time to play, to run free in open spaces, feel the sun and the wind and explore the natural world.(how children learn pg24) Key pioneers and theorists still influence our principles and teaching today, as we ensure that children’s learning is extended and that they have access throughout the day to both the indoor and outside area and not just at set times. The outdoor area is now an extension of the classroom bringing the indoor areas outdoors including role play, writing, gardening, and caring for life stock. Children’s families who are on a low income are also offered free school meals to ensure the child received a healthy balanced diet and all children are given the time and space to rest throughout the day.
Value of play
‘Play is a powerful motivator, encouraging children to be creative and to develop their ideas, understanding and language. Through play, children explore, apply and test out what they know and can do’ Rumbold report pg7 56
All babies and children enjoy playing, it is an essential part of their growing up and is needed for children to reach their full potential. It allows the children to be ‘in charge’ of their own learning and is used everyday, this allows us to see a lot more of their achievements rather setting the scene for them. Children are able to combine their play with learning in a safe environment as C.Macintyre (into VIII) states ‘although the children might be seen to be ‘just playing’ all the time they are learning, just as fast as they can’
Play supports a child’s holistic development as PLAY ‘play underpins all development and learning for young children. Most children play spontaneously, although some may need adult support, and it is through play that they develop intellectually, creatively, physically, socially and emotionally.
Children can learn everything through play and it is an effective way of learning so it should be made fun and enjoyable for both the children and the parents. It is also important that children and practitioners understand they are allowed to play and that it is through play that they learn. When playing children naturally develop their skills and to act out and over come any issues they have in the immediate world. It is also where the children do their thinking, problem solving and use first hand experiences so it is important that the practitioners and parents enter the children’s world and encourage their play. Playing can take place anywhere not only in the classroom but the outdoor area as well and children need to be given time and space to place.
The journey of Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum
The journey of how we got to today’s EYFS curriculum started in 1990 with the Rumbold report ‘starting with quality’. It researched in to the quality of education for under five’s and how the process of a child’s learning is just as important as the outcome. The report states ‘Children’s imagination can be nurtured by responding to their curiosity. With encouragement and stimulation, this curiosity will develop into a thirst for, and enjoyment of, learning.’ Pg 7 56. In 1996 Desirable Outcomes were introduced consisting of six areas of learning: personal and social development, language and literacy, mathematics, knowledge and understanding of the world, physical development, and creative development. The Curriculum Guidance was then set up in 2000 for the Foundation Stage children aged 3-5 years. It meant they had their own curriculum which supported their needs within the 6 areas of learning. Under each area then had set goals which gave guidance and structure to their education. Each child will achieve these goals at their own rate and are the foundation of their learning. It was then noticed that children under 3 also needed some guidance so in 2003 Sure start introduced a framework known as Birth to three: supporting our youngest children introduced. It takes a holistic approach in little stepping stones caring for children needs and routine. These are covered by four components: A strong child, skilful communicator, competent learner and healthy child. Today every practice is required to follow the Early years framework. It complies and supports all children from birth to five and separates from the National curriculum. It focuses on development, learning and care of the child.
The EYFS framework is one document which all settings working with children will have to comply with. It includes both education and care and is supported by the four principles (appendix). For a effective setting it is important that the following key points are in place. This has had a huge impact on practitioner as it ensures every child’s development is being met and they are seen as an individual.
Observing a child is an important part of the day-to-day role of a practitioner within an Early Years setting. As observing a child you are able to discover the child’s interests, likes and dislikes, behavioral patterns, asses the child’s stage of development and identify any patterns in the child’s learning. S.Isaac pg 35 how children learn ‘allowed adults to really get to know children, that their emotions were not hidden’ It can also highlight any concerns you may have and ensures that the child is seen as an individual with all its needs being met. Observing a child involves looking, listening and being activity involved.
Assessing a child is of equal importance as observing them, as you use the information from the observation to identify the child’s achievement and plan the child’s next steps in their development and learning. ‘Ongoing assessment is an integral part of the learning and development process’ EYFS Statutory Framework pg 16 2.19 In my own setting we are regularly observing children during play as this is when we feel we gain more from observing the children as they are more comfortable and demonstrate the skills that they have learnt. We then take the child’s observation and record their achievements in their individual profiles and learning journeys. From looking at their achievements we then plan their next steps. This process is a continuous cycle as shown in the diagram.
There are three different types of planning Long-term, Medium term and short term all of which are important as they ensure all areas of a child’s development are evenly met. It also ensures all the principles are being underpinned within the setting and that the children have access to a wide range of area including indoor, outdoor and a quiet area. Planning also enables areas of development to be linked together so the children are developing a range of skills and learning. In my setting the children are very much involved with the planning as we are interested in what the children want to learn. We use short-term weekly plans (Appendix) and review the activities each day including to see how successful they have been and to extend the children’s learning. Good planning is the key to making children’s learning effective’ EYFS FRAMEWORK principle pg12 2.8
Keeping a record of children’s development is thoroughly important as it monitors a child’s progress and achievements. Also highlights any patterns in a child development and is used as evidence to show parents, outside professionals and teachers. In my setting each child has their own Learning Journal which they are involved in. It consists of the child profile, evidence of their development and learning using photos, observations and their own work. This is shared between the child, their parents and the practitioners.
Relationships with parents and importance of reporting to them
Parents are a vital part of a child’s learning as they are their main educators. A good relationship between the parents and the setting helps to build a strong connection which enables the parents to support their child and offer a continuity of expectations, experiences and behavior ‘All families are important and should be welcomed and valued in all settings’ principle parents as partners 2.2
The parents also have an understanding of the EYFS and so understand how important it is for their child to play and how they their role as a parent is needed for them to develop.
Within my setting we support the parents by making sure they feel involved and appreciated. We have an open door policy which allows parents to come and talk to a member of staff when they feel they need to. We also offer parent consultations, workshops, helping hand events and inform them of any information through meetings, newsletters, telephone calls and home/school diaries.
Learning does not stop once leaving school you continue to learn throughout your life and within your professional career, today this is known as Lifelong Learning.
So With frequent changes to the Curriculum it is important that practitioners continue to keep up to date with the training, as this helps them to develop on their knowledge and improve their skills within their career. It also allows them to reflect on their own learning experiences and to notice their achievements.