Friday 23 July 2021

Changes to Development Matters

I'm writing a quick, personal note to frontline early years practitioners to explain the changes to Development Matters.

Throughout the year, Early Adopters have given feedback about how the document is working for them. Part of the reason for having an Early Adopter year was to provide some further testing and learning about the new document. 

I've written a summary of the changes [PDF]. 

  • The new guidance has almost exactly the same word-count as the early adopter 2020 version. It’s got more pages because of the redesign.
  • Prime and Specific areas of learning: there is one change to ‘children will be learning to’ in mathematics. Curriculum and other plans which are already in place will need only very minor changes to stay in line with the guidance. The maths change is on page 97: ‘Automatically recall number bonds for numbers 0–5 and some to 10.’ Previously, it stated ‘Automatically recall number bonds for numbers 0–10.’ 
  • Characteristics of Effective Learning: 2 items in ‘children will be learning to’ have been deleted. That’s allowed some of the examples to be expanded, to improve clarity. There are also some changes which reflect expert advice, based on the most recent research. 
  • There are 16 changes to ‘examples of how to support this’ in the Prime and Specific Areas – these changes are mostly to make the exemplification clearer
  • Four items have moved from Physical Development to Personal, Social and Emotional Development – this brings the organisation of the guidance into line with the organisation of the Early Learning Goals. Two items have been merged together, and the examples have been merged together too. The content is the same. 
  • The introduction has mostly been rewritten. It makes the rationale behind the new (2021) Early Years Foundation Stage clearer, and how Development Matters supports implementation of the new Statutory Framework.
  • Self-regulation and executive function: 6 of the bullet points are different, to improve clarity and accuracy. 

Early Adopters and others suggested the following minor changes to the document:

  1. Some practitioners felt that the 'look and feel' of the document were too plain and unfriendly. Acting on this feedback, the DFE commissioned a redesign of the document. This maintains its readability and accessibility but improves the appearance. 
  2. Some experts in early years suggested some minor changes to the Characteristics of Effective Teaching and Learning, to reflect the latest research. 
  3. Many practitioners said that they wished there was consistency about which area of learning personal hygiene and care was in. It was in Physical Development in Development Matters (as in the previous document from 2012) but the Early Learning Goals placed it in Personal, Social and Emotional Learning. So, it's been moved now to PSED in Development Matters. 
  4. Some examples needed clearer or improved wording.
The length of the document remains almost exactly the same. You can still read it from start to finish in around 90 minutes. 

No-one will need to review their plans for September 2021 - the substance of the curriculum guidance in the 3 prime and 4 specific areas of learning is unchanged. The changes relate to examples, the characteristics of effective teaching and learning, and the introduction. 

On personal and professional note, I'd like to add that this has been a very difficult year for all of us working with children and families in the early years. Changes of any kind, at this time of the year, aren't welcome - whether you are a PVI setting keeping going through a difficult summer, or a school that's on holiday, or a childminder without colleagues immediately at hand to discuss things with. 

I absolutely relate to how tired practitioners are feeling. 

I also know that the team at the DFE worked extremely hard to get these changes finalised and made public as quickly as possible. 

The only reason I've written this short blog is to reassure people that there are no big changes to deal with. 

PS: You can download my book about the revised Early Years Foundation Stage free at

I'm delighted to say that it's a finalist for the 2021 Nursery World Awards - is this the first time that a free publication has been shortlisted?


  1. Really helpful overview and explanation- Thank you. Congratulations for being a finalist in the Nursery World Awards. Vic

  2. Thank you. This is really helpful. Have a lovely summer and well done on being shortlisted. Becky

  3. I have already purchased your book a while ago so will I have to purchase it again now you’ve updated it due to the changes. I prefer a paper copy instead of a download

    1. Hi Nicki -I summarised the changes on that document and also made the book available as a free PDF to save people needing to buy another copy. The changes are minor so I wouldn’t spend money on a new copy of the book if I were you.

    2. Julian am I able to share this and the PDF and the book link with rarely years providers.. This will be brilliant if I can and acknowledge yourself