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Birth to 5 Matters: 2021 Non-statutory guidance for the Early Years Foundation Stage

Birth to 5 Matters is guidance produced by the sector, for the sector, to support the introduction of the revised Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage in England in 2021.

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Birth to 5 Matters has been developed by the Early Years Coalition, composed of the 16 early years sector organisations whose logos appear on the inside cover of this document. We came together because we wanted to create a resource which pooled our members’ considerable expertise and experience and kept alive multiple possibilities for the future of early childhood education. The document is intended to work with members’ many values, principles and aspirations.

As a coalition we encompass a range of early years traditions and approaches and reflect the diversity of experiences and views of our members. We hope this guidance does justice to the collaborations and rich discussions that took place as part of its development. We have sought to reach points of consensus and support diversity of practice and interpretation. This guidance is a reference point for practitioners developing their practice, not a “how to” manual or a tick-list. We want Birth to 5 Matters to support practitioners to implement the Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) in a pedagogically sound, principled and evidence-based way. Practitioners can then use their professional judgement based on their knowledge of the children in their setting and their wider context including family, community and the setting itself to construct an appropriate curriculum.

We also want to support practitioners to develop their curriculum and pedagogy to reflect contemporary issues such as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Black Lives Matter, ensuring sustainable development and growing up in a digital age. We believe equity, citizenship and rights education should be clearly reflected in the implementation of the EYFS curriculum and its pedagogic approach to listen to children’s voices on these and other issues from as early an age as possible. Children entering the early years now will need the much discussed “twenty-first century skills” and will grow up in the context of the “fourth industrial revolution” where digital skills are central. They may live to see further changes we cannot yet imagine. Practitioners need to take account of this wider, ever-changing context in early childhood education.

One of the challenges has been creating a document which will be of value to a diverse audience. The early years workforce in England ranges from unqualified staff and volunteers to experienced professionals with qualifications up to and including doctorates. Our aim has been to provide a resource which is accessible across the range of staff to build an understanding of how children typically develop and learn from birth up to the end of the Reception year (aged anywhere up to 71 months), thus ensuring high standards of care and education are achieved. The guidance looks at the unique child in a range of situations and contexts and seeks to provide examples of how the adults and the environment can support and enhance development and learning. These are examples, not a prescriptive list. The trajectories and suggestions for practice may be most useful to trainees and less experienced staff. More experienced colleagues may wish to engage more in depth with the resources and research evidence which underpins the guidance (these are accessible via the online version at www.birthto5matters.org.uk). We hope the mixture of the two provides an accessible starting point as well as opportunities for extending knowledge and understanding for all. In creating this guidance, we were to some extent constrained by the format of the EYFS and the need for practitioners to be able to map from one to the other. In our preliminary sector consultation, we had a majority favouring a cautious evolution whilst still wanting to maintain the framework of Development Matters (2012). Therefore, this document builds on, and links to, what has come before. It was co-constructed with the sector through sector surveys and working groups including a wide representation of practitioners, setting types, sector organisations and sources of expertise (see Acknowledgements), and feedback was shared with the sector as we progressed. We also sought out and considered the views of young children, through a survey and literature review. We thank all those who contributed to these processes. We look forward to future dialogues within the sector that build on this guidance as part of continuing professional development and professional reflection, and the continued sharing of professional knowledge and experience.

Early Years Coalition, March 2021
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