The Department for Education has asked Julian Grenier (Head Teacher of Sheringham Nursery School and Children’s Centre in Newham, East London) to re-write the Development Matters guidance.
He is working alongside a team of early years professionals to make changes based on, in his words, current ‘evidence and research’. The focus of the update is on making a difference for children and raising every child’s life chances.
Why is it changing?
New research and evidence into child development has come to light since the Tickell Report (2011) was used to inform the original Development Matters guidance. We know much more about self-regulation and executive function, for example, which can be used to raise outcomes for children.
In addition, Development Matters has typically been used to drive practitioner workload and as a next steps driven tick list, which is not what it was meant to be. This has led to excessive paperwork linked to tracking and evidencing, which has bogged down practitioners without being shown to help raise outcomes for children. The Early Years Alliance Minds Matter report clearly showed that practitioner wellbeing needs to be improved.
What is changing?
The aims of the new document are to help practitioners support children to become ‘more powerful learners’. Changes to the guidance are taking into account practitioner workload and aim to narrow the disadvantage gap. The guidance will help practitioners to focus on, for example: which children are struggling? What extra help do they need? How to make best use of practitioners time so all children make the best possible progress.
What isn’t changing?
Julian is keen to reassure the sector that Development Matters will still include the HOW children learn (the learning characteristics) as well as WHAT children learn (skills and knowledge). He says that the changes will build on the original document rather than completely changing it – and DfE are telling us it is an ‘evolution not a revolution’, words we have heard before from Ofsted!
How will we use the new Development Matters?
Julian explains it like this – he says we must not confuse curriculum with assessment.
- Curriculum – we need a clear ‘big picture’ of what we want each age range to learn – a broad, rich, well sequenced curriculum.
- Assessment – the Early Learning Goals are a useful assessment tool. Teaching to achieve the Early Learning Goals has become too important – we need to re-focus on a strong curriculum.
Will the new Development Matters be a tick list?
No – Julian is clear that the tick list approach to early years curriculum is wrong, not least because practitioners who are ticking lists are not spending time with the children, helping them to learn.
Julian says there has been too much fixation on paper based next steps and we need to look at the big picture without lots of unnecessary record keeping. He says that some children will be making good progress while other children may need more input to help them catch up and we need to consolidate rather than constantly trying to move all the children on.
Will changes to Development Matters be led by the changing Early Learning Goals?
Julian says there will not be ‘top down’ pressure from the Early Learning Goals – he says that, for example, the ‘shape, space and measures’ Early Learning Goals have been removed because they were complex for teachers to assess but this does not mean we can ignore the importance of the mathematical concepts covered by ‘shape, space and measures’ when we are teaching early maths.
Will it mean more paperwork?
Apparently not! We are advised that the new Development Matters will build on practitioner knowledge and skills rather than controlling planning. However, to do this, Julian acknowledges that there will need to be more emphasis on practitioner professional development opportunities – for example, I imagine we will all need a working knowledge of self-regulation and executive function and I will work on some webinars for the future.
Further information about the changes will be released soon – and there will be early draft trials which will be evaluated by a selection of group settings and childminders. The team involved with writing the new Development Matters guidance will continue to continually improve the document through debate and discussion…
You can watch the interview here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rZ9mJ339Ek.
If you have any questions, please ask. Sarah.