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under5s - the foundation stage

The following has been extracted from the QCA document "Early learning goals".

The foundation stage begins when children reach the age of three. Many children first attend some form of pre-school or nursery soon after their third birthday. Children may go to a number of settings during the foundation stage; they may attend part-time or full-time; a few will stay at home until they begin primary school.

Children will have already learnt a great deal by the time they are three years old. Many children will have been taken to groups such as parent and toddler groups, and some children will have had experience of group settings such as
day centres or home settings with a childminder. Many children will have their first experience of a group setting soon after their third birthday. It is important that early years practitioners work in partnership with parents and other adults. These may include therapists, health visitors, portage workers and teachers of the visually and hearing impaired. Partnerships are promoted by valuing and building on children's previous learning.

The setting chosen by the parent will depend on:

  • the needs of the child;
  • what is available near to the child's home, the home of the carer, or the parents' place of work;
  • local policies on admission to nursery and reception classes; parents' childcare needs;
  • parents' preferences.

All settings which receive nursery education grant funding are required to offer high quality provision. Most children are expected to achieve the early learning goals by the end of the foundation stage. Practitioners should plan a curriculum which helps children make good progress towards and, where appropriate, beyond these goals.

At whatever age children begin pre-school or school classes, they will have had a range of different experiences. They will have learnt a great deal, particularly from their families, and will have varied interests and competencies. Children aged three, four and five are constantly encountering new experiences and seeking to understand them in order to extend their skills, develop their confidence and build on what they already know. They learn in many different ways. Practitioners have a crucial role in this learning and should draw on a range of teaching and child development and care
strategies. Children deepen their understanding by playing, talking, observing, planning, questioning, experimenting, testing, repeating, reflecting and responding to adults and to each other. Practitioners need to plan learning
experiences of the highest quality, considering both children's needs and achievements and the range of learning experiences which will help them make progress. Well planned play is a key way children learn with enjoyment
and challenge during the foundation stage.

The last year of the foundation stage is often described as the reception year, since most children are admitted to the reception class of a primary school at some point during that year. The introduction of the foundation stage does
not change the point at which attendance at school is compulsory, which is the beginning of the term after a child's fifth birthday. The foundation stage ends at the end of the reception year.

Full details of the Early Learning Goals can be found in the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority publication 'Early Learning Goals' issued October 1999 ref: QCA/99/436.

"This booklet contains the early learning goals and principles and aims for the foundation stage, which includes children from age three to the end of the reception year.

It introduces these goals to all practitioners involved in early years settings. It sets the goals into context, particularly in relation to younger children in the foundation stage."

The booklet can also be downloaded in PDF format from the QCA website at www.qca.org.uk.

under5s - the foundation stage
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