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EYFS Reforms Hub

Since we first heard about the EYFS reforms, we’ve been working with our network of Early Years experts to collate a wealth of useful resources to help you get ready for September 2021. 

Page last updated 27/07/2021

Advice for our Connect Community made up of thousands of nursery leaders and pre-school practitioners.

From some of the leading Early Years Experts

EYFS Reforms - Your questions answered...

The changes to the EYFS statutory framework are being made to:

  • – improve outcomes at age 5, particularly in early language and literacy
  • – reduce workload such as unnecessary paperwork, so you can spend more time with the children in your care.

Once you have read the new EYFS Statutory Framework, you will find that not much has changed except for the need to include oral health alongside the requirement to “promote the good health of children” and, of course, the slim-lined Early Learning Goals. But ultimately it is still a framework and it’s still statutory focusing on safeguarding, welfare and partnership with parents.

The main focus, and the part most people are worried about is the teaching and learning requirements, the seven areas of learning and development and the Early Learning Goals.

Pre-reception providers do not need to use the early learning goals but you can familiarise yourself with the changes to understand the knowledge, skills and understanding that all young children should have gained by the end of the reception year. 

The changes to ELGs

The early learning goals have been changed to make them clearer and more specific. They are more focused on the main factors that support child development at age 5. The 7 areas of learning and development are:

  • – communication and language
  • – personal, social and emotional development
  • – physical development
  • – literacy
  • – mathematics
  • – understanding the world
  • – expressive arts and design

The early learning goals should not be used as a curriculum. They should be used as an assessment during the summer term of the reception year.

The Government has also republished their Development Matters non-statutory guidance with the following changes:

It’s much shorter, about two-thirds of the length of the previous version, to allow for more freedom to develop the right broad curriculum for the children you work with.

The age bands have been simplified to avoid tracking activities that do not support child development. There are now 3 age bands instead of 6:

  • – birth to 3
  • – 3 and 4-year-olds
  • – children in reception

There’s more room for professional judgement. You can make more judgments based on your knowledge and experience, instead of using the early learning goals or age bands in the framework to track children’s progress.

Another popular new non-statutory guidance has also been created by the sector – Birth to 5 Matters.

It is a legal requirement to adhere to the Statutory Framework for the EYFS, so we would advise that you familiarise yourself with all of the changes to the statutory framework here. The Government has also pulled together some guidance and practical support to help you get ready for the changes here. 

You have the freedom to create your own curriculum. After speaking to our customers, we’ve found that most settings are planning to use either Development Matters or Birth to Five Matters as guidance to help shape their approach.

Development Matters and Birth to Five Matters are both non-statutory guidance documents. There is no legal requirement to use either of these.

  • – Development Matters is non-statutory guidance published by the government.  
  • – Birth to 5 Matters is non-statutory guidance published by the sector.  

The status of the two documents is essentially the same. Both the Department for Education and Ofsted have made it clear that there is no expectation that you will refer to any particular non-statutory guidance. It is completely up to you to choose to use any guidance that you find helpful in your practice. 

You could choose to use either Birth to 5 Matters or Development Matters (2020), or use them both, or use neither. You are equally free to refer to previous EYFS guidance.

One of the aims behind the changes is to reduce workload such as unnecessary paperwork, so you can spend more time with the children in your care. So you may want to use this time to cut back on how you record and report on children’s progress. Recording of supporting evidence should be kept to a minimum and there should not be an excessive level of frequency or detail.

We suggest that you hold a staff meeting to brief your staff about the changes and discuss how they feel about the changes. You may find that some of your staff feel completely confident, but others may need a little more support, this may be a good time to discuss CPD with your teams.

Don’t feel alone in this, consider seeking advice from other members of the Connect Community group and share your experiences.

Assessment should be observing how children are doing, spotting their magic moments and sharing their stories with parents so they can learn about their child’s social, cognitive and physical and emotional development. It requires staff who are well trained in child development so that they can bring alive pedagogical insights and examples that demonstrate to parents how their children are developing and growing. That information can also be used to support planning and how we can enrich the teaching and the environment and identify how we support some children to overcome obstacles to their progress.

The whole process of assessment in the Early Years could be done with no physical evidence whatsoever – if you know your children, you know your children. So there’s no intrinsic need for evidence, it should only be collected if it serves a purpose for you as a practitioner. 

For example, if you’re wanting to share observations with other practitioners or settings and benchmark and agree about the assessments you’re carrying out, or if you’re having to assess a child in relation to SEND then you might need a record of evidence for the assessment process. It really is about what you need. 

Ofsted are very clear that they won’t be looking at data, so don’t collect it for them, and there’s no need to collect evidence purely for moderation or local authorities. You can decide what you as a practitioner find useful and what material you might need to help you see a child’s progress over time.

The Observation, Assessment and Planning cycle should be the main focus of your setting. Many settings do this by keeping learning journals. You may still recognise a need for this because partnership with parents is so important. Learning journals don’t only allow for two-way communication between nurseries and parents, but they encourage that metacognitive process where the child can revisit things they’ve done and reflect on what they’ve learned. In this way, learning journals can potentially maintain that core role that they’ve always had in the Early Years. You shouldn’t feel like you have to add something to them every day, however, if what you are putting in them is informative to parents, is helpful for the children to reflect, and is helpful for you as practitioners, then that’s a good sign that they’re still worth doing.

You need to figure out what works for you and your setting.

Don’t forget about Moments

Moments allow for practitioners to capture and upload images/notes without having to link to any of the frameworks. These can be published straight to ParentZone to keep up parental engagement. To switch on moments head to Settings > Provider Settings > Event Types and enable moments. 

Early Learning Goals

We are due to release the ELG references within iConnect. Here are some screenshots showing what you can expect this to look like. 

This is a reference section for your practitioners to view when completing an observation. When creating an observation, you will be able to click ‘more information’ and the ELG references will show. The early learning goals should not be used as a ‘framework’. They should be used to assess during the summer term of the reception year.

Development Matters Guidance

If you want to ‘stick to what you know,’ the development matters guidance is now available in iConnect as a ‘framework’. You can switch that on by heading to your iConnect framework settings: https://iconnectdaily.net/#/settings/frameworks. Here you can also amend the grading terms ’emerging, expected, exceeding’ to whatever you please.

You can reference the guidance within your Observations, and flag any statements using your own terms.

You can also reference the guidance within your Assessments with the broader age ranges.


iConnect Spotlight

We’re fully aware that some settings want to move away from the ‘grading’ approach and we are behind this movement to stop unnecessary tracking. We are therefore working on developing a new ‘add’ screen which, after a collective customer vote, will be called ‘iConnect spotlight’.

Learn how to use iConnect spotlight on the Connect Childcare Helpdesk here. 

Birth to 5 Matters Guidance

We are proud to partner with Birth to 5 Matters and we are working with the Early Years Coalition (EYC) to ensure that their guidance can be used by you within our software. We want to ensure that the integration is pedagogically sound and principled and in line with everything the EYC stands for.

You can now preview prototypes of how this guidance will be surfaced and interacted with in iConnect and there’s some Tcs and Cs which the coalition have put in place here:

  • – B-5 is a Guidance not framework.
  • – The guidance should not be used as a ticklist exercise.
  • – “To support recording of periodic “best fit” judgements… This should be at no more than three points across the year, not for constant updating over short periods of time.”
  • – “The planning focus must be on next steps for the adult, not the child…”
  • – The guidance may not be used “to present individual statements from the trajectories as ‘next steps’, specifying a progression for children’s development and learning.”

Learn how to use Birth to 5 Matters in iConnect on the Connect Childcare helpdesk here. 

Connect Childcare Helpdesk Articles

Statutory framework for the early years foundation stage (2021)

Download here

Development Matters (2020) non-statutory guidance

Download here

Birth to 5 Matters (2021) non-statutory guidance

Download here

Early years inspection handbook for Ofsted – registered provision (2021)

Download here

Help for early years providers (GOV.UK)

Find here

Are you ready to test your knowledge on the revised EYFS? 

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What to expect from Connect Childcare and when...

Development Matters and iConnect Spotlight

Development work in progress.

Helpdesk Articles – How to use spotlight with Dev Matters released here.

Released to Customers early August

In use by Customers 

Development Matters Feedback Customer Workshop and surveys on how you are finding the new approach and if you need any changes.

In use by Customers

Development Matters Phase 2 Prototypes Customer Workshop

Birth to 5 Matters Guidance

Prototypes have been developed and signed off by the Early Years Coalition.

Birth to 5 Prototype Customer Workshop recording can be viewed here.

Development Work Started.

Helpdesk Articles – How to use iConnect with Birth to 5 Matters released here.

Released to Customers at the end of August

In use by Customers

Birth to 5 Matters Feedback Customer Workshop and survey on how you are finding the new approach and if you need any changes

In use by Customers

Birth to 5 Matters Phase 2 Prototypes Customer Workshop

Webinars, Guest Blogs, and Q&As...

Counting down until September 1st


The advice and guidance shown on this page has been pulled together with the help of various Early Years experts who we will give credit to below…

Beatrice Merrick

Chief Executive at Early Education and Chair of the Early Years Coalition who developed Birth to 5 Matters. ​

Julian Grenier

Led on the revision of Development Matters for the Department for Education.

Sue Asquith

Award-winning  childhood consultant and author of Self-Regulation Skills in Young Children.


June O’Sullivan

Chief Executive of LEYF,  UK’s largest childcare charitable social enterprise wth 37 nurseries across London​.

Tamsin Grimmer

Education Consultant and former teacher, EYFS adviser, Area SENCo, Childminder, Assessor and mentor for EYPS/EYTs.

Jo Caswell

Former Her Majesty’s Inspector (HMI) and Former Senior Manager for Ofsted. BA (Hons) Early Childhood, NNEB.

David Wright

Co-owner of Paint Pots Preschool & Nursery. Speaker, writer, broadcaster and a trainer within the Early Years Sector.

Penny Cartwright

Consultant and trainer. Former Strategic Lead for the Every Child a Talker programme, School Improvement Officer, EY Advisor and EY Advisory Teacher.

We have also taken snippets directly from the GOV.UK and Birth to 5 Matters websites.

Got a burning question about the EYFS Reforms?

We’ll do our best to answer any questions you may have and if we aren’t sure, we’ll get our network of experts on it.

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