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28 May 2024
By The Education People

From Theory to Practice: Developing an ‘Outstanding’ EYFS Curriculum

Early Years Practitioner Reading to Child Being Observed by Colleagues in Background

In the ever-adapting world of education, the journey from theory to practice often involves traversing complex landscapes of pedagogical principles, institutional frameworks, and evolving understandings of best practices. This journey is vital at all levels of education but arguably none more so than in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), where a child is taking the first steps on their educational pathway.

This is where our Designing & Developing Curriculum in the EYFS Toolkit comes into play, aiming to provide clear guidance in the complex field of curriculum development. The toolkit was created to address the need for educators to clarify expectations and understanding regarding the design, development, and implementation of curricula specifically tailored for early years education.

The Shift in EYFS Practice

In recent times, there has been a fundamental shift towards a deeper articulation of EYFS practice and an embrace of increased professionalism. Now, teachers are not only responsible for deciding what children need to learn but also for understanding how this learning progresses over time. This shift calls for a responsible curriculum that is carefully crafted, sequenced, progressed, and adapted to suit the unique needs of each cohort of children.

Collaborative Approach to Curriculum Design

Primary School Improvement Advisers, Polly Sharman and Jan Dubiel, embarked on this journey in collaboration with a group of schools to support educators in this endeavour. Their approach was not to prescribe a one-size-fits-all solution but rather to delve into the intricacies of curriculum design and development. Through reflection, examination, and articulation, they sought to empower educators to envision and refine their own approaches to curriculum design, ultimately leading to more effective outcomes for children.

Guidance and Considerations in the Toolkit

The toolkit provides clear guidance on the considerations, decisions, and challenges involved in the curriculum development process. It encourages educators to think critically about how they construct their curricula, urging them to take ownership and tailor their approach to the specific needs of their students.

Case Study: Smeeth Community Primary School

The following case study from Smeeth Community Primary School exemplifies the transformative power of this toolkit in action. Recognising the need to develop a cohesive curriculum within the early years, the school embarked on a journey of self-discovery and collaboration. By engaging with the toolkit, they were able to reassess their existing curriculum and embark on a journey of redesign and refinement.

Crucially, the toolkit facilitated open conversations among staff, harnessing their collective expertise and subject knowledge to create a curriculum from the ground up. It prompted a shift in perspective, helping staff distinguish between activities and the curriculum itself— a distinction that proved instrumental in creating a robust, coherent curriculum.

The impact of this shift was palpable, both within the school community and beyond. During an Ofsted inspection, the school was able to showcase their curriculum with clarity and confidence, demonstrating clear starting points, progression pathways, and curriculum continuity into Key Stage 1 and beyond.

But perhaps most importantly, the new approach to curriculum development has had a profound impact on the experience of individual children within the EYFS. With a clear curriculum in place, educators are better equipped to support, scaffold, and educate children across all areas of learning, ensuring that no child falls through the cracks. Watch the full case study video below.

Nurturing Potential

In essence, the journey from theory to practice is not just about developing a curriculum—it's about nurturing the potential of every child who walks through the school gates. And with the guidance of tools like the Designing & Developing Curriculum in the EYFS Toolkit, educators can embark on this journey with confidence, knowing that they are laying the groundwork for a brighter future, one child at a time.