Blog home
The Blog

Fresh Ideas and Inspiration for education

Alistair Bryce-Clegg - Supporting your EYFS Journey

This series of articles has been written by industry experts to help you to understand changes to the EYFS Framework. In this blog, Early Years consultant Alistair Bryce-Clegg outlines what has changed and what has stayed the same in the framework. 

Posted on Friday 03rd September 2021

This series of articles has been written by industry experts to help you to understand changes to the EYFS Framework. In this blog, Early Years consultant Alistair Bryce-Clegg outlines what has changed and what has stayed the same in the framework. 

In this series of articles, I am going to explore the Revised Early Years Framework 2021, what has changed and what hasn’t. Together we can look at some of the differences that it will make to your practice, and I will give you some practical ideas of things that I think will help, as well as bust a few myths along the way!

I think the first thing to say, is that lots of the things that you already do, you can carry on doing.

As a result of the reforms, we should have:

  • Clear guidance about expectations in the Early Years
  • Improved outcomes for children
  • A strong emphasis on communication and language to support development
  • A significantly reduced workload for practitioners
  • A simplified system of assessment
  • A return to empowering practitioners to use their professional judgement

All of these things are great and eventually, once we have worked out all of the myths, misconceptions and wrinkles, we should be in a much stronger position as a profession.

Every child deserves the best possible start in life and the support that enables them to fulfil their potential.

Early Years Foundation Stage Framework, 2021

The reforms have given us a platform for greater freedom and creativity than ever before, but for lots of us it will take some planning and adjustment before they start to feel familiar. Many of you will have been used to a rigid structure of observation and assessment based on children’s ‘typical’ development. Whilst that was very time-consuming and not always useful, lots of people have talked to me about feeling lost without that structure and being uncertain about what will be ‘enough’ evidence to put in its place.

It is really important that whatever changes are going on around us, we keep the idea of the unique child and the joy of play and learning in the Early Years at the heart of what we do.

There will be lots of guidance and discussion that will come in the months to follow, but for now I will try and give you the information that I know from practitioners and from what Ofsted have said about what they will and won’t be looking for. Fundamentally, however we package it, our job is to take the starting point of all of the children that we work with and guide them forward on their own unique learning journey. We are going to do this by using all of the things that we know about how children learn effectively. We will carry on doing all the things that we have always done in terms of providing quality spaces for children to play and learn, as well as using our expertise to deliver the essential knowledge children need in a time and way that is most appropriate.

I have worked in Early Years education now for 31 years and I have seen many policy changes over that time. Some good, some not so good! What has never changed, is that children are children, regardless of what policy is in place and the thing that we are really good at in Early Years is understanding children.

There are also a number of non-statutory (not a legal requirement) documents that we can use to support and enhance our EYFS knowledge. The two most referenced would be Birth to 5 Matters and Development Matters (2021).

What is staying the same?

There have been some important changes to the Early Years Foundation Stage which we will look at in a moment, but I think it is also really important to think about what hasn’t changed.

We still have all the elements that underpin effective Early Years practice:

The four guiding principles:

  • Unique child
  • Positive relationships
  • Enabling environments
  • Learning and development

The three characteristics of effective learning:

  • Creating and thinking critically – observing how children are thinking
  • Active learning – observing how children are motivated to learn
  • Playing and exploring – observing how children engage with their learning

The seven areas of learning, split into prime and specific:


  • Communication and Language
  • Physical Development
  • Personal, Social and Emotional Development


  • Literacy
  • Mathematics
  • Understanding the World
  • Expressive Arts and Design

What is changing?

The Seven Educational Programmes

It is these 7 Educational Programmes that will underpin your 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 – more about that later.

  • 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.

Shop Communication and Language resources here.

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.

Shop Personal, Social and Emotional Development resources here.


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

Shop Literacy resources here.

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.

Shop Physical Development resources here.

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.

Shop Understanding the World resources here.


  • 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.

Shop Mathematics resources here.

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.

Shop Art and Design resources here.



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.

For further information on all areas of the framework, have a look at the rest of the blogs in this series.

Interested in finding out more about the changes to the EYFS framework?

Click on the links below to read our other articles from Alistair Bryce-Clegg …


Thank you to Early Years consultant and expert Alistair Bryce-Clegg for the content included in this blog.