Early Years Update highlights the key management issues contained in the EYFS Statutory Framework

The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) is a central part of the government’s 10-year childcare strategy Choice for Parents, The Best Start for Children and the Childcare Act 2006. The EYFS replaces the Curriculum Guidance for the Foundation Stage, Birth to Three Matters and the National Standards for Under 8s Daycare and Childminding and becomes statutory from September 2008 for all schools and early years providers.

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The Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage – Setting the Standards for Learning, Development and Care for Children from Birth to Five is essential reading for all ‘providers’ – managers, school governors and nursery directors – who are legally responsible for ensuring that their provision meets the learning and development requirements and complies with the welfare regulations of the EYFS.

What is statutory?
While the EYFS builds on previous requirements for the early years curriculum and standards, it is important to recognise that there are new and additional requirements in The Early Years Foundation Stage Statutory Framework which providers must take note of.

In Section 1 of the statutory guidance the legal context of the EYFS is detailed.

Section 2 sets out the learning and development requirements that all early years providers must by law deliver, regardless of type, size or funding of the setting. The Childcare Act 2006 provides for the EYFS learning and development requirements to include three elements:

  • the early learning goals – the knowledge, skills and understanding that young children should have acquired by the end of the academic year in which they reach the age of five
  • the educational programmes – the matters, skills and processes which are required to be taught to young children
  • the assessment arrangements – the arrangements for assessing young children to ascertain their achievements.

Section 3 of the guidance sets out the detailed welfare requirements that all early years providers must meet in the following areas:

  • safeguarding and promoting children’s welfare
  • suitable premises, environment and equipment
  • organisation
  • documentation.

Each area includes the specific legal requirements and the statutory guidance to which providers should have regard.

Where Ofsted considers that a provider has failed to comply with any of the welfare requirements, they may give notice to the provider setting out:

  • in what respect the provider has failed to comply with the requirements
  • what action the provider should take to comply
  • the period in which the provider should take that action.

It is an offence for a provider to fail to comply with such a notice.

Section 4 provides additional information on:

  • the other legal duties pertinent to providers – employment law, anti-discrimination legislation, health and safety legislation, data collection regulations and duty of care
  • competency in English – providers must be able to demonstrate that their staff have a sufficient grasp of English to ensure children’s wellbeing and to support children in developing their Communication, Language and Literacy skills in English
  • exceptional provision for exemptions from the EYFS
  • inspection and regulation of early years provision in all sectors
  • the duties and responsibilities of local authorities.

The responsibilities of providers of early years services are clearly set out in the statutory guidance. There is an emphasis on providers taking responsibility for all aspects of quality provision in their setting supported by their local authority when appropriate. There are particularly clear statements on:

The duty of providers to ensure that the adults looking after children have appropriate qualifications, training, skills and knowledge is emphasised. This refers to qualifications at all levels, to induction training, and to continuing professional development.

Regular appraisals are required to identify the training needs of staff and a programme of professional development put in place to meet these needs. Where practitioners require additional training in order to assess children’s progress from birth onwards, it is the responsibility of the provider to ensure that practitioners receive the support they need.

Key person
Every child should be assigned a key person. In childminding settings, the childminder is the key person.

The key person should help the baby or child to become familiar with the provision and to feel confident and safe within it, developing a genuine bond with the child (and the child’s parents) and offering a settled, close relationship.

The key person should meet the needs of each child in their care and respond sensitively to their feelings, ideas and behaviour, talking to parents to make sure that the child is being cared for appropriately for each family.

Ratios of adults to children
With an increasing number of early years practitioners gaining Early Years Professional Status (EYPS), the new statutory guidance details changes to the requirements for children aged three and over in any registered early years provision from September 2008 (Appendix 1).

Between the hours of 8am and 4pm, where a person with Qualified Teacher Status, Early Years Professional Status or another suitable Level 6 qualification is working directly with the children, the following requirements apply:

  • there must be at least one member of staff for every 13 children
  • at least one other member of staff must hold a full and relevant Level 3 qualification.

Outside the hours of 8am and 4pm there must be at least one member of staff for every eight children.

Providers have a legal duty to ensure that their early years provision complies with the statutory guidance. All providers are required to have regard to the guidance, which means that they must take it into account, and if they decide to depart from it they must have clear reasons for doing so and be able to demonstrate that their alternative approach achieves the ends described in the guidance.

Copies of the EYFS framework are available from DfES publications 0845 60 222 60 quoting 00012-2007PCK-EN.