The Birth to Five Matters Guidance – Aarons musings
With a revised Early Years Foundation Stage becoming statutory in September 2021, the Early Years sector has got together to produce a research, sector endorsed guidance offering a pedagogical rigorous method of delivery within Early Years education and practice. This blog looks at some of the thoughts I have been having with Early Years colleagues, focusing on the reasoning behind why I want to discuss the Birth to Five Matters guidance. I think it is important for me to mention that I am not writing about which guidance you should use. It is entirely up to you. Just don’t choose on what you have heard without reading them and engaging with discussions and CPD. You must trial them out. That is the uniqueness of a Non-Statutory Guidance. Get a feel for them. Now back to my thoughts
(Early Years Coalition)
Birth to Five Matters.
Finally, the Birth to Five Matters is released. Holding this guidance in my hands is such a great moment. Thinking about the current narrative in the Early Years, this document embodies the passion, child centred pedagogy, voice of the child, inclusion and diversity, and a contemporary discourse bringing child development to the forefront of practice. It is important to mention here that the guidance is a non-statutory guidance for the Early Years Foundation Stage. So technically you can use whatever one you want to.
A non-statutory guidance is there to support all those working in early childhood education settings to help the requirements of the Statutory Framework for the EYFS. Birth to Five Matters grew out of the early years sector coalition wanting to lead a proactive role in developing guidance that would have a direct impact on the child and how the EYFS is implemented.
(Getting it Right in the Early Years Foundation Stage: A review of the evidence, 2018)
Before the Birth to Five Matters guidance was published, I think it is good to explain where the idea of an alternative guidance originated from and why we have this guidance today. A literature review of relevant research called ‘Getting it Right in the Early Years Foundation Stage: a review of the evidence’ started further discussions in the sector about what was needed and how best to achieve this. The literature review from the last ten years offered evidence which could support the changes. It was offered to the Government to support its thinking.
Soon after this the Early Years Coalition carried out a survey of 3000 early years professionals on what aspects of the EYFS should be changed, supporting the ministers stated objectives. The clear view among practitioners and the evidence from the research was that the EYFS Statutory Framework and non-statutory guidance did not need substantial reform. Despite this, the entire text of the educational programmes and early learning goals in the Statutory Framework were re-written.
I think it is important to recognise that I don’t endorse much when it comes to our sector. I might retweet or share the book I am reading now. But I felt compelled to have a voice. This is the uniqueness of the guidance, it has allowed so many of us to have a voice. Stating why I feel that the Birth to Five Matters is the document for me. For a long time, I have continued to be the voice of reason when it comes to Early Years Practice and Pedagogy. Yes, we can continue to have policy makers telling us what we need, when in fact we are the experts and know what is needed in our settings and truly engage in developmental, inclusive and differentiated pedagogy. So, I want to talk about the pedagogical emphasis of what Birth to Five Matters offers to our practice and most importantly to the children.
To be a part of the Early Years Coalition and lead on an area of the guidance ‘Inclusive Practice and Equalities’ meant so much to me as an oppressed voice within our society, but also has supported the narrative for people and children in our sector who do not have a diverse and inclusive voice to have one. Discussing anti-racism, oppression and LGBTQIA+ representation was a way to really bring contemporary issues to our practices. A progressive result in my opinion. It truly has been written by the sector for the sector. It has been a privilege and honour to work with these colleagues and see it in print. No child should be left behind. We need to be their voice, learn and reflect. That is my opinion of course.(Inclusive practice and equalities working group – Birth to Five Matters, 2021)
The guidance by the sector, for the sector is truly embodied within the document. Everyone’s voices have truly been heard. Yes, I will agree that the document may seem quite big, 127 pages to be factual, but I feel that this is the uniqueness of the non-statutory guidance. Let’s be honest here, where else are you going to get a non-statutory guidance and further continual professional development on the following:
(Children’s Progress toward of the Statutory EYFS Early Learning Goals, Birth to Five Matters, 2021)
- Child Centred Pedagogy : In a child-cantered education, the curriculum begins with the needs and interests of the child responds to the unique characteristics of childhood.
- Child Development: – For the 21st Century Child: 21st Century Children looks at the nature of modern childhood and the ways in which schools, early years settings and communities can work together to protect and guide children while still allowing them the flexibility to make their own mistakes. Child centred practices are at the forefront of this approach.
- Research informed practice:- Simply put, it’s being informedabout current research on what helps children
- Early Years Curriculum guidance and support: The early years foundation stage (EYFS) sets standards for the learning, development and care of your child from birth to 5 years old
- Early Learning Goals and have guidance to support them: The Early Learning Goals(ELGs) are the goals or targets for children to achieve at the end of their reception.
- Supports all areas of development – self regulation, health, and self-care: Self-regulation can be defined in various ways. In the most basic sense, it involves controlling one’s behaviour, emotions, and thoughts in the pursuit of long-term goals
- Strengthened the emphasis on the Characteristics of Effective Learning: characteristics of effective teaching and learning identified by are: playing and exploring – children investigate and experience things, and ‘have a go’; … creating and thinking critically – children have and develop their own ideas, make links between ideas, and develop strategies for doing things
- You don’t need to purchase anything else, it’s all free.
- The emphasis on Play is highlighted and threaded throughout: Play is the work of children. It consists of those activities performed for self-amusement that have behavioural, social, and psychomotor rewards. It is child-directed, and the rewards come from within the individual child; it is enjoyable and spontaneous.
- Continuity of Progression of learning – Development is truly child centred: As children grow older, and as their development allows, it is expected that the balance will gradually shift towards more activities led by adults, to help children prepare for more formal learning, ready for Year 1 (DfE 2017:9)
- Guidance on Assessment has moved professionals away from using a tick box approach. Just no need to do it basically.
- Inclusion and Diversity has been heightened for a true voice of the child centred approaches: At its broadest, inclusion in the early years is about practices which ensure that everyone ‘belongs’: from children and their parents, to staff and any others connected with the setting in some way.
(Inclusive practice and Equalities, Birth to Five Matters, 2021)
My own views:
I feel that the DFE are starting to narrow children’s learning experiences, slowly but surely bringing the National Curriculum down from Key Stage 1 into the Foundation Stage. The Birth to Five strengthens the view of giving children a richer view of education, one in which removes mechanistic and rote methods that are being adhered into Key Stage 1. We can continue to support children holistically with their learning rather than funnelling them to achieve targets. The EYFS is an exciting and specific phase of education. A lot of reception teachers are feeling quite isolated in the whole spectrum of working with others in the Early Years Framework and sector. Let’s change this, let’s give them the support they need to embody the guidance that they truly know and fully embody which is best for their children in their class, whichever the guidance is. It’s not the time for a top-down approach here. It is time for a bottom-up approach from child development informed professionals.
Birth to Five matters offers an exciting way to develop a curriculum which is based on what you think is important for children to be able to learn, not just using the EYFS areas of learning. What I have reflected on with the Birth to Five Matters guidance is this: –
- Developing a curriculum means really thinking about the child, responding to their needs, and allowing your pedagogy to adapt to their individual uniqueness. Birth to Five Matters has captured this, not just in the additional information but also within the Characteristics of Effective Learning.
If you believe in Play, then you will believe in Birth to Five Matters. It allows the child’s interests to be built upon. Building the foundations of Child Development and learning.
These are literally my own musings but let’s not forget why we are there in the first place, let’s not lose sight of what we are doing in our settings. It is all about the child. Giving voices to all children. I hope you enjoy reading the Birth to Five Matters Non-Statutory Guidance as much as I have enjoyed writing it and now reading it with a coalition of professionals and practitioners in the Early Years.
Thank you for reading my thoughts. Its short but to the point