Q&A: The New EYFS Framework

Following on from our webinar exploring the recent EYFS changes,  Fliss James (EYFS teacher from Sheringham Nursery School and Evidence Lead at East London Research School) along with our very own specialists explained the answers to some of the frequently asked questions:

Is it true that the EYFS statutory curriculum has changed? 

The Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage (2017) has been revised and updated.  Some schools, known as Early Adopter schools, have been trialling the reforms during the past year and a version was published specifically for them to use. This has been consulted on, and the final version was published on 31st March 2021. This new EYFS statutory framework must be implemented by all schools from September 2021.

Why make more changes when it was only updated a few years ago?

According to the DfE, the aims of the EYFS reforms are to improve outcomes for children; strengthen their language development, particularly for children from disadvantaged backgrounds; and reduce workloads so that practitioners can spend more time with the children, supporting their learning. 

Has mathematics changed? If so, how? 

The headings for the seven areas remain the same, known collectively as the ‘Educational Programmes’, and they are still divided into Prime and specific areas, but the content has changed significantly.

Within the Early Years Mathematics curriculum, there are two ELGs. The main changes are that this area now strongly focuses on the importance of embedding a deep understanding of number to 10, including the patterns and relationships between these numbers and developing spatial reasoning skills. Children should be encouraged to develop a positive attitude to and interest in maths, not being afraid to make mistakes. The aim of the mathematics changes is to improve the numeracy outcomes for children starting Year 1. 

It says I need to teach children to subitise. What does this mean? 

Subitising is a remarkable skill that young children develop from a very early age.  It is the ability to look at a small number of objects and instantly recognise how many objects are in the group without the need to actually count them. Generally our brains can only easily subitise numbers up  to five – this is called perceptual subitising. 

What is the difference between the new Development Matters (2020) and Birth to 5 Matters guidance. Are we meant to use both?

The Government commissioned Dr Julian Grenier to update Development Matters 2012, to bring it in line with the new EYFS, reflect up to date research, and create a document that moved away from the existing tick list practices. Development Matters 2020 provides curriculum guidance to support the implementation of the new EYFS statutory curriculum including a top-level view of how children develop and learn, with charts depicting typical child development pathways divided into three broad age bands: 0-3 years; 3-4 years; and reception. It also provides clear explanations of ‘The Seven Features of Effective Practice. In the three Prime Areas there are ‘observation checkpoints’ that can be used to assess if children are on track and developing as expected.  The ELGs have been removed from the Development Matters materials to avoid practitioners feeling the top down pressure and anxiety that may be felt around the Early Learning goals driving the curriculum. Julian Grenier has also written the book Principles into Practice, that can be downloaded as a free PDF which summarises the underpinning knowledge and research evidence behind Development Matters.  

Birth to 5 Matters was created by the Early Years Coalition (a group of major Early Years sector organisations), to provide an alternative guide. Contributors include Nancy Stewart and Helen Moylett, co-authors of Development Matters 2012. The Birth to 5 Matters guide is very comprehensive, with detailed information on child development and Early Years practice, including understanding self-regulation, attachment and developing high-quality provision. Each area helps practitioners to understand development of the various strands of mathematical knowledge as they interweave in children’s growing understanding, the strands have been identified within the guidance.  There is attention to space, shape and measure, which have been left out of the ELGs, but appear in the statutory Educational Programme for Mathematics.

Both documents are non-statutory. DfE and Ofsted have made it clear that there is no expectation that practitioners should refer to any particular non-statutory guidance. It is completely up to you to choose to use either, both or neither of these, or any other guidance that you find helpful in your practice.

When reading both examples of non-statutory guidance I can see that there is a greater focus on mathematical subject knowledge – for example I see phrases such as ‘the principles for counting’. Where can I go to improve my understanding of early maths development? 

The Yorkshire Ridings Maths Hub provides FREE professional development workgroups that can help to further develop your understanding of mathematics within the Early Years.  The programme is designed for individuals who would like to develop their specialist knowledge for teaching maths to three to five years olds.  

How do we help and support children with dyscalculia with the new changes for Early Years? 

 “Dyscalculia: a condition that affects the ability to acquire arithmetical skills. Dyscalculic learners may have difficulty understanding simple number concepts, lack an intuitive grasp of numbers,. and have problems learning number facts and procedures. Even if they produce a correct answer or use a correct method, they may do so mechanically and without confidence” (Department for Education and Science, 2001).

The changes to the mathematics curriculum will certainly help support children who can find it difficult to acquire arithmetical skills.  The focus on developing real numbersense through the importance of embedding a deep understanding of number to 10 using a range of  multi-sensory approaches will really help support all children.  The checkpoints within the Development Matters materials or strands of mathematical knowledge within the Birth to Five materials will help practitioners plan to meet the needs of all young mathematicians.