The Department of Education has published an update to ‘Development Matters’, a non-statutory curriculum guide that supports the delivery of the revised early years foundation stage (EYFS) statutory framework which comes into effect in England in September 2021.
Development Matters provides practical ideas in terms of advice and is very strong in giving a progression in what children can do and what they’re expected to achieve. It functions as a guide to support teachers and practitioners as they implement the revised framework.
The guidance revolves around some basic principles – that all children deserve to have an equal chance of success, that high-quality education is inclusive, and that we need to do more to reduce the gaps in attainment between disadvantaged and advantaged children.
The publication and its information bring important changes and clarity which strengthen the guidance provided in the document, which was first published in 2012.From a communication and language perspective, it provides valuable insight and detail about an adult’s role in how children learn to speak.
Development Matters is a practical guide for the early years practitioner clearly explaining how and when to model language and why that matters.
As this practice becomes embedded in early years settings and schools, the advice and progression presented in the document is constructed to engineer change.
Why should people read Development Matters?
Development Matters provides in many ways, the tools of the trade. It helps early years practitioners to delve deeper into why they do certain things. Why they matter, how they work, and what they can do.
It’s something that practitioners can use to accompany their planning and their delivery in the setting. It’s not a static thing; it should be part of the ongoing processes. Practitioners using Development Matters as a reference point to reflect on their practice will make a valuable impact on children’s progress.
Key take-outs from the 2021 revisions
1 – Communication and language underpins everything
The development of children’s spoken language underpins all seven areas of learning and development. Interactions and conversations form the foundations for language development.
Practitioners can build children’s language effectively by introducing and applying new vocabulary in context. Reading to children, and engaging them actively in stories can provide them with opportunities to use and embed new words.
2 – The practitioner is key to pedagogy
The skill of the practitioner is paramount and the guidance centres on the belief that any child can make progress in their learning with the right help.
Development Matters clarifies that effective pedagogy is a mix of different approaches, stating that children learn through play, by adults modelling, by observing each other, and through guided learning and direct teaching. The role of the practitioner is critical in building an effective learning and language-rich environment for the children.
3 – Working in partnership with parents
Strong and positive parental partnerships go so much further than informing and reporting. Engaging parents in a mutually supportive and productive partnership forms a central aspect of the Development Matters guidance. Development Matters stresses that it’s essential to encourage all parents to chat, play and read with their children.
4 – Stories are much more than books
The emphasis on stories is significant throughout the document. Stories and storytelling are key tools through which children will be exposed to more language and can learn to utilise a wide range of vocabulary. However, it is important to highlight here that stories are much more than books.. Reading stories to children is vital, as is making stories up, turning everyday events into stories that can be shared and retold.
By sharing stories with their peers, children grow in confidence and also in their communication abilities.
5 – Pictures Are Powerful
Picture books and pictures, in general, are referred to throughout the document. Books with just pictures and no words can especially encourage conversations. Pictures, photographs, or storybooks can all be catalysts to creativity. 6 – An emphasis on EAL and the value of vocabulary
Repetition, modelling and storytelling are so important for children who speak a different language at home.The opportunity to celebrate the home language with the child is also encouraged.
Reducing the gap
Development Matters highlights, “When they start school, children from disadvantaged backgrounds are, on average, four months behind their peers.”, and the document lists some helpful examples for how teachers can assist in reducing this gap.
The term ‘disadvantaged children’ whilst measured and reviewed in terms of social and economic disadvantage, in terms of language and communication includes all children who aren’t getting the exposure that they need to language, conversations and interaction.
Further suggestions for modelling language in the classroom or setting clarify that practitioners should be bold and ambitious with their choices of words and phrases. For example, “I’m thrilled that everyone’s on time today”, “stop shrieking, you’re hurting my ears”, “what a downpour, I’ve never heard so much rain” shows that modelled language is central to developing the children’s understanding of vocabulary.
This approach is particularly helpful for disadvantaged children. If children do not hear the range of language they need modelled outside of school, then this is how practitioners can help to fill the gaps.A practitioner’s voice is one the most powerful tools they have in their setting.
What does all this mean for early years practitioners?
Some key highlights from the document for early years practitioners from Development Matters are:
- A language-rich environment is created when activities children experience are accompanied by opportunities for speaking and listening, modelling, rehearsal, interaction and storytelling. The practitioner is pivotal for this to become an effortless, daily and consistent occurrence.
- The practitioner needs to see themselves as the facilitator that bridges the gap between children’s experiences and children’s language. – Everything that children do is a story. The practitioner can act as the skilled storyteller – the narrator, the commentator, the source of language in the setting.
How can Chatta help?
Chatta was designed to support children’s language by linking experiences with modelled language and oral rehearsal. Because Chatta can make stories out of anything, our training, software, and resources are perfectly matched to early years practice through play, exploration, language-rich environment, storytelling and modelled language. All of these lead to stronger narrative skills in children.
If you’d like to learn more about Chatta and the early years framework, book onto one of our upcoming courses.
To download the full version of Development Matters, click here