The recent publication of the ‘Early Years Outcomes’ document has led to confusion as to whether ‘Development Matters’ has been replaced or removed.
‘Early Years Outcomes’ (a truncated version of ‘Development Matters’) was published in September by the DfE, full title ‘Early years outcomes: A non-statutory guide for practitioners and inspectors to help inform understanding of child development through the early years’. Many Early Years practitioners and schools will not yet be aware of its existence.
There is confirmation that the original document’s status as non-statutory guidance has not changed, and it remains highly valued by the DfE and the sector. The confusion has been compounded, however, thanks to an erroneous statement in Ofsted’s September 2013 Subsidiary Guidance that changes are being made to ‘Development Matters’. Ofsted has confirmed that their document will be corrected shortly to remove this reference.
Although the source of the material is not quoted, ‘Early Years Outcomes’ is in effect an extract from ‘Development Matters’: the column ‘A Unique Child: observing how a child is learning’. By removing the ‘Positive Relationships’ and ‘Enabling Environment’ sections which draw attention to the adult role in children’s development, as well as omitting the new characteristics of effective learning, this shortened document fails to meet its stated purpose of ‘supporting an understanding of child development’.
As Early Years practitioners and leaders are very much aware, development doesn’t just happen. Children develop and learn in interaction and emotional engagement with children, with adults and with their home and learning environments. Development is not a set of outcomes on which to make judgements about children.
Leaving out the characteristics of effective learning (presumably because they cannot be quantified) sidelines the importance of knowing how children learn and the most effective ways of continually supporting them to
become strong, motivated and independent learners. This is one of the most crucial aspects of child development and of the practitioners’ role and it is therefore a distressing and incomprehensible omission.
It is further compounded by leaving out the key point from S1.10 of the EYFS statutory framework which requires practitioners to reflect on how children learn and what to do to help them learn better and deepen their engagement in learning. ‘Early Years Outcomes’ ignores the well-established fact that the development of children as learners depends upon an effective focus on their well-being and ability to thrive.
As the new ‘Early Years Outcomes’ document has the same status as ‘Development Matters’, practitioners can continue to use the full document rather than just this extract. We sincerely hope Ofsted inspectors will choose to do the same.