From the BBC News website:
Under-fives get 'learning goals'
New welfare guidelines including 69 "learning goals" for the under-fives have come into force in England.
The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) sets out expected standards of care in registered childcare settings.
The "toddler curriculum" includes being able to count to 10, spell their names, understand stories, know right from wrong and be able to dress and undress.
Ministers say the EYFS will help stop disadvantaged children falling behind in educational attainment.
The guidelines have provoked a worried reaction from some childcare workers who believe increasing levels of associated paperwork could put them out of business.
Others fear children will be required to start formal learning too early and that it could set some of them up for failure at a tender age.
So England's Children's Minister Beverley Hughes announced that learning goals requiring children to be able to write their own names and begin using simple sentences by the age of five, sometimes with punctuation, would be reviewed to see if they were suitable.
But in a joint letter to the managers of England's 3,000 children's centres Schools Secretary Ed Balls and Ms Hughes said their guidelines would help make sure that all young children had the chance to engage in stimulating play.
Children's centre staff would be able to use it to engage mothers and fathers, to make sure these experiences are built on at home, they said.
Mr Balls added: "I am driven by a determination to make sure that the most disadvantaged children get the very best start in life.
"We want to give all children a level playing field and help all parents get the best care and support for their children.
"I believe that every child in this country is entitled to the benefits of learning through play as set out in the EYFS and that their parents are entitled to the reassurance that their children will be well supported and cared for by high quality childminders and nursery workers."
Research shows that gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged children can affect them from the age of 22 months and are likely to get bigger as they age.
By the time they take GCSES, children from poorer backgrounds are half as likely to get five good grades as their wealthier peers.
The EYFS applies to all formal childcare settings for children under five and is based on the idea that children need to learn through play as they begin to understand the world around them.
Childcare providers are required to keep parents up to date with their children's progress and will be encouraged to be involved with their early education.
Profiles of each child will be completed by nurseries and childminders, recording the developmental milestones the reach.
These are intended to provide an accurate picture of a child's development for parents and primary schools when they reach them.
However, ministers are keen to stress that the youngsters will not be tested on the goals included in the guidelines.
They also argue that as the framework is a combination of two existing sets of guidelines they should not place extra burdens on those working in childcare.
In Scotland, what and how children learn in pre-school nurseries is set out in the Curriculum for Excellence which is currently being rolled out. It does not apply to childminders.
In Wales, a new Scandinavian-style Learn through Play nursery and infant curriculum is being introduced for three to seven-year-olds, which moves away from the more formal classroom based lessons.
For more information on the contents of the EYFS, please see our article.