At Ridgeway, we provide a rich and generous environment where children feel nurtured and supported to develop as unique individuals, learning to be independent, creative thinking, problem solvers who know how to take risks and learn from their mistakes; where play based exploration and first-hand experiences lay the foundations for a positive attitude towards lifelong learning.

The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) applies to all children from birth to age five. At Ridgeway, this includes our youngest learners in Nursery and Reception. We believe that every child deserves the best possible start in life and has the right to a rich, supportive environment that enables them to fulfil their potential.

Our EYFS is child-led, founded on pedagogy, research and our understanding of how young children learn best, and is underpinned by the following four key principles:

We understand that every child is different, bringing with them their own unique qualities and experiences. We believe in the capacity of each child to learn and understand that every child will develop at their own pace.

Establishing high-quality relationships is at the heart of what we do. We know that early relationships are critical to future success and it is imperative to take the time to ensure children feel safe, secure, comfortable and confident in the setting and with key adults. The home–school partnership is key; a strong relationship with parents and carers has a huge impact on children’s learning and development.

Creating the right environment for young children is vital in supporting their development and learning. During the early years, children learn through play, through interacting with each other, with adults, and with their environment. Our enabling environment offers rich learning opportunities through play and sensitive adult interactions; high-quality, open-ended resources stimulate children’s thinking and curiosity and we ensure children are given the time and freedom to explore, take risks and learn from their mistakes.

We understand that children learn and develop in different ways, and that each child will be at a unique stage in their learning journey. Our skilled practitioners support each child to develop through thoughtful planning, high-quality provision and sensitive interactions. We support all children to make progress towards their next steps and are fully inclusive.

At Ridgeway, we are passionate about children developing a love for learning and believe that even our youngest children can develop the skills and attributes to become successful lifelong learners. In the EYFS, we refer to these skills as the ‘characteristics of effective learning’ and they are embedded through our practice.

  • Playing and exploring – We encourage children to investigate and experience things, and ‘have a go’.

  • Active learning – We support children to concentrate and keep on trying if they encounter difficulties, and enjoy their achievements.
  • Creating and thinking critically – We want children to have and develop their own ideas, making links between ideas, and developing strategies for doing things.

Play is integral to this approach, and we offer generous opportunity for play-based exploration and first-hand experiences that excite, motivate and engage children, enabling them to explore their deep fascinations and learn at the highest level. Through their play, children demonstrate what they have learnt, know and understand.

Our EYFS curriculum is ambitious, following the needs of each individual child, whilst also providing rich and inspiring learning opportunities planned by our skilled practitioners based on children’s own fascinations and interests. Seven areas of learning and development shape the EYFS with all areas being equally important and inter-connected. The areas of learning are outlined in the Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage, which sets the standards for learning, development and care for children from birth to five.

Three areas of learning are particularly crucial for igniting children’s curiosity and enthusiasm for learning, and for building their capacity to learn, form relationships and thrive. These are the prime areas of learning:

The development of children’s spoken language underpins all seven areas of learning and development. Children’s back-and-forth interactions from an early age form the foundations for language and cognitive development. The number and quality of the conversations they have with adults and peers throughout the day in a language-rich environment is crucial. By commenting on what children are interested in or doing, and echoing back what they say with new vocabulary added, practitioners will build children's language effectively. Reading frequently to children, and engaging them actively in stories, non-fiction, rhymes and poems, and then providing them with extensive opportunities to use and embed new words in a range of contexts, will give children the opportunity to thrive. Through conversation, story-telling and role play, where children share their ideas with support and modelling from their teacher, and sensitive questioning that invites them to elaborate, children become comfortable using a rich range of vocabulary and language structures.

Children’s personal, social and emotional development (PSED) is crucial for children to lead healthy and happy lives, and is fundamental to their cognitive development. Underpinning their personal development are the important attachments that shape their social world. Strong, warm and supportive relationships with adults enable children to learn how to understand their own feelings and those of others. Children should be supported to manage emotions, develop a positive sense of self, set themselves simple goals, have confidence in their own abilities, to persist and wait for what they want, and direct attention as necessary. Through adult modelling and guidance, they will learn how to look after their bodies, including healthy eating, and manage personal needs independently. Through supported interaction with other children, they learn how to make good friendships, co-operate and resolve conflicts peaceably. These attributes will provide a secure platform from which children can achieve at school and in later life.

Physical activity is vital in children’s all-round development, enabling them to pursue happy, healthy and active lives. Gross and fine motor experiences develop incrementally throughout early childhood, starting with sensory explorations and the development of a child’s strength, co-ordination and positional awareness through tummy time, crawling and play movement with both objects and adults. By creating games and providing opportunities for play both indoors and outdoors, adults can support children to develop their core strength, stability, balance, spatial awareness, co-ordination and agility. Gross motor skills provide the foundation for developing healthy bodies and social and emotional well-being. Fine motor control and precision helps with hand–eye co-ordination, which is later linked to early literacy. Repeated and varied opportunities to explore and play with small world activities, puzzles, arts and crafts and the practice of using small tools, with feedback and support from adults, allow children to develop proficiency, control and confidence.


We also support children in four specific areas of learning, through which the three prime areas are strengthened and applied:

It is crucial for children to develop a lifelong love of reading. Reading consists of two dimensions: language comprehension and word reading. Language comprehension (necessary for both reading and writing) starts from birth. It only develops when adults talk with children about the world around them and the books (stories and non-fiction) they read with them, and enjoy rhymes, poems and songs together. Skilled word reading, taught later, involves both the speedy working out of the pronunciation of unfamiliar printed words (decoding) and the speedy recognition of familiar printed words. Writing involves transcription (spelling and handwriting) and composition (articulating ideas and structuring them in speech, before writing).

Developing a strong grounding in number is essential so that all children develop the necessary building blocks to excel mathematically. Children should be able to count confidently, develop a deep understanding of the numbers to 10, the relationships between them and the patterns within those numbers. By providing frequent and varied opportunities to build and apply this understanding – such as using manipulatives, including small pebbles and tens frames for organising counting – children will develop a secure base of knowledge and vocabulary from which mastery of mathematics is built. In addition, it is important that the curriculum includes rich opportunities for children to develop their spatial reasoning skills across all areas of mathematics, including shape, space and measures. It is important that children develop positive attitudes and interests in mathematics, look for patterns and relationships, spot connections, ‘have a go’, talk to adults and peers about what they notice, and not be afraid to make mistakes.

Understanding the world involves guiding children to make sense of their physical world and their community. The frequency and range of children’s personal experiences increases their knowledge and sense of the world around them – from visiting parks, libraries and museums to meeting important members of society such as police officers, nurses and firefighters. In addition, listening to a broad selection of stories, non-fiction, rhymes and poems will foster their understanding of our culturally, socially, technologically and ecologically diverse world. As well as building important knowledge, this extends their familiarity with words that support understanding across domains. Enriching and widening children’s vocabulary will support later reading comprehension.

The development of children’s artistic and cultural awareness supports their imagination and creativity. It is important that children have regular opportunities to engage with the arts, enabling them to explore and play with a wide range of media and materials. The quality and variety of what children see, hear and participate in is crucial for developing their understanding, self-expression, vocabulary and ability to communicate through the arts. The frequency, repetition and depth of their experiences are fundamental to their progress in interpreting and appreciating what they hear, respond to and observe.

You can see the Statutory Framework for the EYFS in full below:

EYFS Framework 2023

You can find out more about our Early Years Foundation Stage in our policy here.