New EYFS guide to support children's development

Catherine Gaunt
Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A truncated version of Development Matters has been published as new guidance for early years practitioners and inspectors to help them review children's development in the EYFS.

'Early years outcomes’ provides a breakdown describing typical behaviour mapped to a child’s age/stage linked to each Early Learning Goal.

However, the text is taken directly from ‘Development Matters’, the non-statutory guidance that was commissioned by the Department for Education and published by Early Education, but limited only to 'ages and stages'.

The document is likely to replace DM, which has been removed from Ofsted’s inspection guidance, for use by inspectors. DM has also now been removed from the gov.uk website, where it was put online after being removed from the DfE website earlier in the summer.

DM was intended to be used for guidance on everyday practice and ‘how’ children learn, as part of observation, assessment and planning, as well as for summative judgements at various points in the EYFS.

The new document, published by the Department for Education, reproduces the goals and outcomes column (under the Unique Child in DM) as a stand-alone document, but removes the sections which draw attention to the adult role in children’s development, the columns on Enabling Environments and Positive Relationships, as well as omitting the characteristics of effective learning.

‘Early years outcomes’ is described as ‘a non-statutory guide to support practitioners’ with reviewing children’s progress between 24 and 36 months and at the end of reception via the EYFS profile.

In July, Nursery World revealed that the Standards and Teaching Agency had been told not to use DM in future EYFS Profile guidance and that local authority moderators had also been told not to use it.

Last month, Subsidiary Guidance for Ofsted inspectors in schools, said that changes were being made to DM and the EYFS. Nursery World understands that the EYFS changes relate to the Safeguarding and Welfare requirements of the EYFS and that no changes are planned to the learning and development aspects of the early years framework. DM itself has not been changed, but the new document will replace it in inspection guidance.

Ofsted inspectors will be issued with new guidance on the implications of the changes.

The DfE note accompanying 'Early years outcomes' states, ‘It can be used by childminders, nurseries and others, such as Ofsted, throughout the early years as a guide to making best-fit judgements about whether a child is showing typical development for their age, may be at risk of delay or is ahead for their age.’

The guidance presents the first three areas of learning in a different order from DM, with communication and language first, followed by physical development, and then personal, social and emotional development.

In DM, PSED came first , followed by communication and language and PD.

Helen Moylett and Nancy Stewart, co-authors of DM, say that the new version does not support child development and that it does not include guidance to highlight that it should not be used as a checklist or used prescriptively because children ‘develop at their own rates and in their own ways’.

Nancy Stewart, principal consultant at the Early Learning Consultancy, said, ‘This is precisely an extract from "Development Matters". It has the same status as "Development Matters", since both are non-statutory guidance. I would suggest that practitioners continue to use the much more helpful full version in "Development Matters" rather than just this extract, and that knowledgeable Ofsted inspectors might choose to continue to refer to it as well.’ 

She added, ‘By leaving out any mention of the pedagogy, this cut-down document fails to meet its stated purpose of supporting an understanding of child development. Development doesn’t just happen, and isn’t simply outcomes to judge children on. It is instead an interactive process and so the quality of relationships and environments are a critical part of the story.  

‘Leaving out the characteristics of effective learning, presumably because they cannot be quantified, also misses the importance of knowing how children learn and continually supporting them to be strong, motivated and independent learners.  In many ways this is the most important part of child development and of practitioners’ job, so it is a crucial omission.’

She added that the Unique Child statements could be used to consider children’s attainment and progress, but do not support or give consideration to the quality of practice and provision.

Co-author Helen Moylett added that the characteristics of effective learning remain in the stautory framework. ‘It’s worth noting that the EYFS statutory framework s1.10 still requires the following: in planning and guiding children’s activities, practitioners must reflect on the different ways that children learn and reflect these in their practice. Three characteristics of effective teaching and learning are: playing and exploring - children investigate and experience things, and "have a go"; active learning - children concentrate and keep on trying if they encounter difficulties, and enjoy achievements; and creating and thinking critically - children have and develop their own ideas, make links between ideas, and develop strategies for doing things.’ 

A DfE spokesperson said, ‘ "Early years outcomes" helps professionals measure a child’s development through the early years. We trust professionals to use their judgement about how to support children in these crucial, formative years.’

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