Sue Allingham on the new EYFS framework 2021

Dr Sue Allingham explains what’s changed in the new EYFS for 2021, and what great practice you should keep.
Sue Allingham on the new EYFS framework 2021

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August 18, 2021

Sue’s Five Key Take-aways about the new EYFS framework 2021:

  1. The overarching principles are the same -  you don’t need to drastically change your practice
  2. Use this an an opportunity to take stock of how much paperwork you do and get rid of what you don’t need
  3. Let your cohort dictate your curriculum 
  4. Take the time to think about how you monitor progress
  5. Make use of the information and documents available

Dr. Sue Allingham knows early years. With a PHD in early childhood education and teaching, she’s been an early years advisor, consultant, and a long-time friend of Famly. Sue sat down with our director of content and brand, Matt, to mythbust, de-mystify, and un-muddy the waters of the new EYFS framework 2021.

1. The principals of the EYFS haven’t changed


“If you take the new statutory framework document and compare it against the old one, it isn’t that different” explains Sue.

If your current practice is with regard to the four overarching principles of the EYFS, the good news is that you won’t have to change much. The unique child, positive relationships, enabling environments, and learning and development should still guide everything about how you operate at your setting. The characteristics of effective teaching and learning are also unchanged, as are the seven areas of learning.  

So what has changed in the new EYFS framework 2021?

  • There is now a requirement to promote good oral health (but this doesn’t mean you need to begin brushing childrens’ teeth)
  • The educational programmes (which describe each of the 7 areas of learning) have been made longer, a bit more detailed, and now have examples of things that you can do with children, especially in regards to developing their speech and vocabulary.
  • PSED now mentions co-regulation. 
  • Physical Development is split into fine- and gross-motor skills.
  • Communication and Language now has ‘understanding’ within ‘listening and attention’.
  • Reception teachers will now have to complete a Reception Baseline Assessment
  • There are some changes to the wording of the Early Learning Goals.


“However, just because the educational programmes have changed, or the Early Learning Goals have changed, doesn’t mean that your practice and provision has to change” says Sue. Much of what has changed, for example considering oral health or focusing on early communication, is probably already embedded at most settings.

“Once you see something in writing, you begin to question it, and you forget that you probably do it already!” Sue explains.

Why was it changed?
The changes were made with the aims to 

  • Better prepare children for Key Stage 1, 
  • Improve outcomes at age 5, particularly in early language and literacy
  • Reduce paperwork for practitioners, with a view to spending more time interacting with children.

2. Use this as an opportunity to review your paperwork

Sue recommends that the new EYFS framework 2021  is a great opportunity to take stock of all the paperwork and documentation that you do, and assess whether you really need it. Sue’s top tips for this are:


  • Don’t do anything just for ‘evidence’, especially not for Ofsted
  • Keep what’s genuinely useful to you, the children and parents, and your practice
  • Consider how little mandatory paperwork there really is.


Ofsted do not want settings to  “prepare any performance and children-tracking information for Ofsted”  This is not to say that you absolutely mustn’t have any paperwork for planning, or recording of development, but that it should only be done if it’s useful to you as a setting, and for the benefit of the children in your care.


For example, carrying on writing observations that are really meaningful. “Ruth Swailes says ‘It’s about remarking on the remarkable’” Sue says, “You’re making a significant note”


So what paperwork is mandatory in the new EYFS 2021?

“Basically, there is no mandatory paperwork,” says Sue “The only mandatory assessments are the Reception Baseline Assessment, the Early Years Profile, and in the 2 year check” Ofsted themselves confirm “Ofsted does not want to see a particular amount or type of paperwork during an inspection.

“Your time is so important,” says Sue “But if you really feel you need paperwork, it helps you, and you feel secure using it. Don’t just throw it all out because somebody says you don’t need to do it anymore. Do what works for you.”


3. Let your cohort dictate your curriculum


“The curriculum that you create within your setting is the meat you put on the skeleton of the education programmes of the EYFS,” says Sue. “The Early Learning Goals are not a curriculum”

So how do you plan what that will be? “It’s about thinking about your team, the area that your setting is in, the children you have, and the skills and knowledge you want them to learn by the time they leave.” says Sue, “No two settings are going to have the same curriculum”. 

Sue’s advice is to have an overview of what children should be able to do when they leave your care, but keep it open-ended, considering the Unique Child. “A good example would be, to be confident with a hammer and nails,” says Sue, Another way to look at it, is to plan for an experience you’d like the children to have, rather than something for them to have learned.

You don’t even have to write it down. Ofsted themselves state, “Ofsted does not require providers to provide EYFS curriculum planning in any specific format for inspection”.

4. Take the time to think about how you monitor progress


The changes to the EYFS and the focus on reducing paperwork are an opportunity to reconsider how you assess and monitor progress. “There are only three mandatory assessments in the early years,” says Sue ”So there’s no need to assess all the time. You just need an understanding of whether that child at age two, for example, is broadly doing what they should be doing”

Knowing what children are capable of comes from observation of them, in different environments and using different equipment, so you can build up a whole picture of where they are developmentally. “I don’t think we could do our jobs without observing,” says Sue, “but by that I mean noticing things, not writing shed-loads of stuff. You won’t forget if something massive has happened”

Assessment of progress should also be as simple as possible. “You’ll know a child has made progress,” reassures Sue, “You’ll look at your notes from September, then look at them from December, and you’ll see that progress has been made. However, if you’re expected to track progress in your setting, it can be as simple as ‘on track’ or ‘not on track’ - it’s as easy as that”. 

Ofsted echo this sentiment, “Practitioners should draw on their knowledge of the child and their own expert professional judgement and should not be required to prove this through collection of physical evidence.” 


5. Make use of the information and documents available

The new EYFS framework 2021, and the new Ofsted inspection framework, focuses heavily on professional judgement. Building up the confidence professionally comes partly from experience, but also from using the information available . “Always go back to source documents” advises Sue, “If you haven’t looked at the statutory framework, have a good read of it! Read the inspection frameworks from Ofsted and look at what they actually want to see.”

“When we’re talking about child development,” says Sue, “You could use Mary Sheridan's ‘From Birth to Five Years’”. It’s not about deciding between Development Matters and Birth to Five Matters. “You can even still use the 2012 Development Matters,” says Sue, “You draw on these documents, as and when they will support you. But, it is not about ticking off boxes, as was done with the old Development Matters, (even though it said not to). It’s not helpful.”

The DfE have also released a document about creating your own curriculum, and Ofsted have released a myth-busting document of their own. Guidance is being released frequently so make use of it. “If you’re a leader, drive your Ofsted inspection.” says Sue, “Hold those documents and say ‘It says here we don’t have to do that.’. As long as you’re meeting the statutory details, you can’t be going far wrong” 

In conclusion...

“Don’t panic!” says Sue, “I would say that most settings are doing things well anyway - the new framework is not going to change your practice. But, it is a good opportunity to reflect on whether you really need ‘that’ piece of paperwork that you fill in every day.”

Watch the full interview here.  

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