Don’t Worry About the Reviewed EYFS: Make it Work For You

EYFS Series Part 3:


Welcome to part 3 of the EYFS Series we are running to support you with the EYFS reforms which come into play in September. In today’s article, June O’Sullivan MBE and CEO of the London Early Years Foundation (LEYF) – one of the UK’s largest and most successful charitable social enterprises – teaches you how to make it work for you!

Catch up on:

  • Part 1 – ‘Beatrice Merrick on using Birth to 5 Matters’
  • Part 2 – ‘A whistle-stop tour on Self-Regulation with Sue Asquith’

The reviewed statutory framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) will come into operation from September and is giving us collywobbles.

Stop worrying and asking questions – just read it.  It’s here.

What you will find is that not much has changed except for the need to include oral health alongside the requirement to “promote the good health of children” and, of course, the slim-lined Early Learning Goals. But ultimately it is still a framework and it’s still statutory focusing on safeguarding, welfare and partnership with parents.  So, stop worrying and let’s see how we can use it to develop more confident pedagogical practice.

Developing more confident pedagogical practice

We all agree that every child deserves the best possible start in life and the support we provide in our settings will help enable them to fulfil their potential.  We don’t have time to get it wrong because children develop quickly and the experiences they receive have a major impact on their future life chances. So, no pressure!

The bit everyone worries about is the teaching and learning requirements, the seven areas of learning and development and the dreaded Early Learning Goals. These summarise the knowledge, skills and understanding that all young children should have gained by the end of the reception year.  And, of course, many will be worried about how you will describe what you do to Ofsted and how they will judge your understanding during the learning walk.



The EYFS identifies the four guiding principles that should shape practice in Early Years settings

These are:

  1. Every child is a unique child who is constantly learning and can be resilient, capable, confident and self-assured. Children learn to be strong and independent through positive relationships.
  2. Children learn and develop well in enabling environments with teaching and support from adults who respond to their individual interests and needs and help them to build their learning over time.
  3. Children benefit from a strong partnership between practitioners and parents and/or carers.
  4. Children develop and learn at different rates. (See “the characteristics of effective teaching and learning” at paragraph 1.15). The framework covers the education and care of all children in Early Years provision, including children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

These principles can shape or help your pedagogical approach – although everyone is at pains to remind you that the framework does not prescribe a particular teaching approach. There is no blueprint. Under pressure, lots of people turn to non-statutory documents like Development Matters to help shape their approach but as the author, Julian Grenier himself says in his easily downloadable Development Matters 2020 book (or if you prefer to listen to my podcast with him) it won’t be fully rolled out until the end of the year – so use this time for slow reflection and avoid rushing into big changes.

That advice resonates with me because I spent ten years designing the LEYF social pedagogy, refining and fine honing it as we learnt more from research and the wonders of praxis. This is when we bring theory, research and practice into a triangle of continuous improvement.

Be clear about how you teach

A pedagogy is the means by which we lead the children to learn and it includes our values and principles, theories of learning (including our understanding of how children develop and learn), our teaching approach and our view of the child. How you create your pedagogy is up to you but one element that you need to be clear about is how you teach and that includes the means by which you decide to cover the ELGs.

Ofsted’s definition of teaching is helpful, particularly as it covers the importance of play. The EYFS also describes play as essential for children’s development, building their confidence as they learn to explore, relate to others, set their own goals and solve problems.

Children learn by leading their own play and by taking part in play which is guided by adults.

Teaching should not be taken to imply a “top down” or formal way of working. It is a broad term that covers the many different ways in which adults help young children learn. It includes: their interactions with children during planned and unplanned child-initiated play and activities, communicating and modelling language, showing, explaining, demonstrating, exploring ideas, encouraging, questioning, recalling, providing a narrative for what they doing, facilitating and setting challenges. It takes account of the equipment that adults provide, and the attention given to the physical environment as well as the structure and routines of the day that establish expectations.

Ofsted 2019 pg 80

Reduce the burden of paperwork

The other area of concern for staff is assessment. One of the justifications for the review of the EYFS was to reduce the burden of “paperwork” which had reached industrial proportions as staff converted developmental matters into tick boxes, learning journeys the length of a Tolstoy novel and far too much time spent writing down what children could / should be doing so they actually missed the joy of the learning itself. We must avoid recreating this bureaucracy.

Assessment is observing how children are doing, spotting their magic moments and sharing their stories with parents so they can learn about their child’s social, cognitive and physical and emotional development. It requires staff who are well trained in child development so that Mary Sheridan would smile upon them and they can bring alive pedagogical insights and examples that demonstrate to parents how their children are developing and growing. That information can also be used to support planning and how we can enrich the teaching and the environment and identify how we support some children overcome obstacles to their progress.

The EYFS is a framework around which we design our pedagogy. We are the architects, responsible for the structure, contents and maintenance of our pedagogy. Let’s use this opportunity to reclaim our own professional story of Early Childhood Education and Care – one that was begun by the pioneers but must now be deepened and expanded by a new generation of pedagogues.