A framework setting out the national standards for the learning, care, and development of children from birth to the age of 5 which was launched in 2007 and became a requirement for all schools and early years providers from September 2008. It superseded previous statutory guidance for the Foundation Stage, as well as the Birth to Three Matters framework and the previously existing frameworks applying to day care and childminding for under‐8s. The framework makes it a requirement for all providers to teach literacy and numeracy skills to under‐5s, so that, by the age of 5, children have acquired sufficient knowledge of phonics to write simple words, and to begin to form simple sentences in writing. Under the terms of the framework, children should also be taught to understand simple concepts of addition and subtraction. In addition, it requires carers to base their planning of learning activities on their structured observations and assessments of children's learning, play, and behaviour in order to ensure that such activities are appropriate to the child's stage of development. These assessments can then be shared with parents, carers, and appropriate professionals. The summative assessment, known as the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile, is included in the local authority attainment data which are submitted annually for publication to the Department for Children, Schools, and Families.
The introduction of this framework gave rise to some controversy and earned it the nickname ‘the nappy curriculum’. Opponents include many teachers and academics, particularly those engaged with the Montessori or Steiner approaches to early years education, who express fears that its introduction of formal literacy and numeracy instruction to very young children runs counter to the developmental needs of this age group. Opposition was also expressed at the failure of the framework to make opportunities for outdoor play a mandatory requirement, and at its raising the pupil–adult ratio limit in some cases from the previously required 8:1 to 13:1. Supporters of the framework, on the other hand, argue that it allows flexibility and encourages providers to employ more qualified specialist staff.