The new guidance is the floor, not the sky. It should be a starting point to build your own ambitious and rich curriculum that supports every child.
It’s poor practice to characterise certain children as ‘younger’ than they are by applying age bands to them – particularly children with SEND. Instead, we need to respect they’re taking a different developmental path.
Learning journeys and assessment are important, but we need to be proportionate. That way, practitioners can focus on supporting and extending children’s learning in the moment.
Building your own curriculum involves balancing your knowledge about every child, and the big picture of what you want for them.
We should focus on those children who most need our help and support. By reducing the burden of paperwork we free up our practitioners to do just that.
In September, 2021, the new EYFS framework will become statutory.
To accompany it, we have new Development Matters guidance, released now to give us time to reflect, understand, and consider what we want to change before it’s rolled out in Autumn 2021.
The new document comes with a lofty goal – to help remove the burden of paperwork that is overloading our practitioners, and get back to high quality assessment and observation for the sake of every child.
As a software company, helping you to track learning journeys, observations, and assessments we recognise that we’re part of that story.
That’s why we gathered Julian Grenier, The Development Matters 2020 author, and two of Ofsted’s top Early Years experts – Wendy Ratcliff and Phil Minns – to answer your questions.
Below are video clips and summaries featuring Julian’s thoughts on assessment, ticklisting, next steps, curriculum, the new observation checkpoints and more. Next week, Phil and Wendy’s answers will get the same treatment.
But to start, here are my five key takeaways from the session.
The problem with a focus on collecting ‘evidence’
I started off by asking Julian about why it is that we talk so much about ‘evidence’ in the early years, and how much of it we really should be collecting.
Evidence is not a helpful term, explained Julian – because it assumes a lack of trust in practitioners. While it’s absolutely vital that practitioners deeply understand the children they’re working with, we shouldn’t have to collect evidence just to prove it to somebody else.
He mentions how important it is to understand:
A child’s interests
Who they are as an individual
Their difficulties and obstacles
When they might need extra help
It’s on these things and more that we should be carefully noticing and listening, focusing on high quality assessment that helps us to understand every child.
In particular, Julian notes, we ought to focus our attention carefully on those children who need the most support. If we can remove the burden of paperwork and unnecessary data-tracking and evidence, we get more time with those who need our help the most.
Looking out for every child using high quality assessment – not checklists
Next up, we discussed how we make sure no child is left behind, when we don’t have comforting checklists to fall back on – something that neither this nor the former version of the Development Matters encouraged.
Julian reminded us that this Development Matters 2020 document won’t be fully rolled out until 2021, explaining that now is a time for slow reflection and not rushing into big changes.
So how do we check progress is happening? Julian mentioned checking in on milestones (something we’ll return to later) and deeply observing all of our children. Fundamentally, though, progress checking shouldn’t be about levels or numbers, and certainly shouldn’t be about checklists.
Curriculum and the problem with next steps
Your early years curriculum is something your team should know well, and kept under constant review according to Julian, as it changes to reflect new children.
Julian gave us an example from his nursery school, Sheringham. They have a large amount of children with EAL, so a lot of their focus is on supporting early communication skills in English, while encouraging parents to continue speaking in the child’s first language at home.
He explained that planning multiple next steps for every child is unrealistic – and instead it’s about balancing what skills and strengths you know the child brings to your setting, with a clear big picture of what you’d like all children to learn.
How to build your own curriculum
The Development Matters 2020, is labelled as curriculum guidance, and it’s rightly started a conversation about how settings should be building their own early years curriculum.
Julian explained there’s no one starting point for your curriculum, but the Development Matters guidance should be seen as the floor not the sky. Be ambitious, he explained, and make sure you find the right tool for the right job.
What are learning journeys for?
The majority of assessment happens in the moment, according to Julian, as we notice carefully what’s going on with our children and respond immediately.
Learning journeys, on the other hand, should be for significant moments – something new, a first time playing together with a friend, a moment of struggle and persistence. Something of importance that over time tells the story of that child’s progress.
There’s huge value in sharing that both with parents and the children themselves but we must be proportionate so that practitioners can spend the vast majority of their time in the moment with their children.
How should we use the new observation checkpoints?
One of the new elements in the Development Matters 2020 guidance is the observation checkpoints. They’re just for the prime areas, and are key milestones to prompt practitioners and watch out for areas where children might need additional support.
Julian added that they’ll be most useful for inexperienced practitioners, where more support might be needed.
We also discussed inclusive practice here, and why he wants to see a move away from marking children with special needs as sitting within a much younger age band. “Children with special needs and disabilities aren’t 2 years younger in their development,” he explained, “they’ve just got a different pathway.”
Why is the 0-3 age band now so wide?
Finally, we discussed another big change in Development Matters 2020 – that the youngest age band has been expanded to include all children 0-3.
This follows on from Julian’s earlier point that it’s not helpful to label children as ‘younger’ based on what they can’t do yet. The 0-3 age band, he thinks, much better reflects that children develop in different ways and at different rates – particularly at this young age.
Watch the full hour-long session
If you’d like to see the full hour-long session, featuring Julian’s answers as well as input from Ofsted’s Phil Minns and Wendy Ratcliff, you’re in luck!
Just head over here, leave a few details, and you can watch the full session back on-demand, for free.
Official Danish Government Reopening Advice
Guidance from the Danish Health Ministry, translated in full to English.