New Development Matters meets negative response from many in the sector

Early years experts have voiced disappointment in the Government’s latest guidance for the reformed EYFS, which they say does not champion the child.

Many in the early years sector have given an emphatic thumbs down to the new Development Matters, which is designed to provide curriculum guidance for the reformed EYFS.

Since its publication on 3 September, concerns have been growing that the guidance does not champion the ‘needs of the individual child’, or reflect or respect practitioner expertise. Many say it exposes flaws in the framework itself.

Development Matters is available for the 2,800 schools which are implementing the revised EYFS ahead of its statutory introduction for all early years providers in September 2021.

While schools which are not taking part as early adopters may choose to use the guidance, they will need to adhere to the existing EYFS framework until September, the Department for Education (DfE) said.

A ‘top-level view’
The non-statutory curriculum guidance for the EYFS states that it has been written for all early years practitioners, childminders, staff in nurseries, nursery schools and nursery and Reception classes in schools.

It has been developed for the DfE by Dr Julian Grenier, lead of the East London Research School and headteacher of Sheringham Nursery School and Children’s Centre.

The DfE said the guidance 'offers a top-level view of how children develop and learn, and guides, but does not replace, professional judgement.'

PACEY's policy advisor Helen Donohoe said: the guidance would ‘form a crucial source of support and guidance as our members gear up to the launch of the updated EYFS in late 2021’.

However, other organisations have been critical of the updated guidance.

Neil Leitch, chief executive, the Early Years Alliance, said the early years membership organisation was ‘concerned and disappointed by the revised guidance, which mainly serves to highlight the serious flaws contained within the new Early Years Foundation Stage Framework’.

‘Early education should be about supporting the needs of each individual child and ensuring that they are at the centre of their own learning, something that was championed in the previous version of Development Matters, but is sadly lacking in this latest guidance.

‘As a result, those more experienced early years practitioners will find little in the new document to help improve their practice while, even more concerningly, those who are new to the early years will now be presented with a narrow and limited view of how children learn and develop, and their essential role in supporting this.’ 

‘With so many educational experts expressing concerns about the current direction of travel of the early years curriculum, we urge the Government to listen, take stock, and acknowledge that it needs to change its approach on this critical issue sooner rather than later.’

Dr Sue Allingham, early years author, trainer and consultant, found that throughout the document ‘the image of the child is of deficit.’

She said: ‘Even though the introduction acknowledges that children develop at different rates, we move into a body of text that separates child development into three arbitrary sections.

‘When we are told that it isn’t ‘neat and orderly’, we are given a linear progression,’ she said.

She added that the creation of a section for ‘Reception’ – ‘ is not helpful as the children will vary in age from just four to nearly six.

‘Immediately we pick up on language such as “finding out where difficulties lie” and children who may need extra help to become secure in areas of development,’ she said.

View of the Early Years Sector Coalition
The Early Years Sector Coalition, which is made up of 13 organisations representing the early years sector, said the new document presented ‘a prescriptive, simplistic, limited curriculum and pedagogy, and does not reflect and respect practitioner expertise and excellent practice in the sector’.

‘It also fails to recognise all children as active and capable learners and does not provide for the breadth of challenges they will face in a complex and unknown future.

‘As such, this document does not provide a sound foundation for providers to build a curriculum in the best interests of children,’ the coalition said.

The coalition has proposed to work with the sector over the next six months to develop ‘guidance for the sector, by the sector: “Birth to Five Matters”.

‘This is an opportunity to revise existing guidance to develop an evidence-informed document for our times that addresses practitioners’ needs and concerns about doing what is best for children,’ the coalition said. 

Read Development Matters here

  • The coalition invites practitioners, parents, the public, policy makers and others to engage with a public process of consultation over the coming months. More details about the consultation will be made available via the members of the coalition, or sign up for further details here


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