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Let's not overbuild the curriculum

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For teaching staff, this term has been a turbulent one. The frequent changes to policy, provision and practice and considerations for the safety and wellbeing of children and staff has led many to feel wholly unsettled. On a daily basis, staff teams have reviewed what they’re doing, reflected what is best for their children and families, and have done incredible work in supporting each other. With their focus on caring for and educating children, many have also turned their attention to their curriculum, particularly in the light of the new Development Matters document, associated guidance, and social media discussions amongst early adopters. For those in the fortunate position of having supportive SLTs, some staff have really thrown themselves into redesigning their early years curriculum - incorporating progression grids, demonstrating how developing skills can be broken down into tiny stages, and so on.


My worry is that the freedom we have been given to design an ambitious curriculum that suits the needs of our own group of children will turn into another ticklist of targets that children will have to achieve. I’ve not come across any publications that advise teachers and practitioners to break down skills into ‘subsets’, or to write extensive documentation on a progression curriculum.


My hope is that over the course of this year, schools and settings will read the guidance and begin to make small changes; starting with a greatly reduced focus on assessment data. Everyone is busy enough just trying to cope with the pandemic with no time (or the need) to add to the workload by replacing assessment collection with progression curriculum design. Let’s focus on the current positives that are materialising and being shared on social media platforms and decide, over the next few months, how to make changes to our curricula (if indeed any changes need to be made). We don’t have to do it all now.


Here are some extracts from the Early Adopters Facebook group - a thoroughly inspiring bunch of people.

A positive of being an early adopter is:

Time with the children, less paperwork and freedom to go with the children in the moment more.

That it’s proving to be a brilliant opportunity for professional discussion!

Trusted to make judgements about children and be present in their learning without worrying about evidence.

It’s made us all start to question our processes and asking why are we doing it, is it relevant and what does it tell you!

Let’s fly with this enthusiasm, reflect, and enjoy the process of constantly improving our curriculum and pedagogy, without feeling the need to write all of it down. I always go back to the EYFS educational programmes. They tell us what we should be offering our children. Let’s not overbuild the curriculum!




By Helen Edwards

Edited by Jules

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Well said Helen! I also interpreted the revised Development Matters as a move away from ticking boxes and tight curricula. For me, it feels like the early years practitioner has been handed back the respect and trust to know their children and families, and plan experiences (and necessary support) accordingly. It will surely be re-skilling, as opposed to de-skilling; enabling practitioners to build an organic, reflexive and progressive curriculum. 

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