Early years education

Early years education relates to learning for 3 to 5 year olds. Childcare settings for pre-school children follow the Early Years Foundation Stage - a framework for 0 - 5 year olds (applies guidelines and standards to care, learning and welfare).

Key information

All 3 and 4 year olds are entitled to 15 hours a week of free early years education for 38 weeks of the year. Some 2 year olds from families on low incomes are also entitled to free early years education.

A variety of settings can deliver early years education, including nursery schools, day nurseries, pre-schools and some childminders.

You can search the Family Information Directory for all types of childcare providers.

Early Years Foundation Stage

The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) is a framework of learning, development and care for children from birth to 5 years old. It enables your child to learn through a range of activities. 

It ensures:

  • children learn through play
  • providers work closely with parents
  • you are kept up to date on your child's progress
  • the welfare, learning and all-round development of children with different backgrounds and levels of ability (including those with special educational needs and disabilities).

The EYFS identifies 7 areas of learning and development. These are divided into 3 prime areas:

  • communication and language
  • physical development
  • personal, social and emotional development.

And four specific areas:

  • literacy
  • mathematics
  • understanding the world
  • expressive arts and design.

Learning is structured around the 'characteristics of learning'. This means that children in the EYFS learn by playing and exploring, being active, and through creative and critical thinking, which takes place both indoors and outside.

Parents, carers or guardians should be involved in the assessment process on a regular, ongoing basis and be encouraged to participate in their child's early learning and development.

You will receive written information about how your child is doing at age 2 (between 24 and 36 months) and at age 5 (at the end of the Reception year). Please see the guide below for more information.

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