The new Development Matters: 7 features of effective practice
1. The best for every child
“All children deserve to have an equal chance of success.” Dr Julian Grenier highlights the fact that children from disadvantaged backgrounds are, on average, 4 months behind their peers when they start school. A high-quality early education should take into consideration what you know about your children and build upon their knowledge and experiences, or in some cases, the lack thereof. Practitioners should work towards identifying and plugging any gaps in children’s learning and provide opportunities for children to have important life experiences. Children who have special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) should be identified quickly so they can receive the additional support they need to progress.
2. High-quality care
Creating a loving, caring environment will enable children to thrive at your setting. This high-quality care needs to be consistent whereby practitioners are responsive to children and babies thus building confidence and important social skills. “The child’s experience must always be central to the thinking of every practitioner” and early years professionals need to enjoy spending time with young children. Children should be encouraged to be independent so they are better prepared to take on the next steps in their learning, for instance, starting school.
3. The curriculum: what we want children to learn
Throughout the new Development Matters, Grenier suggests that children’s language development is vital and methods to promote this (such as role play, story telling, conversation etc) should be embedded in all activities. Practitioners need to have a clear idea of what children need to learn next and the curriculum should to provide children with a level of challenge. In a child’s early years, the depth of their learning is much more important than covering lots of things in a superficial way.
4. Pedagogy: helping children to learn
Even if we prefer one method of teaching over another, Grenier states that effective pedagogy is a mix of different approaches. “Children learn through play, by adults modelling, by observing each other, and through guided learning and direct teaching.” Your setting should be set up in a way that encourages children to be independent learners by stimulating their interests and having the time and space to invent their own play. As a child grows older more guided learning and direct teaching is needed to teach new skills alongside their independent play.
5. Assessment: checking what children have learnt
Grenier highlights the importance of practitioners having an understanding of child development and this has led to the assumption that there is now a greater emphasis on more regular training and CPD. “Assessment is about noticing what children can do and what they know” and it plays an important role in highlighting whether a child has an education need and needs extra help. What can be taken from Grenier’s statements is that assessments and observations should be a useful, informative tool that help you to plan for the next stages of learning rather than an evidence gathering exercise.
6. Self-regulation and executive function
Our executive function is a set of mental skills that include working memory, flexible thinking and self-control. We use these skills every day to learn, work and manage daily life. Grenier states that “these abilities contribute to the child’s growing ability to self-regulate: focus their thinking, monitor what they are doing and adapt, regulate strong feelings, be patient for what they want, bounce back when things get difficult”. This self-regulations and resilience relies on effective language development, enabling children to guide their actions and focus their thinking so they are able to plan ahead.
7. Partnership with parents
This has long been a strong theme running through early education. Parent-child relationships and children’s home experiences account for so much of a child’s early development. It makes sense that practitioners should work collaboratively with parents and generate a strong and respectful partnership. Grenier highlights that “the help that parents give their children at home has a very significant impact on their learning” and it is imperative that early years professionals recognise those children getting less support at home than others. Settings should be encouraging all parents to chat, play and read with their children and by knowing families well, extra help can be offered to those who need it most.