The future of the Early Years Curriculum: Your guidance. Your curriculum. Your choice


On Monday 22nd February- it wasn’t only Boris Johnson that was busy setting out a road map.  Keeping Early Years Unique, a member of the Early Years Coalition also addressed the nation (and beyond)! It was our sold out Birth to Five Matters event.  With a whole range of speakers including project lead Nancy Stewart followed by the Early Years equivalent of the best ever early childhood speed date with Dr Julie Fisher, Dr Mine Conkbayir, Shaddai Tembo and Dr Nathan Archer (and many others) representing their working groups and sharing their work- it really was a very special event. And so far has been watched 5,000 times!


Luckily we not only had amazing speakers but phenomenal hosts too! James Butler, Ruth Moore, Dr Sue Allingham and the NEU’s Gawain Little- had questions and comments coming in thick and fast on both Zoom and Facebook live. 


The feeling amongst the audience and speakers was one of empowerment, positivity, collaboration, ownership, democracy, change, respect, excitement and overwhelming positivity after some of the darkest days our sector has seen!

“Thank you, all so much I cannot wait to speak to my team about this and roll is out, what makes this so special is the feeling of love and engagement to come together and provide something that we all believe in and especially is reflective of the children’s needs!”                                                                                                                                    “The democratic evolution of B25M is quite something! It’s so ethical, representative & responsive.”                                                                                                                                                                                                “I couldn't wait to watch this today and I wasn't disappointed. After a hard year in the world of EYFS. It’s great to feel excited about something again. Thank you everyone”                                                                                                                                                                     “Really brilliant, thanks so much everyone for such powerful work. What a difference to our children this will make.”                                                                                                                                                            “As an SEND nursery manager this is what I do. It’s so heartening to see inclusion running through guidance instead of being a separate chapter to the guidance”                                                                                                                                                                                                “Delightful! This document is so empowering; it really is going to support so many keen educators to develop a wealth of knowledge and ultimately give our children the quality that they deserve! Thank you! This is a joy!”                                                                                                                                                                                                                      “A focus on children's agency shines through so much in Birth to Five matters, and delighted to see funds of knowledge finally appearing in an English EYs doc”

However within the comments and questions- there were still some misunderstandings and myths doing the rounds! So in the style of OFSTED- it is time for a bit of good old fashioned myth busting!



How does Birth to 5 Matters link to the EYFS?

Nancy explained this very well.  The EYFS framework is STATUTORY- it’s what we have to do.  It is the bones- it spells out things like the areas of learning and development, assessment as well as the safeguarding and welfare requirements.  The DFE are currently seeking your views- I would urge you to get involved as the Baseline test has somehow wormed its way into the framework whilst the fantastic OFSTED teaching definition has sadly been removed. Have your say here.


So if the EYFS statutory framework is the bare bones- we need much more to bring our provision to life and that is where Birth to 5 Matters comes in.



But don’t we have to use the new Development Matters 2020?

In a word. No. Whilst the government provide a statutory framework for the EYFS there is no statutory guidance in terms of curriculum.  The curriculum you build and offer for your children is your choice, your responsibility. The government do not stipulate a set curriculum; despite the confusion caused by a proposed paragraph about Development Matters 2020 in the latest EYFS proposals (again please get involved in the discussion).


The Development Matters guidance in any form- has never been a statutory document. Most of us have chosen to use it because we know it, it is well loved and respected - and up until now there hasn’t been anything else as easily accessible in England.


So back to putting the meat on the EYFS bones? Well there’s now more than one dish on the menu! (Apologies to any vegetarian or vegan readers!)


Just as Development Matters 2012 (the one most of us are using now) and the new 2020 document are non statutory- so is Birth to 5 matters. It has the same status. It’s non-statutory guidance. It’s a valuable and informative resource - another tool in your box!


To clarify: You may choose to use Development Matters 2020, or to stick with Development Matters 2012, or to use Birth to Five Matters- or use something completely different!  It is YOUR decision.  




Won’t OFSTED expect me to use Development Matters 2020?

OFSTED will not comment on the guidance you use to shape your curriculum. If any inspector were to do this- it would need to be challenged- this is NOT their remit. OFSTED will talk to you about your curriculum and why you have made the decisions about it that you have.  They will want to talk to you about your children, their learning and progress and how you support them. You will be expected to be able to talk confidently about your children’s learning and really know your children.



So which document is better? Which one should I use?

This is something only you and your team can decide. Both documents have supporting the learning and development of young children at the heart.



What should I do next?

Take some time to look at what’s out there as we approach the roll out of EYFS reforms from September 2021. Think carefully about what you want for your children. Read. Pause and reflect. Which documents and approaches within fit with your values, beliefs and the unique, wonderful children you care for. Which documents will help you build a curriculum that gives children what you want them to have holistically and will also support you to improve your practice?



How can I get involved?

Development Matters 2020 is already published and has been used by schools who have taken on the reforms already as Early Adopters. Birth to Five Matters is currently in phase 2 of its consultation (closing on Friday 26th February)- the Early Years coalition are seeking your views so that the document can be shaped and grow in light of the sectors response. This really is a document #bythesectorforthesector  Birth to Five Matters  will be released in its final form on 31st March 2021 as a document and an online resource.




This a pivotal moment for us as a sector. A moment to feel empowered and do what we know is right for children. Only YOU in your setting, with YOUR colleagues, YOUR children and their families- can know what that is, what it looks like and feels like. So take the opportunities we have, look at what is out there to support you, get involved, join the discussion and do something truly transformational! 


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  • Anita (Sunday, March 21 21 08:56 am GMT)

    Can we incorporate simple makaton as into practice so the whole school will understand and use basic makaton which will help children a great deal

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