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What is the Early Years Foundation Stage?

Children playing
Get the lowdown on what Foundation Stage learning is all about and what your child will be expected to know.

Early Years Foundation Stage (Nursery / Reception) is for children aged three to five years old and is the first stage of their education.

The key focus during this part of the national curriculum is on teaching them routine and easing them into the idea of learning in a structured environment.

A lot of the activities your child will undertake will be play-based, with more formal teaching not starting until they begin Key Stage 1 (Year 1 and Year 2).

When can my child go to school?

All children aged four and many aged three (depending on where you live) are entitled to free part-time education.

To find out what is available for your child locally, search, the largest selection of childcare providers in the UK, with over 50,000 parents' reviews.

Where can they go to learn?

The Government funds places at:

  • Nursery and Reception classes
  • Playgroups
  • Pre-schools
  • Accredited childminders in approved childminding networks

What is in the Foundation Stage?

The Early Years Foundation Stage was introduced in 2008 to provide a framework for pre-school settings.

Its play-based form of learning, which may be very different from your experience of starting school, is the result of lengthy research. The Foundation Stage recognises that children need to be able to use concrete experiences to provide the building blocks for their learning, so with that in mind it utilises play, modelling, painting, investigating and cooking as the mediums for learning.

What subjects will my child learn about?

There are 7 educational programmes (sometimes described as the ‘early years curriculum’) which have been established to shape the activities and experiences that children have during the Foundation Stage.

These areas of learning and development are:

  • communication and language
  • physical development
  • personal, social and emotional development

And specifically:

  • literacy
  • maths
  • understanding the world
  • expressive arts and design

Will my child be tested?

The Reception Baseline Assessment (RBA) takes place in the first six weeks of Reception, but it's not used to judge children individually, it’s a snapshot of their knowledge and skills on starting school and is used to understand the current ability level of their class as a whole. 

The EYFS profile is completed for every child in the final term of their Reception year. This profile enables teachers to see how your child has progressed and if they have reached the early learning goals set in each of the learning areas. Teachers will record your child's achievements throughout Reception based on their own observations. 

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