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The Early Years Foundation Stage In Context

In order for children to have the best start in life, it's essential that early years professionals understand what the EYFS is and why it's important. Author Ioanna Palaiologou charts the early development of the Early Years Foundation Stage, what has changed and how her new edition of The Early Years Foundation Stage: Theory and Practice better supports students...

Prior to the introduction of the EYFS, early childhood education was dominated by several dichotomies such as whether it was care or education, lack of resources and funding, lack of regulations and legislation where children under the age of five where “invisible”.  In 2008 the EYFS was introduced to provide

a coherent and flexible approach to care and learning so that whatever setting parents choose, they can be confident that they will receive a quality experience that supports their development and learning” (DfES, 2007:7).

Image of a red bicycle on a green background

It intended to:

  • break the cycle of deprivation,
  • provide children a better start in life,
  • regulate early childhood education and care,
  • create a synergy between research and policy,
  • be a play-based framework,
  • emphasise the “unique” child,
  • build strong relationships with parents and
  • introduce accountability.

 

Although, at this stage criticism and scepticism was emerging, the implementation of the EYFS opened to public debate issues of what constitutes effective practice in the early childhood sector and how the optimum programme should be delivered. Since its first introduction in 2008, the EYFS has been amended several times with revisions such as changes to Early Learning Goals (ELGs) and greater emphasis on safety, assessment and school readiness. In July 2018 the EYFS underwent further change with emphasis on reducing workload for teachers and practitioners and improving outcomes for children, especially in language, literacy and mathematics with the expectations these changes would be implemented in 2020. However, due to the COVID_19 pandemic and the disruption it caused the implementation date was moved to September 2021.

The changes in the ELGs of the EYFS caused much scepticism, concern, criticism and opposition from the sector and academics. The key concerns evolved around the issues of how children will be assessed, school readiness and the appropriateness of the ELGs. The new version of the EYFS offers the impression that:

 

[it] places value on children in terms of their meeting future goals and standards and their learning outcomes. It assumes that children need to progress to the next stage of development, from “lesser” child to “better” child. The terms “development”, “developmental goals” or “learning goals” invoke a sense that children are not yet developed (whole/holistic) and thus need developing (“improving”), or that there is an existing, pre-determined place at which a child may arrive (presumably school)”

                   (Palaiologou, 2019: 238). 

 

Despite these responses changes to the EYFS have started and are implemented from 1st September 2021.

While the current policy in which early childhood education is situated is both exciting and challenging, it remains imperative that practitioners rise to the challenge of critically reflecting upon how they position themselves to construct a play based - meaningful  curriculum so young children can have “the best possible start in life”.

Green background with a keyhole and text saying "Behind the Books"

With all this in mind, a fourth edition of the of the Early Years Foundation Stage: Theory and Practice was considered timely and necessary. In this new edition the aim is to support students and practitioners implementing the EYFS, but at the same time maintain the ethos of balancing theory with practice to develop a critical approach to key issues. With the inclusion of many pedagogical features such as case studies, reflective tasks and discussion points aimed to encourage critical reflection we expand further on theory, yet without losing the focus on practice. 

With all this in mind, a fourth edition of the of the Early Years Foundation Stage: Theory and Practice was considered timely and necessary. In this new edition the aim is to support students and practitioners implementing the EYFS, but at the same time maintain the ethos of balancing theory with practice to develop a critical approach to key issues. With the inclusion of many pedagogical features such as case studies, reflective tasks and discussion points aimed to encourage critical reflection we expand further on theory, yet without losing the focus on practice. 

This book thus seeks to move away from just supporting students with the implementation of the EYFS and aims to enact the search for knowing in education in a way that means we all learn and develop knowledge together. Thus, there is a deliberate intention in this 4th Edition to go beyond the ‘how to do’ simplistic approach and focus on ‘why we do’.

Get your copy of The Early Years Foundation Stage: Theory and Practice here.

Cover of The Early Years Foundation Stage book

References:

DfES (Department for Education and Skills) (2007) Practice Guidance for the Early Years Foundation Stage: Setting the Standards for Learning, Development, and Care for Children from Birth to Five. Nottingham: DfES Publications.

Palaiologou, I. (2019) Child Observation: A Guide for Students of Early Childhood (4th edn). London: SAGE.