20th February 2024 Early Years Foundation Stage All Posts

Simplify the EYFS: Your Go-To Guide

Guest blog: Jamie Victoria, The Childcare Guru

I know how long you work every day, I know how tiring it is working in childcare and I know you want to do the best you can for your children. This is why I’m here to bring you the information you need to know about in a straightforward way.

This could be one of the most important blogs you read because we are talking about The Early Years Foundation Stage otherwise known as the ‘EYFS’. It’s the most important document you need to know about if you work in Early Years in England and I’m going to explain exactly why!

Firstly, who needs to know about the EYFS?

You need to know and be following the EYFS if you look after children aged 0-5 years and are registered on the Early Years Register. There are now two EYFS frameworks, one for group provision and one for childminders, they came into effect in January 2024, and it’s been quite the hot topic. Both EYFS frameworks can be found here – make sure you click on the right one for you!

What is group provision?

Group provision = anyone working in a group-based setting this includes:

  • Nurseries
  • Pre-schools
  • Daycare
  • Before & after-school care 
  • Holiday care
  • Childcare on domestic premises (4 of more people, childminders and/or assistant childminders caring for children in a home-based setting at one time) 
  • School-based settings (including maintained schools; non-maintained schools; independent schools; free schools; and academies)

What is a childminder?

Childminders = those providing care for children in a home-based setting including:

  • Childminders working alone
  • Childminders working with a maximum of two other childminders/assistant childminders (total of 3 adults working at one time) 

Breaking down the EYFS

The EYFS is ‘statutory guidance’ which means you have to be following it by law! It’s everyone’s responsibility to know and understand the EYFS not just leaders and managers, it explains everything you have to be doing in your setting and will give you answers to many questions like ‘what paperwork do we need to do?’ and ‘what ratios should we be following?’. 

The EYFS is split into 3 sections:

Explains what you must do, working in partnership with parents and/or carers to support the learning and development of all children in your care and ensure that their entire early years experience helps to positively impact their brain development and readiness for key stage 1.

Explains the requirements you have to follow to assess children’s progress, understand their individual needs and plan activities to support them.

Explains everything you must do to ensure children are kept safe and well. This includes:

  • Safeguarding children. 
  • Ensuring the adults who have contact with children are suitable. 
  • Promoting good health. 
  • Supporting and understanding behaviour. 
  • Maintaining records, policies, and procedures. 

EYFS Requirements

What do we mean by requirements? Everything you are required to be doing by law when you are caring for children 0-5 and are on the early years register. 

The EYFS is there to ensure all children are kept healthy & safe, they learn and develop well and have the knowledge and skills they need to start school. Which I’m sure we can all agree is incredibly important. 

Throughout the EYFS it uses the word ‘must’ where the requirement is by law and you ‘must’ be doing it. Let’s take the example of the 2 year progress check on page 19, paragraph 2.6: 

“When a child is aged between two and three, practitioners must review their progress, and provide parents and/or carers with a short written summary of their child’s development in the prime areas.”

It then goes on to explain what must be included in the 2 year progress report, 

“The summary must

  • Highlight areas in which a child is progressing well. 
  • Highlight areas in which some additional support might be needed. 
  • Focus particularly on any areas where there is a concern that a child may have a developmental delay, which may indicate a special educational need or disability. 
  • Describe the activities and strategies the provider intends to adopt to address any issues or concerns. This plan should involve parents and carers and other professionals (for example, the provider’s Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) or health professionals) as appropriate”

You will also see throughout the EYFS it uses the words ‘should’ or ‘may’ when referring to something you should consider doing, but it is not required by law. This does not mean you can ignore it! You would need to have good reasons not to follow it and best practice would be to do it. For example, keeping with the 2 year progress report theme, paragraph 2.7

“Beyond the prime areas, it is for practitioners to decide what the written summary should include, reflecting the development level and needs of the individual child.” 

This statement encourages you to think about what else could be necessary to include in the 2 year progress check, for example, the specific areas of development. 

What is a breach of the EYFS?

When talking about the requirements of the EYFS, if you were not following or meeting one of the requirements set out, like: 

“Providers must promote the good health, including the oral health, of the children they look after.” (P.33, para 3.51, EYFS) You can be issued an ‘action’ or a ‘welfare requirements notice’ by Ofsted. A welfare requirements notice or (WRN) is issued if a provider is failing or has failed to meet one or more of the safeguarding and welfare requirements of the EYFS.

A breach of the EYFS could be from any of the three sections (learning & development, assessment or safeguarding & welfare). So my question for you is, ‘can you confidently go through the EYFS and say or give examples where necessary to show you are doing everything that you should be?

The EYFS & Ofsted

Ofsted inspects all early years settings. The purpose of the inspections is to check that you are meeting the requirements set out in the EYFS – which is again why it is so important to keep up-to-date with any changes! (I have gone on about that enough yet?!) 

Ofsted could be alerted that a setting is not meeting one of the EYFS requirements by the setting themselves, a parent, another professional or perhaps a member of the public. When this happens Ofsted will conduct a regulatory visit or telephone call to the setting to check that they are meeting the requirements and if not will issue an ‘action’ or ‘welfare requirements notice’. 

In other cases, Ofsted may uncover you are not meeting an EYFS requirement during a routine inspection. They will let you know immediately if this is the case and keep you informed about their findings and how this relates to the EYFS and the inspection handbook. The inspector will evaluate the impact of the breach, if it is something small, like you forgetting to display your registration certificate (group provision) then they will give you time to ensure you did this before the end of the inspection. 

However, if the breach was that your children were not given a key person and staff did not know who their key children were, then this would be far more impactful and the inspector could give you an ‘action’ that would go on your report. It may look like this:

The provider must: “have an effective key-person system in place so that every child’s learning and personal needs are met” and a date will be written by when you must ensure this is in place. 

A date would be issued on any actions or welfare requirement notices, which means you have to put things in place or do something to make sure that you meet the requirements by the date written in the report. Ofsted will check to ensure you have met the action or WRN by that date. Failure to comply with a WRN is an offence. 

If on inspection you receive a ‘good’ judgement from Ofsted, they will give you some recommendations on how to improve, with the EYFS requirements. Recommendations can vary, but here is an example: 

“strengthen the existing communication with parents to provide ideas that will enable them to continue to support their children’s learning at home”

The EYFS talks throughout about the importance of partnerships with parents, so in this instance, the inspector felt this could be enhanced further to support children’s development & learning. 

If you receive an ‘outstanding’ grade from Ofsted you will not have any recommendations. Outstanding is a challenging judgement and can be met by meeting all of the ‘good’ criteria in the inspection handbook for all four inspection judgements (quality of education, behaviour & attitudes, personal development and leadership & management) and all of the ‘outstanding’ criteria. You can read more about what criteria is required for all grades (outstanding, good, requires improvement and inadequate)  in the second part of the inspection handbook, found here.

The EYFS & your curriculum

Firstly, the EYFS is not a curriculum itself but the basis on which you build your curriculum on.

The EYFS explains the 7 areas of learning in section 1:

Prime areas

  • Communication & language
  • Physical development
  • Personal, social & emotional development

Specific areas

  • Literacy
  • Mathematics
  • Understanding the world
  • Expressive arts & design

And from this, you can decide how best you deliver these 7 areas that work for your setting and your children. What is great is that the EYFS gives us the freedom to develop our curriculum. This could be based on a particular ethos or approach (way of doing something) like Montessori or Forest School. It might be a set of values you believe are important for children’s future success. Each curriculum will be different and that is totally ok! It’s all about looking at what you want your children to learn while they are with you in your setting.

This page on the gov.uk website can support you in developing your curriculum if you are finding it difficult, as well as using guidance like development matters or birth to 5 matters. Use whatever works best for you!

Remember, your curriculum can be broken into 3 parts and Ofsted will evaluate your curriculum in this way:

Intent – what do you want your children to learn during their time with you in line with the 7 areas?

Implementation – how will you put this into practice through teaching, opportunities provided, activities and your environment?

Impact – evaluating your curriculum, what is the impact for the children? Are they making progress? Is something not working?

EYFS and Ofsted Inspection: 3I's - Intent, Implement, Impact

The EYFS & safeguarding

Section 3 of the EYFS explains all the safeguarding and welfare requirements you need to have to keep children healthy and safe. It is so important you are meeting these requirements so go through them with a fine tooth comb!

The EYFS refers to other statutory guidance that you also need to be following by law concerning safeguarding, these include:

The EYFS also refers to other helpful guidance on many topics throughout all sections but specific to section 3, there are links that you can find on safer sleep, weaning, food, health & safety, online safety considerations and much more. 

When inspecting, Ofsted makes a judgement on safeguarding and this is whether safeguarding is either effective or not. If it is not effective the overall judgement is likely to be inadequate. You must have an ‘open and positive culture around safeguarding that puts children’s interests first.’ take a look at paragraph 60 in the early year’s inspection handbook, where this is explained –  another really helpful statement for you. 

So to round up, consider the importance of the EYFS! Make sure you keep up-to-date, meet all of the requirements and follow some of these top tips!

Top tips

  1. Read through the EYFS and highlight any areas you might not be following & start making plans to put new things in place
  2. Register for email alerts so you know when the EYFS has been updated! Now you can keep on top of any changes you might have to put in place! Register here, you will see a button with a bell icon that says “Get emails about this page”. It takes 2 minutes to set this up and is totally worth it!
  3. Go through the evaluation schedule of the Early Years Inspection Handbook and audit your setting. Room leaders could go through the ‘good’ criteria for all 4 judgements and highlight what they are confidently doing, what needs improving and what needs to be put in place!
  4. Don’t skim over the footnotes in the EYFS! They have some really important pieces of information and links to other guidance to help you.
  5. The gov.uk website has so much helpful information in relation to early years, this page in particular ‘Help for early years providers’ is great. 
  6. If you are unsure about all the guidance you must be following alongside the EYFS, check out my ‘Essential Early Years Guidance’ downloadable e-books, with over 40 clickable links to guidance you must be following by law, plus all the guidance mentioned in the EYFS and even more helpful information – all in one place, saving you time! Group provision, Childminders (use CHILDCARE20 for 20% off)
  7. Get a second pair of eyes… Sometimes we miss things when we see it day in and day out! If you need support you can reach out to me for 1:1 calls, or in-person inspection support, EYFS audits and staff training
  8. Follow me on social media for lots of free and helpful advice! 
Read Jamie’s next blog You, Your Setting & the Four Guiding EYFS Principles here.

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About the Author

Jamie, aka The Childcare Guru, brings 15 years of Early Years expertise, including roles as Nursery Manager, Forest School Manager, Deputy Head, and Ofsted Inspector. With a passion for supporting the early years community, Jamie is now a consultant, author, and trainer, dedicated to creating exceptional experiences for young children since 2018.