The foundation stage was introduced as a distinct phase of education for children aged 3-5 in September 2000. In preparation, Curriculum guidance for the foundation stage was distributed in May 2000 to all schools with nursery and reception classes, and to early years settings receiving nursery education grant funding. This guidance sets out six areas of learning which form the basis of the foundation stage curriculum. These areas are:
- Personal, social and emotional development
- Communication, language and literacy
- Mathematical development
- Knowledge and understanding of the world
- Physical development
- Creative development
Each area of learning has a set of related early learning goals. Curriculum guidance for the foundation stage is intended to help practitioners plan to meet the diverse needs of all children so that most will achieve and some, where appropriate, will go beyond the early learning goals by the end of the foundation stage.
The Education Act 2002 extended the National Curriculum to include the foundation stage. The six areas of learning became statutory, and the Act also specified that there should be early learning goals for each of the areas. A national consultation on the content of the early learning goals as set out in Curriculum guidance for the foundation stage was carried out in autumn 2002. Following this consultation the early learning goals, and use of the Curriculum guidance as a guide, became statutory in March 2002.
The Act also established a single national assessment system for the foundation stage, replacing baseline assessment schemes. The Foundation stage profile was introduced into schools and settings in 2002-3. The Foundation stage profile has 13 summary scales covering the six areas of learning, which need to be completed for each child receiving government-funded education by the end of his or her time in the foundation stage.
Legislation relating to the curriculum and assessment in the foundation stage is set out in the following Statutory Instruments, both of which are available from HMSO:
- The Education (National Curriculum) (Foundation Stage Early Learning Goals) (England) Order 2003 (Statutory Instrument 2003 No.391)
- The Education (National Curriculum) (Foundation Stage Profile Assessment Arrangements) (England) Order 2003 (Statutory Instrument 2003 No.1327)