Learning and development within the EYFS

Learning and development covers the 7 key areas of learning within the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS).

  • Personal, social and emotional development
  • Communication and language
  • Physical development
  • Literacy
  • Mathematics
  • Understanding the world
  • Expressive arts and design

Click on the dropdowns below to find out how to ensure early years children learn and develop through the EYFS:

The characteristics of effective learning and the prime and specific areas of learning and development are all interconnected. 


The ways in which the child engages with other people and their environment - playing and exploring, active learning and creating and thinking critically - underpin learning and development across all areas and support the child to remain an effective and motivated learner.

This document shows how the key themes and principles of the EYFS work together for children.

The 3 characteristics of effective learning

​CharacteristicWhat the characteristic covers
​Playing and exploring - engagement
  • ​Finding out and exploring
  • Playing with what they know
  • Being willing to ‘have a go’
​Active learning - motivation
  • ​Being involved and concentrating
  • Keeping trying
  • Enjoying achieving what they set out to do
​Creating and thinking critically – thinking
  • ​Having their own ideas
  • Making links
  • Choosing ways to do things

Childcare providers should consider the characteristics of effective learning within the Observation, Assessment and Planning Cycle in the EYFS.

Examples of observation formats with reference to the Characteristics of Effective Learning are listed below:

The document below provides guidance and questions to support the characteristics of effective learning.

The EYFS requires practitioners to be able to demonstrate how children make progress in their learning and development, in order that they reach their full potential. It is important that their progress is tracked and reviewed regularly throughout the EYFS.

Progress tracker documents

Northamptonshire’s progress tracker documents are tools that record summative assessments - a summary of the child’s learning and development at a specific point in time.

It supports you in answering the question “What difference is the provision making to the learning, development and progress of the children attending?”

The progress tracker documents include:

These tools are sample documents only and may be adapted by schools and settings. They help to identify and explain the differing rates of progress that all children are making in their learning and development. They will also help to identify children who are working at levels above and below the expected development band.

Evidence gathered through on-going formative assessment (annotated photographs, spontaneous and planned observations, information from home and samples of children’s experiences and achievements) builds the picture so that practitioners can make a ‘best fit’ judgement of the development band that the child is working within.

These formative assessments are an integral part of the learning and development process because they inform and help you to plan your provision and meet individual children’s needs and interests.

The progress summary and progress tracker documents are designed to be completed together. In order to identify children’s starting points the key person needs to complete these on entry (within the first 6 weeks if the child attends part time or within a shorter time frame if the child attends full time) and then reviewed a further 3 times during the year.

Find out more

Down the guidance below for further information:



Observation involves practitioners observing children to understand their level of achievement, interests and learning styles, and then to shape learning experiences for each child reflecting those observations.
[Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage]

Quality observations are embedded in everyday practice to build up an accurate picture of each child. They are purposeful, informative and capture what children know, can do and are currently interested in. They demonstrate their current stage of development.

Observations should be made in a range of contexts, for example in their independent play, during everyday routines and when engaged with others. They should reflect multiple perspectives - the child, their family and practitioners - and be shared effectively between them.

Observations should also feed into knowledge of how children learn through the Characteristics of Effective Learning.

Please refer to the documents below to support quality observations:


​Ongoing assessment, based on observation of children's learning and development, is an integral part of the learning and development process in the EYFS. It helps parents, carers and practitioners to recognise children’s progress, understand their needs, and to plan activities and support.

On-going formative assessment is at the heart of early years practice. It is the link between observing children and effective planning to support their progress.

Accurate Assessments:

  • Analyse observations in order to make judgements which lead to action to support individual children.
  • Provide an insight into how best to help each child develop and learn and prioritise the experiences and opportunities that can be offered.
  • Are monitored by leaders and managers to identify children’s needs and ensure that all children are making progress to reach their full potential.
  • Actively engage parents in developing a picture of each child, identifying any learning and development needs.
  • A summary of a child’s achievements at a particular point in time so that their progress can be tracked is known as summative assessment. The EYFS requires practitioners to review children’s progress and share a written summary with parents at two significant points.




Each area of learning and development must be implemented through planned, purposeful play and through a mix of adult-led and child initiated activity.   
[Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage]

Effective Planning:

  • Reflects, supports and extends individual children’s current interests, learning styles, enthusiasms and the stage of development of each child.
  • Is a flexible, working document, which is responsive to spontaneous events.
  • Enables all practitioners to contribute, understand and articulate why experiences have been planned.
  • Enables children, parents and practitioners to have a voice in the planning process.

What is the EYFS progress check?

​When a child is aged between 2 and 3, practitioners must review their progress. 

The EYFS requires that parents and carers must be supplied with a short written summary of their child’s development in the 3 prime learning and development areas of the EYFS (The EYFS progress check at age 2).

  • Personal, social and emotional development
  • Physical development
  • Communication and language

What information should be included in the progress check?

The EYFS framework does not require the progress check to be completed in a prescribed or standard format. It only specifies that information about a child’s development should be provided to parents, in the prime areas of learning and development above.

Beyond these prime areas, it is for practitioners to decide what the written summary should include, reflecting the development level and needs of the individual child.

The summary must

  • highlight areas in which a child is progressing well;
  • highlight areas in which some additional support might be needed;
  • focus particularly on any areas where there is a concern that a child may have a developmental delay (which may indicate a special educational need or disability).
  • describe the activities and strategies the provider intends to adopt to address any issues or concerns.

The format of the written summary of the progress check can be decided by head teachers, managers and practitioners. There are examples of different formats in early years foundation stage framework.

The format below (which you can download) was developed by Northamptonshire’s early years team:

​The EYFS requires that all EYFS providers must complete an EYFS profile for each child during the academic year they reach the age of five (for most children this is the reception year in primary school).

This is a summative assessment and describes the child's level of attainment at the end of the EYFS. It identifies their learning needs for the next stage of school to ensure that an effective and appropriate curriculum can be planned for each child entering Year 1.

EYFS profile judgements should be made on the basis of cumulative observational evidence recorded over the course of the year.

The Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP) describes a child's level of attainment at the end of the EYFS, and identifies their learning needs for the next stage of school.

Guidance to support the revised EYFS Profile (2015) is available below:

EYFS Profile exemplification materials

The  EYFSP exemplification materials set out the national standard for the level of learning and development expected at the end of the EYFS.

The materials are divided into each of the 17 EYFSP early learning goals. They include a variety of different types of evidence of children’s learning, to show the wide range of ways information can be gathered to support EYFSP judgements.

The exemplification materials should help:

  • practitioners to make accurate judgements about each child’s attainment;   
  • moderators to assess the accuracy of practitioner judgements;   
  • Year 1 teachers to use EYFS Profile outcomes to plan effective provision   
  • All stakeholders who wish to evaluate children’s learning and development

You should use these materials to decide whether a child has met the level of development expected at the end of the EYFS for each ELG, has exceeded that level or not yet reached it (emerging). The exemplification illustrates a child’s learning and development where it best fits the ‘expected’ category.

There is currently no exemplification for the ‘emerging’ or ‘exceeding’ categories.

EYFS profile plan

The profile plan details the processes and procedures for Northamptonshire. Below is a sample moderation visit form form and a copy of the appeals process.

​It is good practice for information about a child’s developing skills, interests and needs to be shared between settings, if a child attends more than one setting or on transition to a new setting.  The provider agreement requires that all settings send transitional information to new settings.

The progress summary for transition is:

A summative record, informed by the gathering of information throughout the child’s Early Years Foundation Stage, education and care.

It will:

Further support

Learning Resources for Education (LRE) can support early years settings with the teaching of the EYFS with books, resources, advice and inspiration.