If you work in early years, you will know that the new Development Matters non-statutory guidance document was published on Thursday last week. The guidance accompanies the new EYFS Framework, allowing early adopters can use both this year. The new EYFS Framework will be statutory from September 2021.
The new Development Matters document (DMs) is structured with broad ‘Pathways’ for children’s development: Birth to three, 3 and 4 year olds and Reception. Within the Prime Areas of Learning there are additional ‘Checkpoints’ to tune in to what a child is demonstrating in relation to typical development.
The introductory pages of Development Matters (DMs) 2020 contain some clear statements. Here are a few:
No job is more important than working with children in the early years.
It guides, but does not replace, professional judgement.
The document is not a tick list for generating lots of data. You can use your professional knowledge to help children make progress…
Babies and young children do not develop in a fixed way. Their development is like a spider’s web with many strands, not a straight line.
Depth in learning matters much more than moving from one band to the next or trying to cover everything.
The observation checkpoints can help you to notice whether a child is at risk of falling behind in their development. You can make all the difference by taking action quickly, using your professional judgement and your understanding of child development.
Reading these statements, it is clear that early years professionals need to bring their own knowledge of child development to the new DMs. They are intended as a guide, just as the previous Development Matters was.
Before we can go on a road trip we have to learn how to drive. Once we can drive, we set off on our journey, perhaps with some company, and with a map to guide us (phone/SATNAV). There will be some unexpected turns along the way, lots of adventures and stories to tell. And the more we drive, the wider variety of road trips we take, the better we get.
Before we can become early years professionals, we need to learn about child development. Once we have grounded ourselves in this knowledge, we set off on a professional trip accompanied by children and their learning journeys. With a map (DMs) to guide us, pathways to follow, checkpoints to notice. Along the way we learn more, take courses, reflect and deepen our knowledge and understanding, take more journeys, have some stories to tell. And so we improve.
DMs cannot (and never could) replace professional knowledge and development. That can only come with good quality training that includes an understanding of child development. It will come with teams, large or small, where more experienced staff share their knowledge with those nearer the beginning of their road trips. It will come with excellent and affordable CPD. And it will come with policy makers valuing the workforce who do this most important of jobs.
We have a long way to go.
Change is hard. And this particular change is coming at a time of huge uncertainty, socially and within the sector.
But let’s think of it as another road trip. Fold up the new DMs and stick it in your back pocket so you look at it every so often. You may need to pull over and discuss it with your fellow passengers. You may need to take an extra course and extend your driver's licence. But before long it will become tatty and dogeared, with some coffee cup stains and sticky fingerprints on it (snacks are very important on a trip!). Just like the old DMs, which you can keep in your other pocket (because the DMs are non-statutory). And all the while you will have been continuing to learn with your children, noticing what they know and can do, intervening to support development, deepening their experiences and your own.
You can read about Julian Grenier's thoughts on the Early Years curriculum in an article published on the FSF in June.
We also have some discussion areas on the Forum for you to share your thoughts and ideas on the new Development Matters.
Edited by Jules