The New Early Years Foundation Stage 2021

The four Guiding Principles are staying the same:
​A Unique Child

Every child is a unique child, who is constantly learning and can be resilient, capable, confident and self-assured


Positive Relationships


Children learn to be strong and independent through positive relationships

Enabling Environment


Children learn and develop well in enabling environments with teaching and support from adults, who respond to their individual interests and needs and help them to build their learning over time. Children benefit from a strong partnership between practitioners and parents and/or carers.


Learning and Development


Children learn and develop at different rates, they foster the characteristics of effective early learning; Playing and Exploring, Active Learning, Thinking creatively and critically.

Early Years Foundation Stage 2021

The Department for Education has published the updated Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Framework for 2021.

Read it here: Early years foundation stage (EYFS) statutory framework

Or you can read a summary of the EYFS changes here.

The government says the changes will improve outcomes for all children, but particularly the language and literacy outcomes for disadvantaged children and reduce teacher workload. 


What is changing?

The DfE says that the proposals are intended to: 

  • make all 17 ELGs clearer, more specific and easier for teachers to make accurate judgements

  • focus on strengthening language and vocabulary development to particularly support disadvantaged children

  • strengthen literacy and numeracy outcomes to ensure all children have a good grasp of these areas of learning in preparation for year 1

  • ensure the ELGs are based on the latest evidence in childhood development

  • ensure they reflect the strongest predictors of future attainment.


Educational programmes

The DfE said that it would make a number of changes to the reformed education programmes including:

The three Characteristics of Effective Learning remain -

  1. Creating and Thinking critically - observing how children are thinking

  2. Active Learning - Observing how children are motivated to learn

  3. Playing and Exploring - Observing how children engage with their learning

The Seven Educational Programmes

It is these 7 Educational Programmes that will underpin the Early Years curriculum, not the Early Learning Goals.

Amanda Spielman (Ofsted’s Chief Inspector) talked about the importance of not creating a curriculum that is based on teaching to assessment outcomes. She described it as ‘hitting the target, but missing the point’. The Early Years curriculums that we create should be based on the Educational Programmes, but also reflect the unique needs of the places we work and the children we teach.

  • Communication and Language has remained much the same. Although, there is now an explicit mention of children responding to what they hear when they are being read to. There is also an emphasis on children engaging in ‘back and forth’ exchanges rather than just answering questions when asked.

  • PSED now includes additional information all about self-care & healthy eating.

  • Mathematics has a greater focus on shapes, spatial reasoning, and measure as part of early learning.

  • Literacy has a much stronger link between language comprehension and reading & writing.

  • Physical Development has been expanded with more info about the links between gross & fine motor skills.

  • Understanding the World includes a focus on providing wider experiences for children, with the addition of Past and Present and also explicit reference to culture.

  • Expressive Arts and Design now includes a greater variety of ways children can develop their creative skills

There are 17 Early Learning Goals but there have been some changes

Communication and Language

  • Listening and Attention and Understanding have been combined to create Listening, Attention and Understanding and the statements have been amended.

  • Speaking has been amended and also expanded.

Personal, Social and Emotional Development

  • Managing Feelings and Behaviour has become Self-Regulation and the statements have been amended.

  • Self-Confidence and Self-Awareness have become Managing Self, the statements have a greater focus on citizenship and health and hygiene.

  • Making Relationships has become Building Relationships.


  • Reading has been split into two sections, Comprehension and Word Reading. Writing remains, but the statements have been amended.

Physical Development

  • Moving and Handling has been split into Gross Motor and Fine Motor. New statements have been added, including ‘Hold a pencil effectively in preparation for fluent writing – using the tripod grip in almost all cases.’ However, this has promoted lots of discussion and debate.

Understanding the World

  • People and Communities has become People, Culture and Communities.

  • A new section entitled Past and Present has been added.

  • The World has become The Natural World.

  • Technology has been removed as an Early Learning Goal, because the expectation is that practitioners use technology to underpin all areas of learning.

  • The statements have been amended and expanded.


  • Numbers has been split into two sections, Number and Numerical Patterns.

  • Shape, Space and Measure has been removed as an Early Learning Goal, although the concepts still underpin the Mathematics Educational Programme.

Expressive Arts and Design

  • Exploring and Using Media and Materials has become Creating with Materials.

  • Being Imaginative has become Being Imaginative and Expressive, with some expanded statements detailing an emphasis on imagination, story and also music.


Profile Moderation

The revised Framework also marks the end of Early Years Profile moderation, as Local Authorities will no longer have a statutory duty to visit schools. Schools will still be required to submit their profile data to the Local Authority. This data will still be collected nationally.

Exceeding Judgement

Finally, the ‘exceeding’ judgement has been removed from the assessment of the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile. This was done in an effort to free up teachers’ time.

Oral health

A need to include oral health alongside the requirement to “promote the good health of children” will be added to the EYFS framework.

Individual settings and schools will need to determine how to meet this requirement and practitioners will not be required to assess this. We have produced a policy outlining our intentions regarding teaching about oral health.


Development Matters

On 20 July 2021, the DfE published a revised version of Development Matters, government’s non-statutory curriculum guidance for the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS).

Birth to 5 Matters

On 31 March 2021 the new Birth to 5 Matters guidance was launched by the Early Years Coalition following six months of consultation and input from across the early years sector.

The new non-statutory guidance outlines the foundations of good practice and offers information and guidance for practitioners to consider how the Principles of the EYFS can be brought to life in their setting, while new sections on play, characteristics of effective learning, and self-regulation are designed to help practitioners to reflect on and develop their own pedagogy.