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Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum Framework

At Willowbank, we follow the Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum Framework .

The Foundation Stage is how the Government and early years professionals describe the time in your child’s life between birth and age 5. This is a very important stage as it helps your child get ready for school as well as preparing them for their future learning and successes. From when your child is born up until the age of 5, their early years experiences should be happy, active, exciting, fun and secure; and support their development, care and learning needs.


The curriculum at Willowbank is broad, balanced and cohesive. Through learning purposeful, powerful knowledge, children are guided to develop the skills of questioning, analysis, resilience and consideration. With ambition at the core, the children are skilfully steered along a journey celebrating the richness, diversity and opportunities of the world that they are growing up within. Learners are inspired. Rich experiences are non-negotiable. Memories are made. Every child’s potential is realised.



The Early Years Foundation Stage Framework

The Characteristics of Effective Learning

During your child’s time at preschool and in the first year of primary school, they will be taught the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum. The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) sets standards for the learning, development and care of children from birth to 5 years old. All schools and Ofsted-registered early years providers must follow the EYFS, including childminders, preschools, nurseries and school reception classes. Part of the EYFS curriculum is known as the ‘Characteristics of Effective Learning’. This aspect focuses on how your child is learning and their approach to learning, rather than what they are learning.

The Characteristics of Effective Learning are divided into three areas:

Playing and Exploring

Active Learning

Creating and Thinking Critically

At Willowbank we introduce the three areas of the ‘Characteristics of Effective Learning’ through different animals.  

Children are encouraged to adopt the characteristics of each animal to help them develop as learners. For example, children who benefit from encouragement to explore new activities during continuous provision are encouraged to be a ‘Choosing Chimp’. Children who may find it challenging when things do not go the way they intended or planned are encouraged to be a ‘Keep Trying Tortoise’. This approach allows children to have the opportunity to talk about their learning and identify their own characteristics of learning.

We model to children how they can be a ‘Keep Trying Tortoise’ or a ‘Choosing Chimp’ through our learning opportunities and celebrate when children demonstrate these skills as learners. Children receive a sticker which they wear so that other members of our school community can ask them, “how have you shown that you are a Keep Trying Tortoise?” The child wears the sticker home and this is an opportunity for children to share their successes further.