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What are the Updates to the EYFS?

Last updated on 20th December 2023

The government has confirmed that a revised Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Framework will come into effect from September 2021. This follows the 2018 draft version of the framework and a period of consultation from 2019 which assessed revision to the educational programmes, the Early Learning Goals, the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP), and changes designed to promote good oral health under the statutory safeguarding and welfare requirements.

Although the document is reviewed and updated regularly, according to the DfE (Department for Education), the aims of the EYFS reforms are to improve outcomes for children, strengthen their language development, particularly for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, and reduce workloads so that practitioners can spend more time with children, supporting their learning. Change is also necessary as some areas of the document are out of date.

Showing A Nursery Applying The EYFS Framework

What is the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)?

The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework sets the standards to make sure that children aged from birth to 5 years old learn and develop well and are kept healthy and safe. It was introduced as part of the 2006 Childcare Act and must be followed by all Ofsted registered settings and childminders.

It is the first stage of a child’s education. The key focus of EYFS is teaching children routine and easing them into the idea of learning in a structured environment, preparing them for moving into key stage 1.

Children at these ages will mostly be taught through games and play, and the areas of learning are:

  • Communication and language – Giving children opportunities to experience a rich language environment, to develop their confidence and skills in expressing themselves, and to speak and listen in a range of situations.
  • Physical development – Providing opportunities for young children to be active and interactive, and to develop their coordination, control, and movement. Children must also be helped to understand the importance of physical activity and make healthy choices in relation to food.
  • Personal, social, and emotional development – Helping children to develop a positive sense of themselves and others, to form positive relationships, and to develop respect for others. To develop social skills and to learn how to manage their feelings. To understand appropriate behaviour in groups and to have confidence in their own abilities.
  • Literacy – Encouraging children to link sounds and letters and to begin to read and write. Children must be given access to a wide range of reading materials to ignite their interest.
  • Mathematics – Providing children with opportunities to develop and improve their skills in counting, understanding and using numbers, calculating simple addition and subtraction problems, and to describe shapes, spaces, and measurements.
  • Understanding the world – Guiding children to make sense of their physical world and their community through opportunities to explore, observe, and find out about people, places, technology, and the environment.
  • Expressive arts and design – Enabling children to explore and play with a wide range of media and materials as well as providing opportunities and encouragement for sharing their thoughts, ideas, and feelings through a variety of activities in art, music, movement, dance, role play, and design and technology.

The child’s progress should be reviewed when they are between 2 and 3 years old by an early years practitioner or health visitor, and their class teacher will assess them at the end of the school year when they turn 5.

The main EYFS principles that practitioners should work towards are:

  • A unique child – Every child is unique and each one responds to different learning methods in different ways.
  • Enabling environments – An enabling environment is one which caters to each individual child’s needs and gives them the freedom to expand their knowledge and development.
  • Positive relationships – Children should be encouraged to be independent when appropriate. They should also be given the safety and security of building positive and trusting relationships.
  • Learning and development – By following the EYFS’s 7 areas of learning, each child will be taught a wide range of skills to aid their development.

The EYFS guidelines aim to provide:

  • Quality and consistency.
  • A secure foundation.
  • Partnership working.
  • Equality of opportunity.

The framework is for all Ofsted registered early years providers in all settings including:

  • Nurseries.
  • Childminders.
  • Pre-schools.
  • Reception.

What are the changes?

From September 2021, the framework is changing and the changes were published on the 31st March 2021 and should be used by all Ofsted registered early years providers in England from September 2021. What you will need to do before September 2021 will depend on your role and the type of setting you work in.

The changes are happening in order to:

  • Improve the outcomes at age 5, particularly in early language and literacy.
  • Reduce workload and unnecessary paperwork giving you more time to spend with the children in your care.

Development Matters is the new non-statutory curriculum guidance for the new EYFS framework that everyone can use from September 2021. Early adopter schools are already using this now. All infant and primary schools had the option to become early adopters from September 2020.

Less than 20% of the sector chose to do this. On 20th July 2021 the DfE published a revised version of Development Matters to reflect the feedback received from early adopter schools, however, the changes made are only minor.

Changes have been made to the educational programmes, safeguarding and welfare, assessment arrangements, Development Matters, and the Early Learning Goals.

The changes being made in each area are covered in detail below.

Showing How EYFS Updates Are Being Applied

What are the changes to the educational programmes?

The educational programmes which are also known as the ‘early years curriculum’ are the areas of learning and development which must inform the activities offered and the experiences that children have in your early years setting. Your setting can use the educational programmes to decide the approach to the curriculum which is most well suited to your setting.

There is no change to the 7 areas of learning and development which are:

  • Communication and language will include a focus on adult-child interactions.
  • Physical development will be strengthened to include a greater focus on development from birth to reception and on the link between gross and fine motor skills.
  • Personal, social, and emotional development will include additional information on self-care and healthy eating.
  • Literacy will include a stronger emphasis on pre-reception literacy learning, and the link between language comprehension and later reading and writing.
  • Maths will include a greater emphasis on the importance of shapes, spatial reasoning, and measure as part of early maths learning and how children can enjoy maths.
  • Understanding the world will include wider experiences for children.
  • Expressive arts and design will include a wider variety of ways children can develop their creative skills, including a greater variety of tools, materials, and techniques.

Changes have been made to the wording in the educational programmes which are longer and in more depth and they contain examples of things you can do with children. There is a particular focus on early language and extending vocabulary. The Development Matters guidance can help inform your approach to the curriculum and putting the educational programmes into place.

What are the changes to safeguarding and welfare?

There are only minor changes to the safeguarding and welfare section. This includes talking to children about healthy eating and the importance of brushing their teeth. Individual settings and schools will need to decide how to meet this requirement and practitioners will not be required to assess this.

There is some clarification of other requirements where necessary, for example ‘adequate supervision of children’ now also includes ‘whilst eating’.

The layout of this section remains the same.

What are the changes to assessment arrangements?

No changes have been made to the progress check at age 2. The purpose of the 2-year check is to help identify strengths and any areas where progress is less than expected. If you are working with pre-reception children, this is the only statutory assessment you will need to carry out.

There is an emphasis that practitioners should draw on their knowledge of the child and their own professional judgement and should not be required to prove this through collection of physical evidence.

The Reception Baseline Assessment (RBA) should be completed within the first 6 weeks of a child starting reception. It is a short assessment to assess the child in early maths, literacy and communication, and language. There is no expected standard and children cannot pass or fail.

What are the changes to Development Matters?

Development Matters has been republished. It is not compulsory, however, it is recommended that it is used along with the new statutory framework. The document is shorter, about two thirds of the length of the previous version, to allow for more freedom to develop the right curriculum for the children you work with in your particular setting.

The age bands have been simplified to:

  • Birth to 3 years.
  • 3 and 4 years old.
  • Children in reception.

There is more of an emphasis on professional judgement, which will be based on your knowledge and experience.

What are the changes to to the Early Learning Goals (ELGs)?

The Early Learning Goals summarise the knowledge, skills, and understanding that all young children should have gained by the end of the academic year in which they turn 5. Pre-reception providers do not need to use the ELGs; they should be used as an assessment tool during the summer term of the reception year.

The ELGs have been changed to make them clearer and more specific. They are largely focused on the main factors that support child development at age 5. The aims of the ELG reforms are to make all 17 ELGs clearer, more specific, and easier for teachers to make accurate judgements.

The 7 areas of learning and development remain the same:

  • Communication and language will include a focus on adult-child interactions, and the word ‘accurate’ has been removed from the speaking ELG when referring to tenses. There is a focus on strengthening language and vocabulary development to particularly support disadvantaged children.
  • Personal, social, emotional development will remain as proposed.
  • Physical development will remain as proposed.
  • Literacy will remain as proposed.
  • Maths will include a greater clarity to counting and comparing quantities in the numerical patterns ELG. There will be a focus on number and numerical patterns within the maths ELGs as the strongest predictor for later maths outcomes. The changes in this area reflect the government’s continued commitment to strengthening the teaching of early numeracy so that all children, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds are able to start year 1 with a strong and confident foundation in maths.
  • Understanding the world will include a change in relation to the past and present to further children’s understanding of the concept of the past.
  • Expressive arts and design will include a greater reference to a variety of tools, materials, and techniques that children will need to demonstrate for the Creating with Materials ELG.

You can access resources, webinars, and helpful hints and tips to understand the changes to EYFS at Kinderly EYFS 2021.

Showing An Understaning Of The Up To Date EYFS Framework

What do we need to do by September 2021?

Changes do not need to be made now, however, you should be making plans to implement the changes from 1st September 2021. All early years providers must follow the new Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Framework. How and when you’ll be inspected by Ofsted depends on whether you are on the childcare register or the early years register.

Nursery leaders and managers 

You should design your curriculum around the new educational programmes, not the Early Learning Goals. You should ensure your staff are aware and understand the changes. If you need further support you will be able to access this by contacting your local authority.

Some essential tips to help you prepare:

  • Do a direct comparison between the new and existing framework. Discuss this internally and listen to everyone’s views and concerns.
  • Make a plan about what you will need to change and how you will make the changes.
  • Think about who you need to talk to: parents, school, or the local authority.
  • Identify areas that you are confident with and implement them now.

Nursery practitioners

If you are unclear about anything it may be useful to speak to your manager about what you need to do to adapt to the changes.

Some essential tips to help you prepare:

  • Brush up on your child development knowledge.
  • Advocate for the child and keep them at the centre of all you do.


You may find it useful to:

  • Consider contacting other childminders in your area – you could consider joining a support group.
  • If you’re a member of an association you may wish to seek advice from them.
  • Contact your local authority who may be able to offer you some advice and support about implementing the changes to the EYFS.
  • Make a plan about what you need to change and how you will make the changes.
  • Start planning for the changes now that are coming in September 2021.

Please see our knowledge base for further information about how to become a childminder and the requirements involved.

You can access resources, advice, and support to help you apply the changes to the EYFS in nurseries, childminders, and pre-schools.

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About the author

Claire Vain

Claire Vain

Claire graduated with a degree in Social Work in 2010. She is currently enjoying her career moving in a different direction, working as a professional writer and editor. Outside of work Claire loves to travel, spend time with her family and two dogs and she practices yoga at every opportunity!

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