What is the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF)?
The Early Years Learning Framework is a national statement, produced under the auspices of COAG (the Coalition of Australian Governments), describing and supporting quality early years education in Australia. As it says, ‘The Framework forms the foundation for ensuring that children in all early childhood education and care settings experience quality teaching and learning. It has a specific emphasis on play-based learning and recognises the importance of communication and language (including early literacy and numeracy) and social and emotional development. The Framework has been designed for use by early childhood educators working in partnership with families, children’s first and most influential educators.
Why is the Early Years Learning Framework important?
We know that children are learning from conception and that the early years is a critical period for many important aspects of learning e.g. first and second language acquisition, visual perception, fine and gross motor skills, social an emotional development. The EYLF provides a foundation to support educators who are themselves supporting children’s learning.
What does the Early Years Learning Framework look like in practice?
Planning documents incorporate the learning outcomes of the EYLF and assessment of children’s learning demonstrates progress in achieving these learning outcomes. The philosophy of the EYLF will be evident in teacher practice and Information to families will reflect the principles of the EYLF.
What is Play?
“Play is what children do, when afforded the independence, opportunity, time and space to determine their own behaviour. Every child fosters a natural desire to play. It is considered by children to be the most important thing they do each day, and therefore critical to the promotion of their holistic wellbeing.
Play can be loud or quiet, happy or sad, messy or neat, destructive or creative, imaginative or real, sitting or active. In reality, play is a very complex set of behaviours. Whilst playing children will often be very spontaneous and they often move between and through different types of play.
Play is a behaviour that is chosen by the child. It is for the child to decide when, for what reasons, and how they do so. Play is not part of a structured activity or programme. It is the children who individually control the content of their play and they solely establish any rules they require.
Play is always undertaken for its own sake and is not performed for any goal or reward. Playing often lacks structure; the steps that are often contained within play may appear illogical and random. But this does not make it any less worthwhile. It is the process of play that is important rather than the result or end product. Play often surpasses any societal barriers such as age, ability, gender, race, religion and social standing, so therefore can be inclusive to all children. “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”(George Bernard Shaw)
State of Play in Australia
Do you remember playing out as a child? The seemingly endless summers? Calling for and hanging out with friends? Having various adventures? Getting up to mischief? Going home when your parents called you or dinner was ready?
Play is the defining feature of childhood. However, research from the 2012 Australian Children’s Play Summit highlights that all children want to play as much as possible everyday, but currently feel there is a lack of opportunity, time and appropriate space to allow them to freely do so. That’s not to say that children are not currently playing out independently, far from it, there are many children outside playing with their friends on a regular basis. However, due to impacts of our modern society, children’s freedom and their ability to play have dramatically changed.
Today’s children are suffering from over-scheduled and heavily supervised lives. Their time is taken up with a variety of things such as school, homework, clubs and formal activities. When you add these commitments, to environmental restrictions due to increased traffic, the busy lives of parents and heightened anxieties over children’s safety. It all contributes to children becoming deprived of free and accessible opportunities to play. It is becoming more apparent that children are being deprived of essential play experiences.
We need to start recognising that children who experience a poverty of play experiences are being deprived an essential part of their lives and the detrimental effect this will have on both the individual and the society in which they live in both the immediate and distance future.
Play for children is a basic human right. As outlined by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child (UNCRC) in Article 31 all children have the right to engage in play opportunities. It is something that previous generations took for granted, that children spent large amounts of their time out and about playing in their community. Many adults can recall their parents actively encouraging them to get out of the house and play.
The lack of sufficient value being placed on play has led to various modern developments occurring with little consideration given to the value and importance of children play. As adults we all have a collective responsibility to ensure that children have the time and space to play, and experience the simple pleasures that we, and previous generations have been afforded in our childhoods. This will only happen where an in depth understanding of the complex nature of children’s play and its benefits is provided “Children and teenagers being seen and heard in shared public spaces is a hallmark of a society that is at ease with itself.”
Benefits of Play
Play is critical to children’s physical, social and emotional development and is central to a healthy child’s life. Playing develops both children’s bodies and minds. When afforded the opportunity to play children are often likely to be active by running, jumping, dancing, climbing, lifting, pushing or pulling.
Through play children also experience a wide range of emotions including frustration, determination, achievement, disappointment, confidence and upset, and through practice, can learn the skills to manage these. By playing with their peers children also develop their social skills and build strong friendships, which lead to positive feelings and a sense of happiness and belonging.
Having the freedom to play provides children with huge amounts of pleasure and allows them to support their own well-being. When play is an enjoyable experience for children it promotes further desire for more play. Children often seek out physical and emotional uncertainty in their play. It is a natural human behaviour to be inquisitive or to push various boundaries.
Often risky play doesn’t always have to mean dangerous. A great deal of children’s play often involves a degree of physical or emotional risk whether it is balancing, climbing, jumping, signing, dressing up or even playing with a new group of friends. By taking risks and having adventurous play experiences children can challenge themselves, test the limitations of the environment around them, develop problem-solving skills and find creative approaches to new situations. Ultimately play influences a child’s ability to be adaptable and resilient, to cope with stressful events and therefore enables them to support their own well-being.
Being resilient is an important trait in an ever changing and unpredictable world, to be able to survive despite adversity and successfully adapt to different social and physical environments. It is through play and the freedom to explore that children become more adaptable, flexible and creative. These are skills that children can only learn themselves through having independent experiences, exploration of their natural surroundings and social engagement with others. Through this full integration of independent experience and exploration children are better equipped to co-ordinate their emotions, thoughts and actions. Play is natural training for life.” Source: playforlife.org
The National Quality Framework The National Quality Framework sets a National Quality Standard (NQS) for early childhood education and care providers in Australia. The National Quality Standard, developed in partnership with State, Territory and Commonwealth Governments, is intended to deliver higher standards for young children in the areas of education, care and health across Australia. In November 2013, the Minister for Education, informed schools that early childhood programs to Year 2 in Western Australian schools will be required to meet the NQS. The NQS is divided into 7 areas that contribute to the quality of early childhood education and care:
The National Quality Standard is accompanied by a rating and assessment process for all services across Australia. Services will be assessed on their performance against each of the 7 quality areas (above) and given a rating for each area as well as an overall rating.Services will receive 1 of the following overall ratings:
As mandated, along with all other schools, St Emilie’s staff are reviewing our practice and procedures in the Early Years from Kindy to Year 2, using the NQS tool to assist us. The purpose of this exercise is to affirm one another for the practices, policies and procedures that we are alerady doing very well and to audit those physical areas, policies, plans, practices and procedures that may need refining or changing over time. Seeking and striving for ongoing improvement is of course an important aspect of what it means to be ‘a good school’.