The New EYFS Framework: What are the changes – and choices? 

By Tiffnie Harris, ASCL Primary Specialist

What are the changes? 
The new early years foundation stage (EYFS) framework became statutory for all early years providers in England from 1 September 2021, including maintained schools, non-maintained schools, independent schools (including free schools and academies), all providers on the Early Years Register and all providers registered with an early years childminder agency.

New Early Learning Goals (ELGs), support workload reduction. The framework has introduced new educational programmes, a requirement to promote oral health and a significant focus on narrowing the gap between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged children.

Preparation for the changes
Early years settings that took part in the 2020/21 pilot might feel confident, however the ongoing effects of the pandemic possibly delayed planning for others. The statutory framework introduces the non-statutory guidance document Development Matters, but adds “As this document is non-statutory, Ofsted and inspectorates of independent schools will not have regard to it in carrying out inspections and it is up to providers to decide how they approach the curriculum.”

So, should early years settings be steered towards Development Matters? And what will happen if they don’t? 

Early Years Education: a forgotten service?
The opening section of Development Matters sets the tone for the reformed framework:

Children learn and develop more from birth to five years old than at any other time in their lives. If children are at risk of falling behind the majority, the best time to help them to catch up and keep up is in the early years. Every child can make progress, if they are given the right support.” 

Despite this indisputable introduction, the report from EPI and the National Day Nurseries Association, published in July 2021, showed that four in ten early years settings across England, Wales and Scotland were forced to close during the spring because of Covid isolation. The findings of this report reinforce the ongoing suffering subjected on this sector of education, with long-term funding inadequacy already on the list, strengthening the feeling of many early years practitioners that education for under-fives is not a government priority and certainly putting them under more pressure when it comes to ensuring the right support is unwavering. You can read ASCL’s response to this report here.

Giving every child the very best start has never been more crucial. Therefore, making the right choice for each setting is critical. 

Non-statutory choice
Whilst the new framework is statutory, leaders do not have to use the non-statutory Development Matters curriculum guidance.  That said, this document, devised by Sheringham Nursery School Headteacher Dr Julian Grenier, is the only non-statutory curriculum guidance signposted on the relevant pages.

March 2021 saw the publication of Birth to 5 Matters. Developed by the Early Years Coalition, it offers an alternative to Development Matters.

Effectively, a setting could choose to use either Birth to 5 Matters or Development Matters. And - though not advised - they could be used simultaneously, or even not used at all.  

Not a curriculum
In summary, whilst it is a legal requirement to adhere to the statutory framework for the new EYFS, there is no legal requirement at all to choose the non-statutory Development Matters over Birth to 5 Matters. Development Matters is published by government and Birth to 5 Matters published by the sector. Both have equal status, and neither should be used as a curriculum. 

Your values are key 
Your leadership values will most certainly support the choices you make for your own setting and context. Advice is to take time with your team and don’t rush ahead in planning and decision making. And do not be afraid to change your mind if you need to. 

Further support
The Department for Education Help for Early Years Providers offers practical support to help Early Years Leaders with the EYFS changes, including a section focused on what Ofsted will look for during inspections. 

Tiffnie Harris is ASCL Primary Specialist. Find out more about the EYFS reforms and join Tiffnie and Donna Gaywood, Birth to 5 Matters Project Coordinator, at their Leading On webinar The EYFS Curriculum: Getting it Right on 22 September. 
Posted: 03/09/2021 09:11:25