A closer look at the revised EYFS
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A closer look at the revised EYFS

22 June 2021 By Val Clarke, Segment Manager for Early Years & Nursery Practitioners (England) at Twinkl

nursery teacher

In this blog, our partner Twinkl talks you through the newly updated Development Matters Non-Statutory Curriculum Guidance for the Early Years Foundation Stage.

The finalised Statutory  Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage has now been published for all schools and early years providers in England to follow from September 2021. Changes to the educational programmes, safeguarding and welfare, as well as assessment arrangements (including revised Early Learning Goals) have been significant. Perhaps the most significant change, however, has come with the newly updated Development Matters Non-Statutory Curriculum Guidance for the Early Years Foundation Stage (September 2020). So, why has Development Matters been updated, who has been involved and what does it look like now?

Why update development matters?

Development Matters has been updated with an aim to reduce practitioner workload, focus in on children’s communication and support those children at risk of falling behind the majority.

What does it look like now?

What remains the same?

The updated Development Matters (2020) remains a non-statutory guidance that sets out the pathways of children’s development from birth to a child’s year in Reception. 

It is still made up of the seven Areas of Learning set out as the three Prime areas (Communication and Language, Physical Development and Personal, Social and Emotional Development) and the four Specific areas (Literacy, Mathematics, Understanding the World and Expressive Arts and Design).

The guidance still emphasises play and first-hand experiences/activities, as well as adults supporting and guiding play alongside the direct teaching of new skills and ideas.

The (slightly renamed from the previous 2012 guidance) Characteristics of Effective Teaching and Learning remain. They retain the same titles of ‘Playing & Exploring’, ‘Active Learning’ and ‘Creating & Thinking Critically’ and the content of their descriptions remains broadly the same as previously published. However, the previous sub-titles have been removed and all descriptions are now under the common heading of ‘Children will be learning to’, with added examples of how to support this learning alongside. 

What has changed?

The updated Development Matters (2020) guidance is two thirds of the length of the previous version, as one of the aims was that it should be shorter.

One of the most noticeable changes for practitioners may well be the reorganisation of the age-bands. The updated Development Matters covers the same birth to five age range as its predecessor, however, the age bands outlined within it are much broader. Whereas, the Development Matters (2012) contained six different age bands, the revised Development Matters (2020) contains only three: ‘Birth to three - babies, toddlers and young children’, ‘3 & 4-year-olds’, and ‘Children in Reception’.

Another notable change is that the aspects that each of the Areas of Learning were previously broken down into are not present in the new Development Matters. So, for example, although Mathematics contains statements which refer to Shape, Space and Measure and statements which refer to Number, these statements are no longer separated into the different aspects. Instead they simply make up ‘Mathematics’. This is the same for each Area of Learning.  

Connected to this is the complete absence of the Early Learning Goals (ELGs) within the Development Matters 2020 guidance. Unlike its 2012 predecessor, Development Matters 2020 does not include the ELGs alongside the statements for Reception-aged children. This is because the revised Statutory framework for the EYFS (to be used from September 2021) emphasises that pre-Reception providers should not use the ELGs as a basis for their curriculum, but rather that the ELGs should only be used as an assessment during the summer term/at the end of the Reception year.

Developing a curriculum

The widening of the age-bands, the absence of the aspect subheadings, and removal of the  ELGs within the revised guidance have big implications for curriculum development for settings. Whereas the previously detailed 2012 guidance provided a natural basis for a birth through to Reception curriculum, the revised 2020 guidance (by its own admission) does not. 

For some, this will provide a welcome (and intended) freedom to tailor a curriculum that reflects their specific children, alongside the freedom to move away from collecting large amounts of evidence and tracking on detailed checklists. For others, the absence of a ‘safety net’ of developmental statements may be worrying. In an ideal world, all practitioners working with young children would have a detailed knowledge of these developmental norms and, therefore, would not need to refer to a guidance document containing them. However, in reality, the movement of staff within settings, alongside the ever-changing backdrop of early years pedagogy, may leave some feeling a little unsure in some areas. One thing that is certain is that the removal of this ‘safety net’ means that there is now, more than ever, a real need for sector-specific CPD and education on child development theories amongst the early years workforce.


This article has been taken from Little Learners, our FREE early years magazine full of resources, inspiration, ideas, and activities. Click here to read our latest issue.


Categories: Early Years

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