Developed in England (other UK jurisdictions have their own, often similar, arrangements for child care) the EYFS is a framework which sets out learning and development goals for children under the age of 5.
In plain English, this means that the EYFS guides how childcare institutions should care for, monitor and interact with your child. In the UAE, the EYFS is implemented in both nurseries and schools (up to FS1 in many British Schools). The EYFS emphasises three prime (and four ‘specific’) areas of development.
• Communication and Language
• Physical Development
• Personal, Social and Emotional Development
Whilst it is not necessary for parents to be familiar with every aspect of the EYFS, understanding a little of the curriculum will you to better assess whether a nursery is right for their child.
What you should know?
Only you know your child. Only you know just how amazing little Hermione is at memorising whole episodes of Peppa Pig and how hideous she can be to other children who want to share her Duplo blocks.
How on earth does a nursery (where you child is likely to be one of 16+ children) see and understand these strengths and weaknesses?
How can does a nursery take a wild 18 month old and have them ready for school in two short years?
In EYFS establishments, these concerns may be addressed by understanding the Overarching Principles (see www.direct.gov.uk/eyfs for more information) of the curriculum. We take a look at these principles below.
1. Every child is a unique child, who is constantly learning and can be resilient, capable, confident and self-assured;
This concept of a “unique child” should be evident in every aspect of your child’s care. Really, this is what the curriculum is all about – treating children as individuals with individual strengths and interests. The EYFS should, in good nurseries, empower staff to plan and deliver care that will highlight your child’s strengths and assist their development in any weaker areas.
Parents should look for: regular updates on your child’s developmental progress along with regular record keeping of their eating, sleeping, toileting and any accidents or illnesses.
2. Children learn to be strong and independent through positive relationships;
An important facet of the EYFS is the “key worker” – meaning a person responsible for a small group of children.
This person should develop warm relationships with all the children in their care and be able to plan and deliver activities that reflect each child’s interests and abilities. This key worker should also form bonds with the parents and carers, fostering good communication between home and nursery.
Parents should look for: key workers who really get to know and bond with your child, great communication between home and nursery.
3. Children learn and develop well in enabling environments, in which their experiences respond to their individual needs and there is a strong partnership between practitioners and parents and/or carers; and an “enabling environment” is one where are child feels emotionally safe and at home.
A warm, playful, relaxed (and yet organised) environment helps most children to feel secure enough to play and to learn.
Parents should look for: a structured timetable which allows for both adult and child led activities, a range of good quality toys, books, furniture and outdoor play equipment.
4. Children develop and learn in different ways and at different rates. The framework covers the education and care of all children in early years provision, including children with special educational needs and disabilities.
Being aware of and sensitive to differing developmental rates is fundamental to the EYFS and links back to the concept of a “unique child”. That said, Practitioners are trained to recognise early signs of additional needs and to work with parents and other professionals to address them. Children with physical disabilities should be positively accommodated wherever possible. The EYFS is implemented in many Special Needs nurseries in the UAE.
Parents should look for: staff who are experts in child development, supported by a good quality management team.
Criticisms of the EYFS: why it might NOT be right for you and your child
The above sounds great – right? So why do some parents experience qualms about the EYFS, and many choose a different approach?
Our nursery experts have heard a number of criticisms of the EYFS - the most common of these being that it is too “structured and prescriptive”.
There is no doubt that any emphasis on “milestones” and “planning” can make nursery feel like “school-lite”. Indeed, the four lesser areas of the EYFS (Mathematics, Literacy, Expressive Arts and Understanding the World) seem like a curriculum that is working backwards from school.
It is therefore important for parents to remember that the EYFS is a merely a framework and guidance document – open for interpretation by each institution and huge variations can exist from nursery to nursery. We recommend viewing several nurseries to understand how this work in practise.