Revised Development Matters to begin trial

Monday, March 2, 2020

‘Road-testing’ of early drafts of the updated Development Matters is about to get under way as nurseries, childminders and Reception classes start to trial the materials in the next few weeks. They will be available to use from September.

Julian Grenier
Julian Grenier

Julian Grenier, head teacher at Sheringham Nursery School in Newham, east London, is leading on the updating of the document with the Department for Education.

Despite the hiatus of the General Election, Mr Grenier said the aim was to stick with the original timelines, with a trial of the materials with settings and their feedback.

As well as continuing to work with the advisory group and experts, Mr Grenier said, ‘As we head into the summer there will be more people involved in the process [with] plenty of debate and discussion with a wide range of people so that by the time it’s published, lots of different people will have been involved.’

  • Key points on the revised Development Matters
    A guide for practitioners – not a ready-made curriculum and does not replace practitioners’ professional knowledge and experience.
  • ‘Evolution, not revolution’ – reinterpreting sound early years approaches, and also drawing on new evidence
    and research on e.g. self-regulation and executive function.
  • Aims to cut workload for practitioners.
  • Aims to narrow the gap by focusing practitioners on children that struggle to learn.
  • A move away from the ‘next steps’ approach to thinking about ‘the big picture’, with a suggestion that age bands such as 30-50 months will
    be replaced.
  • Need ‘a broad and rich curriculum’ – not about ‘jumping through ELG [Early Learning Goal] hoops’ at the end of Reception.

In an interview, which was filmed by software company famly at the Nursery World Show in London last month, Mr Grenier paid tribute to the work of Helen Moylett and Nancy Stewart who wrote the original Development Matters, which he said was ‘a much-
loved and well-used document’ by practitioners.

‘But we must take account of things like the problems around practitioner workload that have developed,’ he said. ‘And that despite a lot of hard work and good work that’s gone on in the early years we haven’t yet achieved what we need to around narrowing the gap between disadvantaged children and other children.

‘In the timeline of all things there comes a point when you pause, you reflect and you look at what needs refreshing and changing, and that’s really the rationale behind this.’

He said some of the practice that has evolved around ‘evidencing’ and ‘tracking’ has ‘created a crisis in practitioner workload in the early years’.

The framework was there ‘to guide, not replace practitioners’ professional knowledge and experience’, he added.

‘We mustn’t constantly second-guess what we’re doing, flick to Development Matters when we’re wondering what to do next. It should be there as a guide, but it shouldn’t control our every move.’

He said there was ‘a huge misconception, confusing assessment with curriculum’ in the sector, stressing that settings should be clear about what they wanted children to learn and should develop their own ‘broad and rich curriculum’.

‘The ELGs are an assessment tool. Let’s not just focus on “can we get kids jumping through these ELG hoops?”. Don’t let that control the Reception year.’

Mr Grenier also said that thinking about where children were in age bands (e.g. 30-50 months or 40-60 months) and then creating next steps for every child was not helpful, either for children’s learning or practitioner workload.

‘We get fixated on this next-steps approach,’ he said. ‘When people spend hours of time writing down next steps for every child in the class, you end up with 90 next steps. That’s madness. We should be thinking about the big picture.

‘You don’t need to spend your time writing out next steps, but there may be five or six kids that you really do need to know why they’re struggling. Those children need intensive help. If we don’t give them that help they miss out on the chance to catch up and to keep up with other children, and that’s where the gaps really set in.’

Instead he said practitioners should focus assessment on intensively supporting those children who are struggling to learn, and deepening other children’s knowledge.

‘So that what you end up with is a group of children who all know about 0-10, and you don’t end up with some kids who can’t count at all and some kids who are counting on to 50.’

  • Watch a clip from the interview with Matt Arnerich
  • Watch the full interview here


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