14th June 2021 Leadership & Management Early Years Foundation Stage All Posts

Feel Prepared for the EYFS

EYFS Series Part 4:

Welcome to part 4 of the EYFS Series we are running to support you with the EYFS reforms which come into play in September. In today’s article, we look back on the webinar we held last week with the wonderful Sue Asquith – all about helping you feel prepared!

Catch up on:

  • Part 1 – ‘Beatrice Merrick on using Birth to 5 Matters’
  • Part 2 – ‘A whistle-stop tour on Self-Regulation with Sue Asquith’
  • Part 3 – ‘Don’t worry about the reviewed EYFS: Make it Work For You with June O’Sullivan’

Last week we invited Sue Asquith back for a webinar to help you feel more prepared for the revised EYFS.  When we asked everyone how they were feeling at the start, one third of you were not very confident with the revisions at all and only 2% had it all figured out. By the end of the webinar, there was a 25% increase in confidence levels across the board! That’s a big step towards feeling prepared for the EYFS and fantastic to see. We’re going to breakdown the key takeaways for you here.

Main goals of revised EYFS

  • Reduce workload
  • More quality time and interactions with the children
  • Address/reduce the disadvantage gap
  • Improve outcomes at 5 years
  • Stop checking child development against Development Matters
  • Save formal steps of assessment for the children that really need our help
  • Make Early Learning Goals clearer and more aligned to Year 1 curriculum

Paperwork is no longer a focus during Ofsted inspections

Inspectors won’t ask for tracking etc. focusing more on a day in the life of a child at the setting. How are they? What is it like for a child here? 

If you’ve got a file in your office or nursery just in case Ofsted asks for it, they don’t want to see it. They might be asking you to explain:

  • Can you tell me about that child’s starting points?
  • What are their interests?
  • What are we doing to help them get to their next steps?

Those kinds of questions they’re going to be very interested in. But they’re not going to be interested in how pretty your planning is, how pretty your tracking is, how pretty your cohort tracking is, and all these graphs we’ve been pulling together for various reasons over the years. If you like them, if they’re useful to you then use them, but if they’re not, start to take this step back and ask yourself what IS useful and what isn’t useful. Some settings are doing things two or three times; they’re writing it here, then putting it online there, and then they’re sharing it somewhere else with parents. They’re doing things far too much and making it too complicated for themselves. We need to streamline it down to what works and what we need, rather than the fluffy bits we might have been doing but aren’t needed anymore.


Ofsted deem direct observation and conversation with staff and children to be the most effective way to assess children’s progress.

Whether you’re a childminder with assistance, or a childminder on your own, or you have a huge team and a nursery, or a small team and a preschool – we all need to be confident enough to speak to the inspector on the day about our key children. We need to be able to discuss their interests, fascinations, and next steps. About why you might be playing with green paint or why you’ve set out loads of dinosaurs on the floor – you need to be able to explain the reasoning behind these things. 

The EYFS might be viewed as the basis for your curriculum but consider how it can then be built upon to ensure each child gets the support and attention they need. The sky’s the limit!

You can decide to do any topic, whatever interests you, whatever in the moment stuff that’s happening. The only thing that’s stopping you is maybe resources and creative space. You’ve probably been with the children in your setting today and done something different to the next person reading this who’s from a different setting. We’ve all been following the EYFS framework, we’ve got the 7 areas of learning, and we understand about the characteristics, for example, but actually what we’ve been doing with the children would look different depending on the strengths and interests of the adults as well as picking up on the interests, ages and stages of the children. Also where you are – in the countryside, near the beach, in a town – impacts on your curriculum and what it will look like.

A tick-list approach might have helped practitioners in the past, but Ofsted are now moving away from this. Instead, they are interested to see how providers support practitioners in developing your own judgments through your own child development knowledge and CPD.

Again, we need to take a step back and have a look at this, don’t we? If you’re a childminder you’ll have in your head; what you’re confident with, what you haven’t yet learned about, what you’d like to do in terms of your Continuing Professional Development (CPD). If you’re sat there as a leader or manager of a nursery or preschool, you need to start thinking about CPD in terms of your staff – which is part of the Leadership and Management Ofsted judgement anyway. We need to think about how knowledgeable and confident our staff are in their role without using Development Matters, Birth to 5 Matters or any other guidance as this kind of tick list.

Feel Prepared for the EYFS

Revised documents

  • Statutory Framework – published March 2021

We’ve now got the published version which will be effective from the 1st of September 2021.

Find it here

  • Development Matters 2020 non statutory – published September 2020

Non-statutory DfE guidance document which looks very different to the 2012 version.

Find it here

  • Birth to 5 Matters – published March 2021

An alternative non-statutory document which is guidance by the sector for the sector.

Find it here

  • DfE Early Learning Goals support materials – published June 2021

Get ready for the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) changes in September 2021 with this guidance and practical support from the DfE.


What's everyone using?

We asked everyone in the webinar which of these (if any) you are planning to use for the EYFS framework and we found that 21% of you are going to use Development Matters, 14% are using Birth to 5 Matters, while 25% are using a combination of both. The vast majority of you (39%) are still undecided and that’s ok! Now is a good time to take a look at the new statutory framework, explore these guidance documents and decide what is going to work well for you. Many of you are also waiting to see what is made available in Connect’s software and you can preview prototypes of what that might look like here. At the moment we’re still collecting your feedback and we’ll be updating you on our developments soon…

A snapshot of Development Matters:

Communication and Language (pg 18)

Development Matters

Birth to three – babies, toddlers and young children will be learning to:

  • Identify familiar objects and properties for practitioners when they are described: for example: ‘Katie’s coat’, ‘blue car’, ‘shiny apple’.
  • Understand and act on longer sentences like ‘make teddy jump’ or ‘find your coat’. 
  • Understand simple questions about ‘who’, ‘what’ and ‘where’ (but generally not ‘why’). 

Observation Checkpoint:

  • Around the age of 2, can the child understand many more words than they can say – between 200–500 words?
  • Around the age of 2, can the child understand simple questions and instructions like: “Where’s your hat?” or “What’s the boy in the picture doing?”
  • Around the age of 3, can the child show that they understand action words by pointing to the right picture in a book. For example: “Who’s jumping?”

Important to remember:

This is not an exhaustive list for you to check their development off against Development Matters. You’ve got to use the information in your head and look at the wider picture of what child development is all about.

A snapshot of Birth to 5 Matters:

Communication and Language (pg 66)

  • This uses the Age Ranges (1-6) and then shows you the ages these correspond to where there is a lot of overlap. 
  • It shows each of the EYFS Early Learning Goals and which area of the document you can find support.
  • For example, if you’re looking at Self-Regulation under PSED, you won’t find a section called ‘Self-Regulation’ in the Birth to 5 Matters Document, you will find this under Characteristics of Effective Learning on the ‘Understanding Emotions’ pages as well as under Communication and Language on the ‘Listening and Attention’ pages.
Birth to 5 Matters

Things to remember when using these documents

These are guidance documents.

You don’t have to use either document, they are both non-statutory guidance documents. You might have your own guidance you’ve prepared for your staff to use with the EYFS framework and that’s fine too.


ELGs should not guide your curriculum.

The ELGs are your endpoint assessments at the end of the Reception class. We’re not saying that if we’re looking after babies we’re helping them with maths so that they get to the Early Learning Goal by then. Instead, we’re doing what babies need with babies, and we’re doing what two-year-olds need with two-year-olds. The ELGs at the end of Reception should not be the only things that guide our curriculum. We’ve got to consider the childrens’ interests, ages and stages.


Our curriculum is our planning.

It’s the ‘sky’s the limit’ idea where everyone is doing a similar thing because they’re following the EYFS framework, but not everyone’s day looks the same because you’re using your bespoke curriculum.


Importance of the early years workforce knowledge and professional development to inform assessment.

You don’t have to have that physical portfolio of assessments or learning journals for children, your own professional judgement is all you need to inform your assessments. But if you want to write them down, that’s absolutely fine. Reduce them down to just what’s needed and keep some tangible records.

Feel Prepared for the EYFS (1)

Your bespoke carefully sequenced curriculum: What we want children to learn - reach for the stars!

Key features of the revised Development Matters

  • The curriculum is a top-level plan of everything the early years setting wants the children to learn. For example, what interests or topics they could focus on for summer.
  • Planning to help every child to develop their language is vital. There is a massive focus on improving vocabulary, extending language and closing that word gap by helping children with their communication and language.
  • The curriculum needs to be ambitious. Careful sequencing will help children to build their learning over time. This is where the ‘Implementation’ comes in and we consider what we need to do in order to achieve what we want to achieve with the children. What activities can we do with the children if we want them to learn about summer for example – could we take them to the beach or could we grow sunflowers?
  • Young children’s learning is often driven by their interests. Plans need to be flexible. Remember: it’s a plan, not a promise! You will need to involve children’s interests in your plans and weave them into whatever you are doing. 
  • Babies and young children do not develop in a fixed way. Their development is like a spider’s web with many strands, not a straight line. This is why we’re not using the documents as tick lists because we know children can be doing something here and then all of a sudden they leap to doing something there and then they might go back on a few things but not everything – each child has their own unique web. 
  • Depth in early learning is much more important than covering lots of things in a superficial way.

Intent, Implementation, Impact

These 3 i’s are used by some of you in your daily planning and during your Ofsted inspections which is great. We really need to get everybody au fait and confident with using these 3 i’s for reflection. If you’re using them all the time – in your daily practice or in your planning – we’re not going to be on the backfoot if an Ofsted inspector uses these words. 


  • This was the intent…
  • This is how it was implemented…
  • And you can see the impact at the end where the children…

Consider cultural capital

Ofsted talk about cultural capital as the essential knowledge that children need to prepare them for their future success. It is about giving children the best possible start to their early education. As part of making a judgement about the quality of education, inspectors will consider how well leaders use the curriculum to enhance the experience and opportunities available to children, particularly the most disadvantaged. 

Some children arrive at an early years settings with different experiences from others, in their learning and play. What a setting does, through its EYFS curriculum and interactions with practitioners, potentially makes all the difference for children. It is the role of the setting to help children experience the awe and wonder of the world in which they live, through the 7 Areas of learning. 

Consider the impact of the pandemic in settling down babies who were born during the pandemic and might not have been to a toddler group or a soft play centre. They might have been restricted to living in a social bubble with just their parent(s) and not had the luxury of going to grandparents. Be particularly mindful of children with SEND where maybe the external people they’ve relied on for extra support have not been available due to shielding. This is where the impact of the pandemic might have hit on their cultural capital. Ofsted are going to be interested (when restrictions allow) in how we’re going to try to build this knowledge and these experiences that children might have missed in the last year or so.

Feel Prepared for the EYFS

How much paperwork?

Intent, Implementation, Impact

Have you started to reduce paperwork, do you think that you do too much or have you got it down to a fine art now where it’s just right? Whilst you might have everything you need to know stored in your head, consider instances where you aren’t available and an agency worker needs to fill in for you, how are you going to quickly convey what’s in your head to them? It’s probably a bold move to get rid of all paperwork completely, but we definitely need to know why we’re doing it and only do what’s useful. If you’ve got staff, it’s important to involve them in these decisions and ask them what they need in their role so that everyone is feeling confident, happy and on the same page – so to speak! 

Saving formal assessment for the children that need it the most 

You do not need to do an assessment of every photograph or every observation. Before you even do an observation, think: “Is it going to be useful or have I already got evidence of this?” Some of us are so accustomed to churning these observations out we might need to break the habit.

Progress check, Reception Baseline Assessment (RBA) and EYFSP 

These are the only statutory assessments. The ones that we do over and above are entirely up to us. 

You are always observing, on the hoof or in the moment. Think about how you respond and extend – does it all need recording? 

We’re intuitively reacting and responding to situations where a child has started doing something like matching blocks together and we’ll go and put another activity down such as a puzzle. We can see they are interested and this will extend them. We’re doing this all the time and it doesn’t all need recording. 

Sharing information with parents and carers

During a child’s day at nursery and when they leave, their parents and carers will be really interested to see what they’ve been doing, discovering and learning. Sharing this journey with them is still so important for the child’s development at nursery and at home.

“For example, if a child becomes interested in lining things up in the nursery then this could indicate an interest in number or positioning. To share this information with parents enables them to offer something similar in the home environment which will further the child’s development and learning.” (Working in partnership with parents and carers, GOV.UK)

You don’t have to formally write them all down if you don’t want to, but then you must be able to talk about it and share this information verbally with them. It’s up to you how you enable this two-way communication.

Next up…

We get some thoughts on pedagogy and curriculum from Paint Pots Preschool and Nursery Owner, David Wright and hold a Q&A on how to implement the EYFS reforms with Penny Cartwright – stay tuned!

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Marketing Lead at Connect Childcare