The Famly Interview
Julian Grenier Reveals Development Matters Plans

Find out when's its coming, what will be in it, and why it's changing.
Julian Grenier interviewed during the Nursery World event
February 19, 2020
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Julian Grenier: The 5 key interview takeaways:
  • The primary goals of the new Development Matters are to reduce practitioner workload, reduce the disadvantage gap, and reflect the shift in research and evidence since the last document was published.
  • We need to stop checking children’s development off against Development Matters, and save formal next steps only for the children who really need our help. Together, these changes to practice can help lower practitioner workload and get them back to having quality interactions with children.
  • A framework like Development Matters should be there to guide, not replace a practitioner’s professional knowledge and experience. That’s why high-quality CPD is so important.
  • We shouldn’t let Early Learning Goals or other assessment tools guide our curriculum. Curriculum and assessment are two different things and you should build your own unique curriculum in a way that suits your children, team, and community, rather than trying to get children jumping through ELG hoops.
  • The first draft will be shared with a number of people across the sector over the Spring, with publication due in Summer.

Last year, it was announced that Dr Julian Grenier was leading the work on the new EYFS Development Matters.

The hugely influential, guidance is due to be released in the Summer, and few people could argue against the Department for Education’s (DfE) choice for lead author.

As Headteacher of the renowned Sheringham Nursery School and Children’s Centre, Julian and his team have been celebrated for running truly evidence-based practice that turns around the lives of children in one of London’s most disadvantaged boroughs

He is also a National Leader on Education, has advised on a number of DfE projects, and has authored several successful books on some of the biggest topics in early years.

Julian and I sat down to talk at the Nursery World Show 2020 about the upcoming changes to the Development Matters, what’s going to be in them, how his team will be consulting on them, and why we’re even making a change in the first place.

Watch snippets from the interview and read key takeaways below, or scroll to the bottom of the page to watch the full 19 minute interview.

Why do we need a new Development Matters?

It’s clear that the biggest reason for change is centred around practitioner workload. Although it was never the original intention, the existing document has been misused in a variety of ways that have led to too much documentation in settings.

Julian also explained to me why the disadvantage gap is still a huge priority and how the document is looking to address that. He also talks about the need to address any guidance to make sure it is up to date with current thinking, in particular highlighting developments in our understanding of self-regulation and executive function.

When will we see the new EYFS Development Matters?

With last year’s election making it difficult to get anything done and the EYFS consultation having only just ended, it’s been a little tricky to get a clear understanding of when we might start to hear some details about the new EYFS Development Matters document.

At the start of the interview (around 1:29), Julian revealed to me that the first draft will be out for consultation with a number of people in the sector already by Spring, and that they’re hoping to have something published and available for everyone to see in Summer.

Check out what he says in the full interview below to also hear about how they plan to consult with the sector.

What is Development Matters really for?

Is development matters meant to be structured guidance or a best-fit approach? Julian explains his thinking, and why any framework is there to guide, not replace, practitioner experience.

He also talks about what this means for continuous professional development, and how to focus on our best bets when it comes to training.

Do we confuse assessment and curriculum in the early years?

With the controversy over the new Early Learning Goals (ELGs) fresh in everyone’s mind, I asked Julian about whether the new Development Matters will filter down from the ELGs.

He explained why the changes were led by a desire to make assessment more simple, and why we shouldn’t confuse assessment for curriculum. He goes on to make a call for leaders and practitioners to establish their own curriculum that works for their community and children.

Why early years assessment shouldn’t be a checklist

Many settings still use Development Matters as a way to tick off steps children have attained, and Julian explains why this is such an unecessary burden on practitioners.

He also discusses next steps (something we’ve covered before with Sue Allingham), and why trying to have formal next steps for every child is a “nightmare” and can stop us from looking at the big picture.

How to focus assessment on the children who need it most

But next steps shouldn’t be forgotten altogether. Julian thinks that our attention should be drawn towards the handful of children who need our help the most, and why assessment can play such a valuable part in bridging that attainment gap.

Take a look at what he has to say about it in the video below, from around 16:00. He explains, for example, why deepening children’s knowledge of numbers up to ten can be more valuable than rushing some children to 50 before their peers have even got into double figures.

The full Julian Grenier Interview

Enjoy the full 19-minute interview with Julian, where he and I discuss:

  • The new EYFS development Matters
  • The rationale behind the changes
  • The timeline for publication
  • Age-bands and overlap
  • Next steps
  • Evidence-based practice
  • Closing the disadvantage gap
  • Practitioner workload
  • Characteristics of effective learning
  • The importance of self-regulation
  • Developing a curriculum
  • Assessment vs curriculum
  • Continuous professional development
  • Early Learning Goals and EYFS changes

The big ideas

download pdf
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Official Danish Government Reopening Advice

Guidance from the Danish Health Ministry, translated in full to English.

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UK Nursery Covid-19 Response Group Recommendations

The full recommendations from a working group of over 70 nursery chains in the UK.

Please note: here at Famly we love sharing creative activities for you to try with the children at your setting, but you know them best. Take the time to consider adaptions you might need to make so these activities are accessible and developmentally appropriate for the children you work with. Just as you ordinarily would, conduct risk assessments for your children and your setting before undertaking new activities, and ensure you and your staff are following your own health and safety guidelines.

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