Learning and Development

Development Matters – Preparing for the new EYFS

  • Development Matters – Preparing for the new EYFS

The latest revision to the EYFS framework will become statutory in September – Dr Helen Edwards explores what it will mean for your practice…

The revised EYFS Framework is due to become statutory for all schools and early years settings from September 2021.

Around 3,000 schools chose to be early adopters of the framework and we have much to thank them for; they’re already exploring the new framework and Development Matters, reviewing their curriculum and pedagogy, and making changes to their observation and assessment procedures.

We can learn a great deal from them whilst we all prepare for the autumn term.

The hugely popular Early Adopters Facebook group, comprising 8,000 members, is a hive of information and support.

Set up by teacher Vic Clewes, and supported by other volunteer teachers and early years experts, it’s become the go-to place to ask questions, make suggestions, share resources and engage in courteous professional debate in an area that has become quite tense on other social media platforms.

I spoke to them recently for the Foundation Stage Forum/Tapestry podcast and this article includes some of their feedback and advice. So, how can teachers and early years leaders start preparing to use the new EYFS and Development Matters?

Your curriculum

Firstly, review and reflect on your existing curriculum and provision, comparing them with the educational programmes in the statutory EYFS and the associated Early Learning Goals.

Are there any areas you feel aren’t covered as well as they might be? The chances are you’re covering almost everything, but there may be areas in Understanding the World that you feel need additional planning. In particular, those areas that eventually become history and geography in KS1 and beyond.

Kathryn Askew, one the Early Adopters (EA) Facebook moderators, gave her perspective: “I would say we have most things in place already in our settings. Any schemes or resources we already use follow a sequence of progression and for the rest of the areas it’s about checking for any gaps in your current curriculum which won’t fulfil the Early Learning Goal requirements at the end of the year.”

This is encouraging and seems to be the experience of many early adopters. However, it’s important not to plan your curriculum entirely from the Early Learning Goals or Development Matters.

Children need a much broader set of learning experiences to support the characteristics of effective teaching and learning. For example, children need lots of opportunities to develop their imaginative and creative skills far more than the corresponding ELG, which is largely about performance rather than the processes involved in creative activities.

Your use of progression models

Recently, progression models have been a cause for concern for some teachers and early years practitioners, but there are some very helpful examples on the EA Facebook group.

Progression models are sometimes misunderstood to be a requirement for Ofsted (they aren’t) or viewed as needing to be a huge tome containing every tiny step you want your children to achieve (they don’t).

Instead they can be a sheet of A4 on how you see writing or pre-writing skills developing with your children, or the skills you’d like to develop and support using clay, engaging in movement to music, or in the role-play area.

Members of the EA Facebook group often speak of how freeing this is. They can choose which areas of the provision are important to them and their children, and which progression models, if any, they wish to create.

Your assessment system

The second area for review and reflection is your observation and assessment system.

There is no longer a requirement from Ofsted to view assessment data and therefore the choice of what and how much learning to record is in the hands of the teacher and SLT. This has been welcomed across the sector and many early adopters are embracing it.

Kathryn Askew has found this positive: “I record whether the children are or are not on track in each of the seven areas and note down any areas of weakness that I need to plan for next.”

This is echoed by members of the EA Facebook group such as Emma Morgan: “I am not constantly checking it like I used to do with the previous Development Matters, and I find that I actually know my children better as I spend more time with them now.”

“The previous Development Matters just became irrelevant as the children were expected to jump from emerging to developing, etc. and it became a numbers game. Now it feels that we are free to watch the children progress in the right way rather than ticking arbitrary steps that don’t really show their true learning.”

There are, nevertheless, some concerning examples where teachers and practitioners are still required by their senior team to continue to produce unnecessary evidence and assessment data. Ofsted has made it very clear this isn’t required.

It’s to be hoped that during the rest of this academic year this message reaches senior teams and boards so that they stop demanding this of their staff. I welcome this shift and want all early years teachers and practitioners to be trusted to use their professional judgement to assess children.

The new Development Matters describes children’s learning and development in three broad pathways: Birth to three years, three to four years, and Reception children. Of course, the document can’t possibly cover everything, and it doesn’t replace early years expertise and experience, or the ongoing need for high quality CPD.

Children don’t develop in a linear fashion and these pathways are not to be used as levels which children are expected to achieve.

The document is best thought of as reference material. Resisting the temptation to turn the new Development Matters into another assessment tick list is vital – nobody wants to go down that route again.

Reflecting on the breadth and depth of your curriculum, and ensuring the learning environment is stimulating and appealing to young children, are the starting points for working with the new Development Matters.

Tweaking your provision where necessary, and combining this with strong teaching, focusing on the characteristics of effective learning, will lead to all children making progress. Excessive data collection and assessment tracking should therefore become a dim and distant memory.

I think Rachel Crawley, an EA Facebook group member frames this clearly: “We have really started to think about a personalised curriculum for our children in our school. Assessment feels more in line with the rest of school – assessment without levels. Data collection and input has vastly reduced, but we’ve had more time to teach – the balance has been redressed.”

Helen is also co-founder of the Foundation Stage Forum and a former Ofsted inspector. Visit tapestry.info