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The ultimate guide to the EYFS curriculum

everything you need to know
12 min of reading
03 November 2022

Your EYFS curriculum shows parents all the amazing learning experiences you give the children in your childcare setting. It can set you apart from other local nurseries and be a real draw for parents to attend walkarounds, converting them into clients. In this article, we unpick all you need to know about your Early Years curriculum; covering everything from policy to practice.

In this article you will find:

What documents underpin the curriculum for Early Years in the UK?

Childcare providers and private nursery settings across England follow the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Statutory Framework, updated in September 2021. All Early Years settings (including schools) are required to follow the guidance in this government document. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland follow different guidance. Working hand in hand with the EYFS Framework is the updated Development Matters document, designed to be used to plan your Early Years curriculum.

There are 4 characteristics of effective learning that should be used to underpin your curriculum detailed in Development Matters. The EYFS curriculum is assessed at the end of reception at the age of 5, using the Early Learning Goals (ELG) guidance. The ELG should not be used as the foundation of your curriculum, instead they are for assessment purposes only to ensure your nursery has a balanced and rich curriculum.

What should be taught in Early Years?

The EYFS Statutory Framework sets out the 7 areas of learning that your curriculum should cover. It gives detailed objectives to teach across the Early Years.

EYFS curriculum - What should be taught in Early Years

It is important to note that the most effective curriculums are tailored to meet the needs of the children. They are purposefully adapted in line with the curriculum intent (what you aim the children to know by the end of their journey with you.) The EYFS curriculum should be play-based, with plenty of opportunities for the children to engage with activities and experiences to develop across each area of learning.

There are prime and specific areas of the EYFS curriculum, the prime areas of learning are often focused on up to the age of 2 and then specific learning areas are also included. As well as covering the 7 areas of learning, your curriculum should emphasise:

How to write an outstanding EYFS curriculum policy

Your curriculum policy is a favourite amongst prospective parents, they want to see what their child will be learning and how it will be organised. There is a list of EYFS statutory policies and procedures your nursery must follow; the curriculum policy should be visible on your nursery’s website. Let’s look at some top tips for writing your curriculum policy for your nursery:

Be brief:

Explain to your parents exactly what they need to know, what your aims are for their child’s learning, and how you plan to implement this.

Tailor it to your setting:

If your childcare provision is in an area of deprivation and speech and language levels are particularly low, tailor your curriculum to meet this need. If you have a forest accessible as part of your grounds, build your curriculum around this.

Be Ofsted mindful:

Your setting is unique because of your staff and the curriculum you decide to offer. Check that the format of your policy covers the Ofsted 3 I’s of Intent, Implementation and Impact.

Be accessible to all parents:

There are several acronyms and abbreviations used in education (EYFS, ELG, GLD). Make your policy accessible to all parents by explaining terms in the simplest way.

What to include in your Early Years curriculum policy

Ofsted evaluates your quality of education in 3 main areas: Intent, Implementation, and Impact. Organising your curriculum policy in this order for coherence can be useful. There is no set structure for you to follow when creating your EYFS curriculum policy, however here are some must-haves to include.

Curriculum intent

Curriculum intent is where you want to showcase your aims for what the children will learn during their time in your nursery setting. It can be useful to use a graphic-creating website such as Canva (free and paid options available) to make a visual takeaway of your curriculum in a nutshell.

EYFS curriculum - Curriculum intent

Curriculum design

You will have chosen your curriculum design for a reason, underpinned by several pedagogical theories that resonate with you. Explain at the very beginning of your Early Years policy which theories drive your chosen curriculum. There are countless theories for you to choose from and it does not have to be an exhaustive list.

Explanations can be appreciated by parents to show the style of teaching and learning their child will receive. For example, you may use the Curiosity Approach to guide the activities you prepare for the children, encouraging exploration of loose parts play to enrich the child’s learning and development.

EYFS curriculum - Curriculum design

Curriculum implementation:

This section explains the everyday practices that help you to achieve your intended curriculum and the vehicles that are used to actualise your curriculum vision.

EYFS Charter and mission statement

The mission statement and EYFS charter for your setting can summarise what each parent should expect from the staff but also makes reference to their part in their child’s progress.

Effective characteristics of learning

Taken from the Development Matters government document, you may want to include how your curriculum implements the 4 effective characteristics of learning in Early Years. Don’t forget that your curriculum policy, although mainly used to showcase your provision to parents, can also be shared with staff to explain their professional expectations.

In this section, you can explain how your curriculum is designed to develop the uniqueness of the child by getting to know their needs and interests. Show parents how they can use the child profile on your chosen parent app to submit detailed information about their child’s unique interests and needs. This also communicates to parents the different ways you encourage children to learn about themselves and others.

Building positive relationships should be a vital part of your EYFS curriculum, encouraging relationships with children and adults equally. Your parents should be made aware of how your team uses learning activities to build these relationships. Your settling-in new children policy and information may also explain to parents how to begin initial relationships between the child and their key worker.

Having an enabling environment means that all children are given what they need to flourish. This ties into building positive relationships and the celebration of uniqueness with the child. The enabling environment should be demonstrated to the parents during their walk-around, showcasing the different tasks, role-play opportunities and learning topics you have chosen in your curriculum to enable all learners to progress.

Finally, share your learning and development processes with the parents, this can be the structure in which the learning is delivered. This section of your curriculum policy can also cover any educational programmes or schemes that are used, this may be Phonics, Maths, communication and language or problem-solving.

Role of adults in curriculum implementation

Each nursery has different practices when it comes to the level of adult interaction with learning activities. In your policy, it can be useful to explain if your setting is an advocate for child-led learning or if they have a mixture of adult interaction and self-driven play.

Parental involvement in your eyfs curriculum

This is the first step on their educational journey, it is important to set a positive tone for nursery and home interaction. Parental involvement can include their input into choices of policy and procedure in your childcare setting or can be physical participation in nursery-based activities. Keep your parents up to date with the topic of learning through the child’s learning diary in your Blossom parent app.

Inclusion (SEND and EAL) in the EYFS

Explain your local offer for Special Educational Needs and Disabilities in your setting. For example, a staff member in your setting could be fluent in British Sign Language (BSL) and their skills are regularly used across the curriculum. Or you may work hard to make your nursery Autism-friendly, sharing how different sensory play strategies are used to support additional needs. Describe how you support families who are English additional language (EAL) in this section, and cater to the needs of your families by sharing information via your parent app that is visual. Using images and videos) helps your nursery to overcome the language barrier.

Curriculum Impact

Signs of curriculum impact

This section will link to your aims of intent for your children’s learning, how will you know the curriculum you have designed will be a success? It might not be through baseline and measurable assessments but through confidence levels, improved resilience, and social interaction with peers.

7 steps to an outstanding EYFS curriculum for your nursery

Each Early Years provider should have a bespoke curriculum that meets their needs, there is no one-size-fits-all. To create an EYFS curriculum you should consider how you and your team will involve:

Child assessments: explain the how and why

Be inclusive, in every meaning of the word

Develop cultural capital for all

Vary the levels of social demand and interaction

Promote a love for reading

Develop emotional resilience in your children

Get your parents and carers involved

Assessment and the Early Years curriculum

Children are assessed at the end of reception using their EYFS profile (they’re also assessed at ages 2 and 3.) These assessments are to give a baseline for their future progress to be compared throughout their journey in primary school.

In your curriculum policy, include information about the assessments you use and importantly why you use them. To assess a child’s progress in line with the 7 areas of learning, observations and evidence recording are the main methods rather than a scaled-score assessment. You can easily add observations and evidence into their own digital learning journeys, showing parents their progress and using evidence as a basis for assessment.

Inclusion in your nursery

There shouldn’t be an add-on option for an inclusive activity, inclusive practice in the Early Years should underpin all activities in your curriculum. True inclusive practice in a nursery is the recognition of the barriers to learning and accessibility of tasks, and altering to meet the needs rather than altering a task for the individual child.

An example of this would be the use of story time, when supporting toddlers who are demonstrating ADHD characteristics, sitting still for extended periods of time can be a real challenge. Instead of altering storytime for that child, adapt the story time to include physical movements, drama and interaction with the story.

Inclusion is a broad term and covers additional needs, English additional language (EAL) and everything in between. Know your families well and recognise the inclusivity that may be needed in your curriculum.

Create ‘wow!’ moments and develop cultural capital

What does cultural capital mean in the Early Years? It is preparing and delivering opportunities for children to experience the world around them first-hand. Children learn through experience, yet they experience different levels of enrichment outside the nursery. Your curriculum should endeavour to close the experience gap for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

How to vary the levels of social demand and interaction

For most children, the nursery is the first setting where they are challenged socially. Having to share toys and activities with multiple children and turn-taking can be challenging or overwhelming. Vary the levels of social demand for the activities and experiences they will participate in throughout the day. Mix up some whole-room activities, some pair experiences, and opportunities to learn independently.

Promote a love for reading in the Early Years

Even though the EYFS curriculum is underpinned by play and not formal reading and writing activities, there must still be the opportunity to develop a love for reading as early on as possible. Storytime should be a staple part of your daily routine. Be creative with your delivery of stories: use visual stimulation, introduce story stones to make your own narrative, and read a breadth of traditional and modern stories with a diverse representation celebrated throughout. Phonics development should be considered when planning your curriculum, you may wish to use a scheme or programme of study if you feel they meet the needs of your children and setting.

Develop emotional resilience in the Early Years

Emotional resilience and self-regulation are important for developing mentally healthy habits. Your Early Years curriculum should introduce conflict resolution strategies, empathy for others and model these social skills with other practitioners and children regularly. It can be important to share with parents the intention to praise the effort rather than the outcome to build resilience. This can be a simple recognition change that can build emotional resilience when faced with challenges.

Parental involvement in the Early Years

Parental engagement in the Early Years is impactful for a toddler’s progression. Studies have shown that with increased parental engagement comes improvements in reading and phonics skills. To achieve this effectively, use an online communication platform that regularly shares visual examples of the curriculum. As nursery software helps you to share additional ideas on how to extend the learning beyond the nursery day.

Your Early Years curriculum will be tailored to the needs of your families and children, making use of the facilities and resources you have around your nursery setting whilst providing a broad and balanced learning offer.

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