The EYFS Curriculum; an assessment tool for social development in Year 7

January 23, 2024

In 2019, as a teacher who had predominantly taught Key Stage 2 and 3 classes, Sophie Tales’s experience of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) was minimal. In fact, her naïve and uneducated pre-conceived view of the first year of a child’s education was that all children did in EYFS was play without assessment or structure. However, when Sophie was working with a group of year 7 children with Educational Health Care Plans (EHCPs) with the primary need of Social Emotional Mental Health (SEMH) in a specialist school, her awareness of the curriculum in EYFS grew. Knowing the crucial part that play has in social development, Sophie was looking for an assessment tool to be able to consider the developmental gaps her year 7 children with SEMH had (Brown, S., & Vaughan, C. 2009).

The cause for the developmental gaps for the year 7 students Sophie was supporting ranged from care experiences, sexual abuse to foetal alcoholism syndrome. Such significant adversities in early childhood had meant that these students had not had their basic needs met, and, therefore, had not been given the love and stability required for healthy development.

Sophie needed an assessment tool that would support the development of their individual, emotional and social needs. To do so, Sophie turned to the earliest years in a child’s school assessment; the Early Years Foundation Stage. By looking at the Personal, Social, Emotional Development (PSED) section of the EYFS curriculum, Sophie was able to consider the damage these 11 year olds had within their early developmental stages (Department of Education 2014). As this group of year 7 children had a range of additional needs associated with SEMH such as Attachment Disorder, Global Developmental Delay and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, the EYFS framework was an effective way of assessing and then
planning to support these children’s early development of social interaction (Neaum 2016).

In 2022, Sophie became a senior leader in a primary mainstream school, and had conversations with colleagues in key stage 1 and 2 who similarly had had no real experience of the EYFS classroom and were unsure of how to support children in their classes who were repeatedly falling out with each other as they struggled to share resources, had difficulties making or keeping friends, and an inability to identify their emotions or articulate what their likes or dislikes were.

To support these children across the school, Sophie introduced teachers outside of EYFS to the EYFS curriculum, specifically PSED. It was agreed that the needs that were present in key stage 1 were a knock-on impact of children not having met their Early Years Goals in PSED and needing additional teaching in this area within years 1 and 2. Time was set aside at the end of the day in years 1 and 2 for ‘Purposeful Play’. In these sessions, teachers plan for and resource continuous provision activities with children working as ‘play leaders’ each week and teachers observing and noting observations against the EYFS PSED framework. After half a term of observations, children who are not making progress or who have significant gaps against the PSED framework are referred to the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Co-ordinator (SENDCo) to take part in additional interventions to support their Personal, Social and Emotional Development. For children in Key Stage 2 who have significant gaps within the PSED framework, they are automatically referred to the SENDCo for additional intervention considering their age and, therefore, stage of development need.

Across both the specialist and mainstream settings that Sophie has spread the EYFS curriculum, behavioural incidents on the playground have dropped through children’s ability to be able to articulate their emotions, likes and dislikes. In addition, teachers have expressed the change in classroom environment to be a lot more settled and learning focused. To ensure that the curriculum remains purposeful within key stage 1 classrooms, the needs of the class will be reviewed each term between class teachers and phase leader as part of an Assess, Plan, Do, Review cycle (Department of Education 2014). When the majority of children are no longer in need of this additional support, the Purposeful Play curriculum will be removed from the timetable and those still in need will complete Purposeful Play interventions through the SENDCo instead. This enables the Purposeful Play model to be used as a transitional offer at the start of the year, or a curriculum to be brought in at a later date should children’s relationships in class need additional support to enable effective learning environments.

If you need any help and support or just a general chat about ‘all things Trauma Informed’, please get in touch with Lyndsay, our Working Together Lead at and our team will support you in your journey.

Department for Education (2014) ‘Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Statutory
Framework.’ London: DoE. Available at
years-foundation-stage-framework--2 (accessed 19/10/2023).

Department for Education (2014) ‘SEND Code of Practise: 0 to 25 years.’ London: DoE.
Available at
(accessed 19/10/2023).

Neaum, Sally (2016) ‘Observing and Assessing Children’s Learning and Development.’
Child Development or Early Years Students and Practitioners. Available at
don%2C%20Sage._.pdf (Accessed 19/10/23).

Brown, S., & Vaughan, C. (2009) Play: How it shapes the brain, opens the imagination, and
invigorates the soul. Avery/Penguin Group USA.

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