Development does NOT Matter for the children of England
It's finally happened...the nail in the coffin of shifting Reception into primary schooling and the dream of many to see school starting age increase to 7 being reduced to the age of 4. With the release of the revised EYFS in July and the revised Development Matters in September, it is very clear that the Governments long term aim is to have our youngest children start formal schooling at 4 years old.
Now let me explain why I think like this. I work in the private sector with children aged 0-4 years old. More with children aged 2-4 years old now. I have always been aware of the ELG's but have never really used them as the children in my care leave me before that as theses measures are for children at the end of the EYFS, 60 months old. These are children that are in Reception. Using the original Development matters (which I need to point out I thought was statutory, although it says clearly on the document its not) over the years, my various staff and I have proudly been ensuring that children in our care are given the highest quality of care and education as possible and that we are able to use early intervention to ensure any issues are picked up as early as possible, the old saying, prevention is better then cure.
However, when the EYFS, released in July, I realised that we are not all in the one sector. It may say EYFS is 0-5 years but it is not at all. And with the release of the Development matters, this has confirmed my suspicion. I don't think I have been so angry or disappointed with any document in my life! Clumping together the most important years of children's lives 0-3 or 0-36 months as we have come to know it has shown lack of respect or importance for those years. Children do so much in those years and these are the years that start showing if there are any issues that need further exploring. Removing the sub headings under each section, eg, CLL - Speaking, Listening and attention and understanding was not a good move at all. There is no way that practitioners will be able to start focussing on which area is a child struggling with and which area should be focussed on more. There just is not enough guidance.
The layout is very poor. Whilst the original DM was laid out beautifully in landscape with the age bands, boxing, colours and photos, using the 3 headings A unique child,Positive relationships and an enabling environment to help practitioners ensure they are able to assess and plan children's development, this document looks like it has been thrown together at the drop of a hat. I would understand if the Government were distributing hard copies and were saving on printing costs! That went years ago and we have to print everything off ourselves so I have no idea what the rationale behind this was.
I am still not clear why the DM was revised. I do not buy the reasoning that it was to save practitioners time as they had too much paperwork. The DM did not cause the paperwork. It was leaders and managers and alternate documentation such as safeguarding documents that created more paperwork. There should have been investment in helping practitioners understand how to observe children properly and write these observations up without reams and reams of paperwork. Again, this falls to leaders and Managers in how they support practitioners and the main thing that is needed is investment in the early years. Both in training and skills. Not quick fixes like this that actually imply that the workforce need documents suitable for 13/14 yr olds! Really goes a long way to try and make the profession respected and see how the powers to be view the people working with the youngest and most vulnerable in society!
I could go on and on comparing the two documents and clearly pointing out the differences, but having read the revised DM, I actually do not feel it is worth doing the analysis. I really thought revisions of documents meant improving them in some way or another. I have been proved wrong. I am not a professor or a researcher or an expert. I am a practitioner turned leader/Manager , an Early Years Teacher that works with the children day in and day out and see what challenges my staff face on a daily basis.
I am going to end on saying this, those of us that have used the ORIGINAL DM, will not have an issue because we can adapt to anything as we have the base knowledge from having used the DM for years and years and other very good documents before then. I worry for the new work force that are coming through. As my children would call it, this "BTEC" DM does not give any help or insight into what practitioners should be looking for at each stage and age of a child's life. There are going to be all sorts of issues and problems. However, the only grace in all this is that its not statutory, I don't have to use it and I will not be using it and I will be advising other people not to use it. My staff and I will continue to use the original DM.