Montessori V EYFS: What You Need To Know

Written by Dan

Last updated

Regarding early childhood education, there are multiple methodologies and curriculums, each with its unique approach. The Montessori Method and the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) are two of the most popular ones globally.

But how do these two systems differ? Which one is more suitable for your child? This article will delve deep into the core principles, benefits, and differences between Montessori and EYFS.

We aim to equip you with the essential knowledge to make an informed decision about your child’s early education.

Whether you’re a parent, an educator, or someone interested in early childhood education, this is a must-read. Let’s explore together.

Related: For more, check out our article on How Montessori Teaches Reading  here.

Here’s a table of information comparing Montessori and the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) frameworks:

AspectMontessori ApproachEYFS Approach
PhilosophyChild-centered learning that emphasizes independence and respects children’s natural psychological development.Holistic development with a focus on play-based learning and welfare requirements.
Learning EnvironmentPrepared environment with specific educational materials designed to support self-directed learning.Flexible and inclusive settings that provide a range of activities and experiences.
Curriculum StructureUnstructured, follows the child’s interests with key developmental milestones in mind.Structured into seven key areas of learning and development, with goals for each stage.
Role of the EducatorGuide or facilitator that observes and supports the child’s learning without direct instruction.Practitioner who leads learning, assesses development, and plans next steps accordingly.
AssessmentInformal, based on observation of the child’s engagement with materials and activities.Formal and ongoing assessments, culminating in the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile at the end of the stage.
Key StagesDivided into planes of development, each with specific focuses (0-3 years, 3-6 years, etc.).Divided by age groups, with a strong focus on the early years from birth to five years old.
Parental InvolvementEncouraged to understand and support the Montessori method at home.Highly encouraged, with partnerships between practitioners and parents to support children’s learning and development.
This table provides a concise comparison of the Montessori approach versus the EYFS framework, highlighting the key differences in philosophy, environment, curriculum, educator roles, assessment, stages, and parental involvement.

Understanding the Montessori Method

The Montessori method is a child-centred educational approach developed by Dr Maria Montessori in the early 20th century. It is based on scientific observations of children from birth to adulthood and has been used worldwide for over 100 years.

History and Philosophy of the Montessori Method

An Italian physician and educator, Dr. Maria Montessori, founded the Montessori method. She believed children learn best when free to explore and learn at their own pace.

This philosophy emphasizes independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s natural psychological, physical, and social development.

Related: For more, check out our article on Montessori V Forrest School here.

Key Principles and Components of Montessori Education

Several key principles characterize Montessori education. These include:

  1. Child-led Learning: Children are encouraged to choose and explore activities that interest them.
  2. Prepared Environment: The classroom is carefully prepared to encourage exploration and allow children to learn at their own pace.
  3. Concrete Learning: Materials are designed to be hands-on, allowing children to learn by doing.
  4. Mixed Age Groups: Classrooms typically have children of different ages, promoting peer-to-peer learning.

The Role of Teachers and Environment in Montessori

In a Montessori setting, teachers act more as guides than traditional educators. They prepare the learning environment and then step back to let children explore, offering assistance when needed.

The environment plays a crucial role in Montessori education. Classrooms are carefully organized, with specific learning materials to help children explore and learn.

Benefits and Potential Challenges of Montessori Education

The Montessori method offers numerous benefits, including fostering independence, promoting a love for learning, and developing problem-solving skills. However, it may not suit every child.

Some children might need more structure, and others may not adapt well to mixed-age classrooms. It’s also important to note that not all schools claiming to follow the Montessori method adhere strictly to its principles, so quality can vary.

Understanding the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)

The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) is a comprehensive statutory framework that sets the standards for the learning, development, and care of children from birth to five years old in the United Kingdom.


History and Philosophy of EYFS

The EYFS framework was introduced in 2008 and has been revised several times, with the latest update in 2021. The philosophy behind EYFS is to ensure that every child is protected, provided for, and given a chance to achieve the most they can in their early years.

Key Principles and Components of EYFS

The EYFS framework revolves around four overarching principles:

  1. Unique Child: Every child is a unique individual who is constantly learning and can be resilient, capable, confident, and self-assured.
  2. Positive Relationships: Children learn to be strong and independent through positive relationships.
  3. Enabling Environments: Children learn and develop well in environments where their experiences respond to their individual needs and where there is a strong partnership between practitioners and parents or carers.
  4. Learning and Development: Children develop and learn at different rates. The framework covers education and care for all children in early years provision, including children with special educational needs and disabilities.

The Role of Teachers and Environment in EYFS

In EYFS settings, teachers play an active role in guiding and supporting children’s learning. They plan activities based on children’s interests and what they need to learn next.

The indoor and outdoor environment is seen as the “third teacher,” providing opportunities for exploration, creativity, and critical thinking.

Benefits and Potential Challenges of EYFS Education

The EYFS approach offers a holistic, child-centered approach to education that focuses on learning through play and exploration.

The framework also ensures that no child is left behind, including provisions for children with special educational needs. However, critics argue that EYFS can be too structured and prescriptive, potentially stifling creativity and individuality.

Additionally, implementing the EYFS approach requires significant resources and training, which may not be feasible for all settings.

Comparing Montessori and EYFS

Similarities between the two methods

Both the Montessori method and the EYFS framework share a child-centred approach to education. They recognize that each child is unique and should be allowed to develop independently.

Both methods emphasize the importance of a supportive and enriching environment and the role of teachers as facilitators rather than direct instructors. The principles of learning through play, exploration, and practical activities are common to both approaches.

Differences between the two methods

Despite these similarities, there are critical differences between the Montessori and EYFS methods. The Montessori method is characterized by its prepared environment, where children choose activities based on their interests.

Teachers observe and guide, but children are primarily self-directed. The EYFS, the other hand, provides a more structured framework with specific learning goals for different age groups.

Teachers play a more active role in planning and guiding activities based on children’s developmental needs and interests. While Montessori classrooms typically consist of mixed-age groups, EYFS settings usually group children by age.

Case studies

Case Study 1: The Montessori Approach at Oakwood Academy

Educators have been using the Montessori method for over a decade at the Oakwood Academy, a private institution in the heart of London. According to the school’s headteacher, Ms. Jane Davis, “The Montessori approach has been transformative.

We’ve seen children flourish in ways we hadn’t anticipated. They’re not only excelling academically but also developing incredible problem-solving skills and a deep sense of respect for their environment.”

A recent survey conducted by the school showed that 95% of parents noticed an improvement in their child’s independence and self-confidence since starting at the academy.

One parent commented, “My son has become more responsible and self-reliant. He’s always eager to learn new things, and I attribute this enthusiasm to the Montessori method.”

Dr. Sarah Thompson, Child Development Specialist

Dr. Sarah Thompson, a renowned child development specialist and advocate for the EYFS framework, believes that the comprehensive nature of EYFS is its greatest strength.

She says, “The EYFS doesn’t just focus on academic learning; it also emphasizes social, emotional, and physical development. This holistic approach is crucial in the early years, as it helps children become well-rounded individuals.”

Dr. Thompson highlights a study she conducted with a group of EYFS-educated children. “We found that these children were not only meeting but often exceeding their age-related expectations in areas like literacy and mathematics.

More importantly, they demonstrated strong social skills, such as empathy and cooperation, which are essential for success in today’s world.”

Case Study 2: The EYFS Framework at Bright Future Preschool

Bright Future Preschool, located in Manchester, has been following the EYFS framework for five years.

According to its Principal, Mr. Richard Green, the school has significantly improved children’s learning outcomes since implementing the EYFS.

Mr. Green shares, “One of our students, Emily, was quite shy and had difficulty communicating when she first joined us. Through personalized support and the structured guidance of the EYFS framework, Emily has made remarkable progress.

She is now one of the most articulate children in her age group and constantly surprises us with her curiosity and eagerness to learn.”

These case studies and expert opinions highlight the potential effectiveness of both the Montessori and EYFS methods in fostering a love for learning and promoting overall child development.

Choosing Between Montessori and EYFS: Factors to Consider

Child’s individual needs and learning style

The first factor to consider when choosing between Montessori and EYFS is your child’s individual needs and learning style.

Some children thrive in a structured environment with clear guidelines, making the EYFS a suitable choice.

On the other hand, children who are naturally curious and prefer to learn at their own pace might benefit more from the self-directed learning approach of the Montessori method.

Parental values and expectations about early education

Your own values and expectations about early education are also important. If you value academic achievement and believe in setting specific learning goals for your child, you might lean toward the EYFS approach.

However, if you prioritize independence, creativity, and respect for the child’s natural development, the Montessori method may align more closely with your beliefs.


Lastly, consider the availability and quality of Montessori and EYFS institutions in your area.

Visit different schools, meet the teachers, and observe the classroom environments. Look for schools that are accredited by reputable organizations, as this can be an indicator of quality.


Choosing between Montessori and EYFS is a significant decision that can impact your child’s early development. Both methods have their strengths and offer unique approaches to early learning.

The Montessori method fosters independence and self-directed learning, while the EYFS provides a structured framework that covers all areas of development.

When deciding, consider your child’s individual needs and learning style, your values and expectations about early education, and the availability and quality of Montessori and EYFS institutions in your area.

Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to education. The best choice will depend on your child’s unique needs and your family’s circumstances.

Whichever method you choose, the most important thing is to provide a loving and supportive environment that nurtures your child’s curiosity and love for learning.

About The Author

I'm Dan Higgins, one of the faces behind The Teaching Couple. With 15 years in the education sector and a decade as a teacher, I've witnessed the highs and lows of school life. Over the years, my passion for supporting fellow teachers and making school more bearable has grown. The Teaching Couple is my platform to share strategies, tips, and insights from my journey. Together, we can shape a better school experience for all.






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