The Early Years Curriculum
The EYFS’s early years curriculum requires a core focus on 7 areas for learning and development in children under five. These are all inter-connected in real terms.
First, the 3 ‘Prime Areas’:
These three areas of focus are considered ‘prime’ areas because progress in one will help towards progress in all the others. They are:
1. Communication & Language
It would be hard to overstate the importance of good communication and language skills, as they underpin early years progress in just about everything else. Two-way interactions and language-rich communications between staff and children are encouraged right from the outset. Childcare professionals will introduce new vocabulary regularly and help children to understand it and use it themselves through activities like story-telling, role play and question-and-answer sessions. Practitioners will regularly read with (not just to) children, using a wide variety of high quality reading materials, encouraging feedback and engagement from the children as they progress. In this way, new vocabulary is embedded, conversations come naturally and children will thrive in their language and communication skills.
2. Physical Development
Physical development is, of course, another key skill that is foundational for children. After all, it impacts on health, mobility, strength, fitness, agility, coordination, wellbeing and general happiness. So, great care is taken in nursery to help children hone their physical skills and development incrementally, to improve all of the above. This is done through the EYFS programmes that are set and customised for each individual child. Skills like balance, gross and fine motor skills, coordination, spatial awareness, hand/eye coordination, strength and agility will therefore gradually improve and become second nature to each child as they grow. Active children will generally become more healthy children. They will also improve social skills and confidence through the activities that they participate in alongside peers. It is also, of course, great fun!
Did you know: Hand-eye coordination is linked to early literacy.
3. Personal, Social & Emotional Development (‘PSED’)
Health, happiness and even the development of early years cognitive function are all underpinned by children’s personal, social and emotional development (‘PSED’). Indeed, PSED forms the backbone of children’s relationships to all adults and peers around them — and also governs how they feel they fit in. That’s all incredibly important. Chiildren in nursery are encouraged are supported and support one another, they learn how to manage emotions and behaviours, how to eat healthy diets, look after themselves physically, and independently manage their own personal needs. All of this will have the knock-on effect of improving confidence and self-esteem and even allow them to set some of their own goals. Close bonds will be made with both staff and other children.
Good personal, social and emotional development will, in turn, enhance all other areas of the EYFS curriculum and help prepare children for the transition to school and beyond.
The 4 Additional ‘Specific Areas’:
The four specific curriculum areas of focus, enhanced by all three prime areas above, are:
Reading and writing are crucial elements within every child’s education. Without these skills, learning about other topics would become much more difficult. Literacy is therefore a key area of focus within the EYFS framework. Nursery will therefore endeavour to encourage a love of reading within every child. Reading teaches children to comprehend language, vocabulary and grammar as well as learning more about the underlying topics themselves. Children are encouraged to articulate their understanding and thoughts, to improve speech and pronunciation skills and to take part in mark making. Together, all these skills really stimulate children’s imaginations too, opening them up to an almost limitless range of topics and learning opportunities going forwards.
The EYFS curriculum caters well for this, encouraging early years professionals to help children have a deep understanding of number, shape and calculation. They will recognise groups and to talk about what they notice, recognising smaller numbers without counting (subitising) they will learn to recognise when one quantity is more than, less than or equal to another. In so doing, children will also learn the vocabulary around mathematics in readiness for school once they leave their early years setting.
6. Understanding the World
A good early years education is nothing unless children understand the world around them. Children will be encouraged to learn how to observe, recognise, describe and even draw what’s immediately around them, they will explore the natural world and learn through experiences. Children will be encouraged to recognise similarities and differences between other cultures, religions and communities in the UK and lives being lived abroad. They will get to know more about people’s roles in society too, for example through visits from police officers, firefighters and nurses. A broad range of written material (both fiction and non-fiction) will inform them further. Topics explored will touch on culture, technology, ecology, religion, community, nature and much, much more. This will enrich their knowledge and understanding of the world they live within, giving context to what they see, hear and read about as they grow older.
7. Expressive Arts & Design
Expressive arts and design are also integral elements within the EYFS curriculum. In nursery children are given a wide range of opportunities to be creative and to free their imaginations. A huge variety of media, materials, tools and activities can be used by children to express themselves and communicate both visually and audibly. Colour, texture, form and function are explored along with opportunities for role play, story-telling, poetry, singing, performance and even dancing when appropriate.