Under 5 May 2021

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Under 5 the magazine of the early years alliance


May 2021

ud Pie a Mini M Baking and Kitchen th Set wor m £100 fro t c e Cosy Dir

Star light, star bright

Exploring space in your setting

Ready for Ofsted? The return of inspections

A right to play

Reclaiming children’s play

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contents 4




Welcome to Under 5

All the latest news, research and policy updates from the early years sector

This issue arrives at a busy and exciting time for both the early years sector and the Alliance. In just a few short months, practitioners will be putting the new Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Framework into practice. To help you get ready we’ve got a summary of what is changing (page 18), an FAQ on the new Birth to 5 Matters guidance (page 30) and an update on some of the new resources the Alliance has produced to help you prepare (page 28). The month of May will also see Ofsted begin routine early years inspections again, after a long break during the pandemic. They’ve got a few new rules in place to help keep providers and inspectors safe – we’ve heard from deputy director Gill Jones about how they will be proceeding (page 22). After many months of restrictions on playgrounds, parks and groups, the Alliance has decided to put the focus back on play in June with our National Week of Play. You can find out more about why we’ve decided to prioritise play this issue – and how you can sign up to join in (page 16). We’ve also got our Alliance Annual Conference taking place in just a few weeks’ time – on the NEW date of 15 June 2021. There are now more details, including the full conference line-up (page 13). This issue also includes the story of inspirational practitioner Helena Meineck, manager at All Saints Pre-school in Devon, who won the first Famly Children’s Champion award last month (page 20). We’ve also heard how one Alliance Service Hub team has been supporting troubled families in the pandemic (page 11). As always, we love to hear your inspirational stories, so please do keep sharing your updates for our My Under 5 pages. You can get in touch at editor. u5@eyalliance.org.uk.


My Under 5


Supporting families in lockdown

Alliance members share good news and updates from their settings

How one Alliance team has been supporting troubled families through this difficult time


We are educators


Avoiding common reference pitfalls


Reclaiming the right to play


Are you ready for the new EYFS?


Getting ready for the Alliance Annual Conference on 15 June

A legal guide to writing and requesting references

Why we’re hosting a National Week of Play

A quick refresher on what’s changing ahead of September 2021

20 Meet the children’s champion

The inspirational story of the 2021 Famly Children’s Champion

22 Getting ready for the return of inspections

A word from Ofsted deputy director Gill Jones ahead of inspections restarting on 4 May


24 Star light, star bright

Exploring the theme of space for National Astronomy Day

27 From milk to food and beyond!

Helping parents avoid the pitfalls of weaning

28 Exploring the EYFS

A guide to the latest Alliance resources helping practitioners get ready for the new EYFS

30 What is Birth to 5 Matters?

Answering your questions on the new guidance

32 Supporting self-isolating families

An update on payments for parents and children who need to self-isolate


Rachel Lawler, editor

33 Competition




in brief...

HAIR DISCRIMINATION: ICP Nurseries has adopted the Halo Code, which protects employees with natural and protective Afro hairstyles from discrimination in the workplace.

Alliance calls for urgent funding review

round-up Early years inspections to resume from 4 May Graded Ofsted inspections for early years providers will resume on 4 May 2021, according to the latest update from the regulator. Ofsted says that all inspections will be completed on site after this date, following “field work” to ensure that they can be carried out safely. Inspectors will take a lateral flow test before arriving at a setting for inspection and interactions with parents and practitioners will be socially distanced where possible. Some elements may be undertaken via videocall where necessary. Ofsted says this will only usually be used for speaking to parents/carers or leaders who are unable to attend the setting. Providers who are experiencing active cases of Covid-19 at the time of inspection will be able to request a deferral. Ofsted says it will continue to carry out urgent inspections where there are




significant concerns about a provider. Ofsted said: “We know that returning to full graded inspections is the right thing to do for early years providers. We have listened to those who have told us that they want a graded judgement, and we understand that some inspections are now overdue. “Providers have told us that resuming routine inspections under the EIF is preferable as soon as it is safe to do so. We know that providers prefer to receive a graded overall effectiveness (OE) judgement following inspection and that providers use the OE judgements that we provide to give reassurance to parents, stimulate their business and support access to funding from local authorities.” See page 22 for an FAQ on the return to inspections.

The Alliance has called on the government to undertake an urgent review of early years funding in England, following the results of a new survey conducted by All Party Parliamentary Group on Childcare and Early Education, which revealed that just one in 10 parents believes that nurseries and childminders are properly funded. The survey of more than 1,300 parents, which was carried out in January, also found that 91% of respondents agreed that early years professionals should be paid on a similar scale to school teachers. Only 12% of parents surveyed believed that the current offer was financially sustainable for the early years sector, with 65% agreeing that it was not enough to sustain settings and professionals, placing early years providers under threat. Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, commented: “While there is no doubt that the Covid-19 crisis has had a hugely detrimental impact on the early years sector, many of the financial difficulties that nurseries, pre-schools and childminders are currently facing existed long before the pandemic. “We in the sector have long argued that these challenges are a direct result of sustained government underfunding, and as these results show, parents are well aware of this too, with the vast majority recognising that the government’s support for early years providers is not enough for them to remain financially viable. “Even with the recent shift towards home working, as the survey findings demonstrate, a functioning early years sector remains critical to the ability of parents to return to their workplaces and progress in their careers. It’s therefore clear that government must prevent further early years closures if it is to ensure that the economy as a whole is able to recover post-pandemic. “The government cannot continue to drag its feet on this issue: we need an urgent review of early years funding to enable providers to deliver quality, affordable and sustainable services both now and in the future. If the government wants to make sure parents can continue to work and that every child is able to benefit from high-quality early education and care, then investing in the sector that can deliver both is surely the obvious choice.”

BASELINE: Campaigners More Than A Score have written to education secretary Gavin Williamson, asking him to cancel plans to launch Baseline Assessments in September.

Final revised EYFS Framework published The Department for Education has published the final version of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Framework. The new framework will come into effect on 1 September 2021. Following a recent consultation, a number of small amendments have been made to the safety and EYFS, though the overarching principles remain the same. Commenting on the new framework, Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, said: “While we recognise that a review of the EYFS was necessary given that it has been a decade since the last significant one was undertaken, we remain disappointed at how closed the entire process has been and the lack of any meaningful engagement with the sector. “Rather than reinforcing the need for and value of a child-centred approach

to early years practice, the new framework appears to represent a shift towards a much more formal approach to provision, and one where the EYFS is seen as preparation for Key Stage 1, rather than a vital stage in and of itself. “The Alliance will continue to support the sector to implement and deliver the new framework in a way that reflects the critical importance of a broad, child-centred approach, underpinned by a commitment to learning through play – practice that we as a sector know is best for supporting early development.” The final version of the new Birth to 5 Matters guidance has also been published. This nonstatutory guidance, developed by the Early Years Coalition, outlines the foundations of good practice

and offers information and guidance for practitioners to consider how the principles of the EYFS can be brought to life in their setting. The new sections on play, the characteristics of effective learning, and self-regulation are designed to help practitioners to reflect on and develop their own pedagogy. “We are delighted to offer this support to the early years sector as they look ahead to implementing the revised EYFS from September,” said Beatrice Merrick, chair of the Early Years Coalition. “It is a rich resource which will support knowledge of child development and how children learn, and help practitioners make their own professional judgements about meeting the needs of the children they work with.”

Labour launches “big conversation” on early years The Labour Party is launching a series of events aimed at families about childcare and early education, after data revealed that government spending on Sure Start centres and children under five has been cut by 40% since 2015. Labour analysis of government figures also showed that 12,000 early education and childcare providers have closed since 2015 and a further 30,000 are at risk of closure within the next year. The party says that 345,000 women will be at risk of losing their jobs if more childcare providers close their doors for good. Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, commented: “We absolutely need to talk, and keep talking, about the early years. We know the first five years of a child’s life are crucial to their longterm development, and yet when we talk about education, we only talk about schools, colleges and universities. We know that strong early years provision, staffed by qualified professionals, has a dramatic impact on life chances, and yet when we talk about attainment, we only talk about GCSE and A-level results. “The shocking loss of more than 12,000 early years providers in just

five years, and the potential loss of thousands more, is clearly the result of the sustained underfunding of the sector – which itself is a result of the continued failure of government to put the early years at the centre of its education agenda. “A conversation about how we can provide the best education, care and support for our under-fives and their families is long overdue, but this simply must include an open and honest discussion about the true cost of providing these services. It is only with proper investment that we can ensure that all children, regardless of background, can continue to access the quality early education and care that

they deserve.” Tulip Siddiq MP, Labour’s shadow minister for children and early years, said: “The early years are critical for a child’s development and childcare is a fundamental building block of our economy but, over the last decade, early years services have been neglected. “This Conservative government has failed to listen to families who have been unable to get the childcare, early education and wellbeing support they need. As we emerge from the pandemic, we need to have a big conversation with the public about how we can rebuild this essential infrastructure.”




Rules on singing updated for parent and toddler groups The Department for Education (DfE) has updated its ‘Actions for early years and childcare providers during the coronavirus outbreak’ to reflect new rules on singing at parent and child groups. Parent and child groups were permitted to reopen from 12 April with up to 15 attendees (not including children under five), with the previous restriction that only children and group leaders were able to sing. This has now been updated to say that a maximum of six adults, including the group leader, may sing at each session when taking place indoors. Only the one group of six adults may sing at each session and “good ventilation” should be maintained throughout. Groups that take place outdoors must follow the same rules if they are organised as one big group. If the group is organised into smaller groups, they may have several groups of up to six adults singing in each session, although the same groups must be maintained throughout the session. The new guidance says: “Group singing can take place, where it is necessary for the group to meet. Taking account of the evidence about singing and COVID-19, singing is considered safer when limited numbers of people sing together. The new rules state: • where the session is organised as one group, no more than six adults, including the group leader, should sing

at any one time along with the children aged under five • where the group is broken up into smaller groups of no more than six adults - the adults can sing together in each group along with the children aged under five and the same groups should be maintained for the duration of the session • Where singing is to take place indoors, no more than six adults in the room, including the group leader, should sing and singing should be limited to the same six adults for the duration of the group session. Good ventilation with fresh air should be maintained throughout the session. The rationale given for these limits in the guidance is that “taking account of the evidence about singing and COVID-19, singing is considered safer when limited numbers of people sing together”. The DfE has also updated its guidance on face coverings to make it clear that those who rely on visual signals for communication are exempt from any requirement to wear a mask. The latest guidance says: “The use of face coverings may have a particular impact on those who rely on visual signals for communication. Those who rely on visual signals for communication, or communicate with or provide support to such individuals, are currently exempt from any requirement to wear face coverings in settings or in public places.”

Andrea Leadsom launches early inequalities review The government has launched a new review into the early years, led by Conservative MP Andrea Leadsom. The review aims to improve support for families and set children up for “lifelong emotional and physical wellbeing”. The best start for life: a vision for the 1,001 critical days sets out the government’s “vision” for best practice across the health care system. As part of the review, the government has promised to bring forward the digitisation of the ‘red book’ to April 2023. The review also highlights six “action areas” for the government, including encouraging local authorities to make parents aware of local services and turning family hubs into




“start for life” services. Andrea Leadsom commented: “The coronavirus pandemic has put even more pressure on already-struggling families and, just as we need to level up economic opportunity across the country, we need to level up the support and care for the very youngest. The six action areas will have a transformational impact on our society, and I am looking forward to the implementation phase of the review where we will continue to work closely with families and the early years sector. I am confident that delivering this vision will help millions of families to give their baby the very best start for life.”

Government urged to Call for tax-free childcare commit to play underspend topledge be reallocated The Association of Play Industries (API) has written to the Prime Minister, asking the UK government to follow the example of Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and invest in children’s parks. Sturgeon has pledged to spend £60 million renewing every play park in Scotland to help ensure that all children have access to a space to play in their own community, if the SNP is re-elected in the Scottish Parliament election on 6 May.

“Away from the home, children spend more time playing in public playgrounds than in any other place. ” Announcing the policy, she said: “After a year in which many children have not had access to a garden, this investment has never been more important. The last year has been incredibly tough for children and young people across Scotland, and by giving both votes to the SNP in this election, people will be electing an SNP government more determined than ever to make Scotland the best place in the world to grow up.” In a letter also sent to secretary of state for health Matt Hancock and secretary of state for housing, communities and local government Robert Jenrick, the API is calling on the British government to do the same for all children across the UK. It argues that a national network of sustainable public play spaces will support children’s health and wellbeing “for generations to come”. Mark Hardy, chair of the API, said: “All children throughout the UK need and deserve a similar promise on play. Away from the home, children spend more time playing in public playgrounds than any other place. And yet there has been an alarming and sustained decline in the number of playgrounds in recent years, leaving millions of children with nowhere to play. Children from the most disadvantaged areas, and those from the one in eight UK households without gardens, are the most affected. “The government must now match the funding pledge of the SNP who have seized upon the groundswell of public appreciation for shared, public spaces such as parks and community playgrounds.”

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50 years of fun

St Andrews Preschool in Littl eover celebrated its 50th birthday in March, having first opened as a playgroup back in 1971. To celebrate, children raised money for children’s charity Rainbows, getting sponsored to do 50 activities at home and ente red a birthday colouring competition with the chance to win a prize.



lands Pre y, Green a D k o t o dB ifferen For Worl lots of d ry coln ran in L in l ry Hung o e scho on The V d e s a a b s all n made activitie dren eve les The chil r. la il rp t a pring u Cate game o r la il rp e Cate eryon Hungry tops. Ev ilk bottle m d n refully a a c e tub ry really to s e th to r ate listened caterpilla ever the n e h to find w d a d an ildren h h c e th , g it’ to the somethin nd ‘feed a d o fo r was t ec aterpilla the corr g their c in k a M r. hing ed matc caterpilla ey learn th d n sty a all the ta great fun ills with k s g n ti n ate! and cou terpillar at the ca th s d o fo

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Happy Birthday Capt


Jellybabies Nursery in Longbridge set ou t on a Pirate adventure for their ful l-time volunteer Darre n’s birthday. Darren has been he lping out at the settin g for 10 years, along with his mum, and loves planning fun activities for the children. For Da rren’s pirate party, ch ildren learned all about the life of a pir ate. They went on a treasure hunt, walked the plank an d played at sword fig hts where they learnt about safety, all while making sur e Darren’s birthday was lots of fun.

Spring seeds

l in Luton Sundon Stars Pre-schoo this wth gro has been looking at ’s Bean per Jas g spring. After readin ss to cre d nte pla Stalk the children e of som and w watch the roots gro er, Lat irs! the ate the children even ns tur k too and they planted flowers a d nte pla ld chi ry to water them. Eve e tak to gift y Da bulb as a Mother’s children had home at half term. The the plants get all lots of fun watching learned that and , bigger and bigger to grow. sun and plants need water

What’s been happening in your setting? Under 5 wants to know! To share your own stories, please email editor.u5@eyalliance.org.uk with the subject line ‘My Under 5’.


Alliance CPD-recognised online course available

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If you’re interested in enjoying this and many more amazing FREE Alliance member offers, simply visit eyalliance.org.uk


Supporting families in lockdown The Alliance’s London and Kent Service Hub has been working to support young children and families affected by domestic abuse. Val Pope, service manager at the hub, explains how they supported their families through lockdown


he London and Kent Service Hub received funding from the Home Office early in 2019 that enabled the delivery of programmes to support young children and their families impacted by domestic abuse. However, this was paused in March 2020 at the start of the first national lockdown in England. Vulnerable children and families who were already on the programme were left either partway through the delivery of a programme, or on a waiting list for a programme with little prospect of being able to join one any time soon. At the time, Zoom was almost unknown to us. We had little or no experience of online delivery of programmes between us at all. But we knew that we had to find a way of connecting with these vulnerable children – and quickly. The staff team set to work alongside AVA, a UK charity committed to ending gender-based violence and abuse, to develop a digital offer for the Community Groups Programme (CGP). CGP is for children, young people and their mothers who have experienced domestic abuse. It provides a community-based setting for children to share and talk about their experiences, to help them understand what they have been through, reduce their self-blame and where they can do some planning to keep themselves safe, and learn to manage their emotions so they can be expressed appropriately. CGP is usually delivered face to face over 12

weeks, two hours each week, with concurrent group sessions aimed at the mothers, so they understand how the abuse has impacted their child and how best to support them through the healing process.The challenge was finding a way to replicate this group experience so that everyone benefited in the same way. So how did we make it happen? Firstly, we scrutinised every session of the programme and adapted every activity to ensure it translated effectively into an online forum. Lou Neville-Ball, lead officer for domestic abuse at the London and Kent Service Hub, said: “The biggest challenge that we encountered during the development phase was ensuring that the sensitive material is covered safely, taking into account its potentially triggering nature. We even wrote an entirely new session – It’s Okay to Worry – that was, and is, extremely timely in light of Covid-19, and that is being delivered in replacement of the sexual abuse session at week 10, which was not appropriate to deliver online.” Zoom privacy notices and protocols were drawn up and staff were trained, with an additional online ‘top-up’ training session devised to upskill practitioners and increase their confidence in two key areas: the use of Zoom as a vehicle to facilitate a safe space for women and children

to process their experiences, while maintaining their confidentiality and privacy to effectively facilitate the adapted, online-friendly activities Staff also attended a general Digital Safeguarding course. This additional training package enabled practitioners to connect and share experiences and allowed for anxieties in relation to the online delivery to be alleviated and supported. We were pleased to receive some really positive feedback about the programme: “You can share what you want and you don’t have to share what you don’t want to share. It’s just a nice way to relax about your feelings and talk about it with somebody who has gone through the same things as you.” – child “I cannot recommend it highly enough. It has given me courage and peace in equal amounts. The group has given my daughter emotional tools that she will benefit from the rest of her life. The team members will always have a special place in my heart – they were mine and my daughter’s scaffolding when we were not sure how to hold ourselves up.” – mother




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Early Years Alliance


FREE TO ALL ALLIANCE MEMBERS, £15 FOR NON-MEMBERS (refundable to anyone who joins the Alliance within 48 hours of the conference)


15 JUN E 2021 6PM 8.45PM

WE ARE EDUCATORS: PUTTING EARLY YEARS AT THE HEART OF EDUCATION POLICY The Alliance’s annual conference is taking place online on Tuesday 15 June at 6pm Last issue, we shared our plans to host the Alliance’s annual conference online this year and outlined our main theme – putting the early years at the heart of education policy. Since then, we’ve changed the date to Tuesday 15 June and have added some fantastic speakers to our line-up. Throughout the coronavirus crisis, the early years workforce has been the epitome of dedication, professionalism and selflessness: continuing to deliver vital care and education during the most challenging of times. All too often, however, the critical role that early years providers have played – and continue to play – during this period

has not been reflected in the support, both financial and practical, and the recognition given to the sector. This is not an issue unique to the pandemic. Despite the pivotal importance of early years for children’s learning and development, all too often education is still talked about as something that starts at the school gates. This must change, and it must change now. As we head towards the end of lockdown and the beginning of the ‘new normal’, this year’s Early Years Alliance Annual Conference , will explore how we as a sector can take an active role in ensuring that early years is placed at the centre of education policy, and that quality early education and care is valued as it should be. In order to ensure the continued safety of our attendees, for the first time ever, this year’s conference will take place online. However, our commitment to delivering an excellent line-up of keynote speakers and useful and informative practical seminars remains unchanged.

Our key note speakers include*: Noble Prize-winning economist and academic James Heckman, who will be speaking about how investment in early childhood development can impact social, economic and health outcomes. We will also hear from Sir Kevan Collins, who is leading the government’s Education Recovery Programme. Guilaine Kinouani, critical psychologist, founder of Race Reflections and author of Living While Black, will also be speaking about racial equality in the early years. After our keynote sessions, attendees will be able to choose to attend one of the following seminars*: Implementing the revised Early Years Foundation Stage Framework – Nancy Stewart, teacher, consultant, trainer and project lead for Birth to 5 Matters Prioritising play – Dr Yinka Olusoga, programme director of the University of Sheffield’s BA (Hons) Education, Culture and Childhood Early years inspection update – Wendy Ratcliff, Her Majesty’s Inspector and principal officer for early education at Ofsted Please keep an eye out for further updates in the next few weeks, but in the meantime – do add 15 June to your diaries! Visit eyalliance.org.uk and make sure you have subscribed to our email updates. *Line-up remains subject to confirmation

References: how to a





avoid common pitfalls Hiring new recruits is often an exciting time and cause for celebration – but how do you avoid some of the common pitfalls around requesting and providing references? Here, the team at Law-Call explains


here are a number of common myths around receiving and requesting references ahead of starting a new job, but what are the facts? Firstly, most early years employees do not generally have a right to have a reference written for them – this only applies in certain financial roles. Secondly, if a reference is provided, the golden rule is that it must be fair and accurate and should be labelled as ‘private and confidential’.

Writing a reference When writing a reference, you have a duty to both the ex-employee and their new employer. Your reference should not be misleading and any comments you make should be based on facts. It is generally considered acceptable to provide a ‘bare’ reference, for example stating only the dates of employment and job role. If you choose to say more than this, consider the whole reference – when reading it back, is it a fair and accurate summary of that person’s employment with you? It is permissible to refer to disciplinary action if this is backed up by a disciplinary record. Similarly, details of sickness or other absences can be given, provided that you are not breaching the Equality Act, for example where sickness or absence relates to a disability. Although you are not obliged to answer detailed reference requests, if you are choosing to respond to some or all specific requests, remember the golden rule – it must be fair and accurate! Expressions of opinion are best backed up with evidence and remember that “fair and accurate”

can include both positive and negative information.

Requesting a reference When requesting references themselves, many employers are concerned about what to do if they receive negative feedback in their new employee’s references. If you decide to withdraw a job offer because of a reference, you should first consider whether you offered the candidate the role on a conditional or unconditional basis. It is common for early years providers to require satisfactory references after making an offer to the candidate. There is some reassurance for providers here, as the definition of what counts as “satisfactory” is essentially down to the employer and what is satisfactory to them. Provided that you are acting in good faith and as a reasonable employer would in those circumstances, the decision over what is satisfactory is your own.

Any reference should be fact-based, fair and accurate.

Withdrawing an offer As long as you make it a clear condition of the job offer that you need to receive satisfactory references, if an employee cannot produce them or you do not find them satisfactory, you may wish to bring that employment relationship to an end. In these circumstances, the elements of “offer” and “acceptance” for a binding contract will not have been met, as one of the conditions of the offer has not been fulfilled and so the contract has not come info force. This means that there is no need to comply with any notice requirements, unless the individual can establish that they have in fact complied with all the conditions.

The situation if you made an unconditional offer is different. In some circumstances, this can be an expensive option. Where you have made an unconditional offer of employment and the individual has accepted, then the contract to employ them is likely to be considered as having come into effect. Even if the new employee’s start date is some time after the acceptance, you will be considered bound by the contract. If you subsequently receive references that make you think twice about hiring that person, they may be able to bring a breach of contract claim if you choose not to hire them.

Notice periods While a negative reference may be a perfectly reasonable reason to wish to discontinue your relationship with your new hire, without clearly explaining to them that satisfactory references were a requirement, you would need to formally terminate your contract with them. This will likely mean that you have to pay them for their notice period. For example, if your employment contract provides for a shorter notice period until a probationary period has been completed, you may use that as your notice period and pay them for this shorter period of time. If no terms and conditions on pay rates or contractual notice have been agreed, you will still need to take care, as if the matter goes before a tribunal they can make a decision on what “reasonable” notice should be in these circumstances.

Find out more If you have any questions around requesting or providing references and withdrawing offers of employment as a result, please get in touch with Law-Call for further advice. Alliance members can find their contact details in the members area of our website at portal.eyalliance.org.uk. This article does not constitute legal advice.




Reclaiming the





e right to play Melanie Pilcher, quality and standards manager at the Alliance, explains why the Alliance will be championing children’s right to play through our National Play Week in June


he global pandemic has dominated our lives for more than 12 months now. It has affected almost all aspects of our lives in some way. For children, it has caused their worlds to shrink and restricted their ability to play. Children have an innate need to play but during the pandemic this has been restricted all too often. Children have been denied access to their wider families and friends, favourite playgrounds and parks and vital opportunities to explore the world around them were all taken away by the need to maintain social distancing. Enabling environments in early years settings that once encouraged risk, challenge and exploration were quickly repurposed with the aim of keeping children away from each other. Positive relationships may have been compromised by the need to operate in separate ‘bubbles’. Every child’s right to play, as identified in Article 31 of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child, was severely compromised and sometimes removed completely by necessity.

Moving out of lockdown Although restrictions are now easing, we must not assume that the impact of lockdown on young children has been and gone. While most children have now returned to their early years provision and, in most cases, seem to be well, we must remember that their resilience has been tested. The full impact on their health and wellbeing at such a crucial time in their development has yet to be fully understood. As early years educators, we know that play is central to children’s learning and development. The Early Years Foundation Stage is clear: “Children learn by leading their own play, and by taking part in play which is guided by adults.” Definitions of play may vary, but they all generally share a view that play belongs to children. Play is how children make sense of the world. It helps them express their

feelings, manage emotions and find out about themselves and others. As adults, we quickly found ways to cope with lockdown and stay connected with our families, friends and work colleagues. In doing so, we maintained some control as we learned what worked for us as individuals and as a society. But what about young children? Now is the time to reflect on how the balance has shifted between access to play and the need to respond to the pandemic. Did we restrict the vital element of free choice in play? Did we let them lead their own play, choosing who and what they played with and how?

A new challenge Practitioners only need to observe how children are playing together and interacting with their environment to see how the pandemic has affected them. We must not assume that the passage of time will make everything right again. Some children are still unsure about the rules and are waiting for adult direction before deciding what to play with and how. Some wait for adult reassurance before moving around their setting freely. Others may struggle with being around other children again and need support to re-establish the social skills that they would have usually honed through play. Play remains essential to children’s learning and development. In some ways, it is even more important now as it is the first step in giving them back a sense of control after a confusing time in their lives. It is through play that children will begin to make sense of what has happened and is still happening. It is through play that children who have been impacted the most will begin to heal and thrive as we look towards better times. With this in mind, Professor Cathy Nutbrown’s comments in Nursery World in 2014 are as relevant as ever: “Healthy, happy children can’t not play! Play is like oxygen to young and developing

bodies and minds. Play is a life force for us all. One of the things that unites many of the pioneers of early education is an understanding of the centrality of play in children’s wellbeing, development and learning. And it is equally important today that we keep play forefront of early education and care.” As we look ahead to the coming months, there are a number of significant opportunities and challenges for the sector ahead. From 4 May, Ofsted inspections will return with inspectors considering children’s behaviour and attitudes, including: “the ways in which children demonstrate their attitudes and behaviour through the characteristics of effective learning” and “how the provision helps children to manage their feelings and behaviour, and how to relate to others”. This is of course nothing new, but when we consider how children’s play has been affected by the recent restrictions, it has additional emphasis. Prioritising play is not about doing anything differently but it is a timely reminder that having freedom and time to play supports development and learning across all areas.

Join the Alliance’s National Week of Play: 21-27 June 2021 We know that play is fundamental to a child’s learning and development. That’s why we at the Alliance are launching a National Week of Play, which will start on Monday 21 June, to encourage and inspire early years professionals to ensure that learning through play is at the heart of their practice, and to support parents to discover and explore new play ideas for the home learning environment. Register your interest in taking part at www.eyalliance.org.uk/playweek




Are you ready fo

After around two years in consultation, the new Early Years Foundation Stage Framework will come into force in September 2021 – here’s a quick reminder of the changes


t’s been almost two years since the government announced that it was reforming the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Framework and began a lengthy consultation process. But thanks to the pandemic, and subsequent closure of many early years providers for much of




2020 – not to mention the changes we’ve all had to make since reopening last June – the pending changes may seem to be approaching very quickly indeed. Starting in September 2021, early years practitioners will have a new EYFS to work with. The EYFS Framework applies to all

Ofsted-registered early years providers, including nurseries, pre-schools and childminders – as well as Reception year in schools. Unless you are an early adopter, you and your setting should continue to make use of the current framework, published in 2017


or the new EYFS? for now. You do not need to start making changes yet. However, with the launch of the new curriculum nearing, you and your team should now be familiarising yourself with the updated version – and making a note of the changes – so that you are ready to implement it in September.

What’s changing? Early Learning Goals The biggest change to the new EYFS is to the Early Learning Goals (ELGs). The Department for Education (DfE) and Ofsted are keen to point out that these goal are for children aged five and should not be used as a ticklist in early years settings. The new goals have been expanded, which the DfE argues will make it easier for teachers to make accurate judgements. The DfE says that 17 new ELGs put focus on strengthening children’s language and vocabulary development – particularly for disadvantaged children – and are based on the latest evidence in childhood development.

understanding the world expressive arts and design Each of these seven areas has been expanded to include more details and examples of activities for practitioners to try with children. There are now examples on how to embed and develop vocabulary skills across all seven areas, putting greater emphasis on this across the whole framework. EYFS Profile The moderation process for the EYFS Profile has changed, with local authorities no longer required to externally moderate judgements. The EYFS Profile judgment criteria has also been changed, with Reception teachers no longer given the option of judging children as “exceeding”, with only “emerging” or “expected” judgments remaining. The DfE says that this will help teachers “prioritise their support to children who are emerging”.

Starting in September, providers will have a new EYFS to work with.

Educational Programmes The new EYFS also includes updates to all seven Educational Programmes, which have been expanded with further detail about each area of learning and development. These programmes are the focus for most early years providers: Prime areas: communication and language physical development personal, social and emotional development Specific areas: literacy maths

Promoting oral health There is an addition to the safeguarding and welfare requirements to include promoting good oral health. Individual settings and schools will need to determine how best to meet this requirement, although the DfE has stressed that this does not mean that providers must carry out supervised toothbrushing sessions or asses children’s oral health. You may wish to contact your local authority for advice on schemes running in your local area that may be able to help you with this.

basis for children’s development, working hand-in-hand with the other areas of learning. The progress check at age two has not been changed at all and this remains the only statutory assessment for pre-reception children

Why is it changing? The DfE says that the changes will help “improve outcomes at age five”, particularly in early language and literacy. It also argues that the new EYFS will reduce “unnecessary paperwork”, allowing practitioners to spend more time the children in their care.

Are there any other updates? Providers are also advised to familiarise themselves with the government’s new supporting non-statutory guidance – Development Matters, which has been updated in line with the new EYFS. The new version is shorter and includes just here age bands, instead of the previous six, which the DfE says will simplify the guidance and avoid it being used for tracking activities that do not support child development. You may wish to use the Early Years Coalition’s Birth to Five Matters instead (see page 30 for more information on this). Ofsted will not make a judgement about your setting based on which non-statutory guidance you use.

Getting to grips with the EYFS We are running four two-hour long Virtual Classroom sessions on the new EYFS, each covering a vital element of the new framework to support implementation, throughout May and June. Tickets can be purchased individually or as a set. Those that book all four will receive a 10% discount. Members - £23 Non-members - £33

What’s not changing? The DfE has not made any changes to the characteristics of effective learning and training and the terms “prime” and “specific” for the areas of learning will remain the same. Communication and language, personal social and emotional development and physical development continue to be the core

Visit bit.ly/EYAVirtualClassroom to check dates for each session and book your slot.

Find out more Visit eyalliance.org.uk/changes-eyfs-2021 for links to download copies or purchase hard copies of the new EYFS, Development Matters and Birth to 5 Matters. UNDER 5



Meet the children’s champion Earlier this year, Helena Meineck, manager at All Saints Pre-school in Devon, was named Famly Children’s Champion 2020. Here, she shares her inspirational story…


ll Saints Pre-school is a small church-based playgroup based in Exmouth, Devon. But while it may be smaller than many settings, its impact on the local community is huge. The setting supports a large number of children with English as an additional language and has been working tirelessly to support its families throughout lockdown and beyond.

Dedicated time and attention The setting is large enough to take 27 children but has opted to stick with a maximum of 14 each day. Helena explains: “Even though we had enough staff and space for 27 children, I realised that we were not giving the children what they needed and deserved – our dedicated time.” With four members of staff overseeing the small group, Helena says the setting’s children are thriving. “Their social skills develop steadily and healthily, their learning amazes us on a daily basis, their happiness permeates the building. We have created a real home from home for them – even though we are in a church hall,” Helena says. “We have noticed how well they are doing at school once they move on too.”




Local community Around half of the setting’s children have diverse backgrounds, with children from a mixture of Chinese, Malaysian, Turkish, Russian, Polish and Bulgarian backgrounds. “It’s quite a wonderful mix considering we live in a small seaside town in Devon,” Helena says. Such diversity is a result of proactive work to support local families. After realising that there was a lack of help available for multicultural communities in the area, Helena decided to take action. “I started up a toddler group and began supporting the parents to help them find work, helping them to understand the system here and how to apply for funding.” These steps helped create a real community around the setting. “Preschool became, and still is, a way for these families to connect with each other – to make friends, to support each other, as well as get a guiding hand from us,” she explains. “Not only do we have time for their children, but we also make time for them as parents, with their own worries and questions. It’s about involving the whole family.”

Breaking barriers To help support the children, many of whom have English as an additional language, Helena draws on her own experience of moving to Italy aged 21, before she had learned to speak Italian. “It was all just one very big muddled noise,” she recalls. “So maybe that’s what children hear when they are listening to another language too?” They start small, by taking one English word at a time. “Preferably a noun,” she says. “Something that relates to a favourite toy or something that they like to play with.” Next, Helena and her team make sure that the children learn the word “help” so that her team know when to step in with assistance. “It could be sorting out a play issue, or helping them with their coat. But the important thing is that they know that we are there for them,” she says. This approach is helpful for all children at the setting – as they are all still learning to express themselves and develop their vocabulary. “It’s about gaining their trust and confidence too,” Helena says. “Once


“We’re going to continue with our ‘less is more’ approach. It really benefits the children’s learning and imagination.”

that happens, then they relax and are happy to learn more words.”

Adapting in lockdown When the pandemic hit, like many others the setting got busy on WhatsApp, making sure they were able to stay in touch with families by sharing story time, exercise videos and weekly video calls. “We created an amazing support network between us,” she recalls. Since reopening in June 2020, the preschool has been given sole use of their church hall space and no longer need to pack everything away after each session. “This has been a real treat for us,” Helena says. “We also had to eliminate certain resources such as cushions and soft toys, but we found that the children were actually just as happy with less – so it’s been a great learning curve for us as well.”

Looking to the future After being closed for so many months, the setting staff agreed to stay open for an extra four weeks in the summer break, using funding from the National Lottery to support

staffing costs. “What a difference this has made to our older children!” Helena says. “We have seen that in the spring term, they are where they usually are in the summer in respect of their learning and development. They are so ready and prepared for school now.” Following this success, the team have decided to offer an extra four weeks in summer again this year. “We are also going continuing with our ‘less is more’ approach,” Helena says. “It really benefits the children’s learning and helps their imaginations develop.” The team are also hoping to be able to offer a parent and toddler group next year. Helena is also looking towards future challenges, as funding remains an issue for the setting, particularly due to their approach with low ratios. She says: “Working in the early years is like holding a bunch of prickly roses – the children are those beautiful tiny buds which open up gradually and show us their delightfulness, against those prickly, thorny stems of government rules, absurd expectations, lack of funding… I could go on!”

Famly Children’s Champion 2021 Famly collected stories about exceptional early years providers and their work in 2020, receiving more than 650 nominations. You can read all of their inspiring stories online at bit.ly/2RXquqG. Helena was chosen by a panel of judges. She says: “I am totally honoured to have been chosen for this award. I dedicate it to my staff, the children and families of my pre-school – as well as those wonderful practitioners out there who work tirelessly and, more often than not, silently to make life a better place for all the children in their care, no matter their financial, social or ethnic background.”

Getting ready for the return of inspections Gill Jones, deputy director for schools and early education policy at Ofsted, answers some key questions ahead of the return of Ofsted inspections this month…






s you may know, the secretary of state recently announced plans for Ofsted inspections during the summer and autumn terms of this year. Back in November 2020, we previously set out our plans to start assurance inspections from January 2021, but of course this was before we knew about the next national lockdown. Throughout the spring, our inspectors have continued with their regulatory work, responding to concerns by visiting or contacting early years providers. The government’s roadmap for easing restrictions is continuing to progress. Because of the changing landscape, in January, we confirmed that we would not introduce nongraded assurance inspections as a temporary measure. Instead, we said that we would return to our routine graded education inspection framework (EIF) inspections when we thought the time was right. Recently, we announced that we will resume full graded EIF inspections of registered early years settings from 4 May 2021. We’ve also published an updated early years inspection handbook, alongside the summary of changes on gov.uk. Here, we address some of the key questions that we know many early years providers will be thinking about ahead of the return to full EIF inspections…

context into account when we inspect, and to inform our inspector training.  As set out in our inspection handbook, we will continue to be sensitive to the challenges presented by the pandemic. Providers have worked hard to provide a safe place for young children, which has helped working parents and the community to withstand the pressures during difficult times. It’s important we do the right thing for children right now. We know that the EIF, built on research and 26 years of inspection experience, is the right tool for us to find out how well settings are helping children to thrive, both emotionally and in their education. It is particularly important for children from poorer families, who may have lost out on the vital foundations of early learning during the pandemic, to get back on track. We want to make sure that no child gets left behind.

What is the rationale for returning to full EIF inspections on 4 May?

When will I have my EIF inspection?

Throughout the pandemic, we’ve continued to speak with key stakeholders, including the Alliance. Through these conversations, we’ve found that the preference among providers is to resume routine inspections under the EIF as soon as it is safe to do so. We know that providers prefer to receive a graded overall effectiveness judgement following an inspection as this enables them to give reassurance to parents, stimulate their business, and allow access to funding from local authorities.  Our interim visits, research calls, and on-site fieldwork have helped us to determine some minor amendments to the inspection handbook. This is so we can take the Covid -19

What format will inspections take? All inspections will be carried out on-site. However, we may sometimes need to carry out elements of the inspection through video or telephone calls and this will be agreed with the provider at the start of the inspection. These channels will mainly be used to involve parents/ carers and those with leadership responsibility who are unable to physically attend the setting.

Last autumn we announced that we will move to a six-year inspection window. This means each provider has their own inspection window determined by their last inspection judgement. As we prepare for a return to full EIF inspections we will take a proportionate and risk-based approach to who we inspect first. We will prioritise providers who: were judged less than good at their last inspection, including those who received an interim visit in the autumn term registered recently and have not yet been inspected and whose first inspection is overdue were not inspected in the last inspection cycle due to the pause in routine inspections.

We will also continue to carry out any urgent inspections where we have significant concerns about a provider. Unfortunately, we are unable to answer specific questions about the timing of an inspection for individual providers.

What safety measures will be in place during an inspection? We take the safety and welfare of everyone involved in inspections, including children, carers, staff and inspectors, seriously. We will follow the most up-to-date guidance from Public Health England. In the notification call before an inspection, providers and inspectors will agree safety measures to ensure the inspection is Covid-19 secure and how inspectors can work effectively within the protective measures in place. Inspectors will also take a Covid-19 test before arriving at the setting. Private, voluntary and independent settings and childminders now have access to these tests too. Where possible, any interactions with practitioners, leaders and parents will be conducted in a socially-distanced manner. This could include, but is not limited to, standing two metres apart in a large room and conversations/meetings taking place outside or by telephone. What precautions are needed will vary from provider to provider and activity to activity, but inspectors will always ensure that they are acting safely and within the clear guidance given.

What if a provider has active cases of Covid-19 or staff / children self-isolating? Where a provider has active cases of Covid19 in their setting, they can request a deferral of their inspection at the point of notification. We will consider all requests in line with our published deferral policy.




Star light, star bright Alliance quality and standards manager Melanie Pilcher shares ideas for exploring the theme of space ahead of International Astronomy Day on 11 May






nternational Astronomy Day is usually celebrated twice a year, in Spring and again in Autumn: this year it falls on 11 May. Although many larger-scale activities to celebrate the day have been cancelled because of the ongoing Covid19 restrictions, you can still have your own astronomical celebrations in your setting that will tap into children’s fascination with space. The unfathomable nature of space tempts enquiring minds and compels scientists, pioneers and explorers to push the boundaries of what is possible. It is what drives astronomers to keep searching the night sky with evermore powerful telescopes and motivates engineers to achieve the impossible in space travel. This innate drive and motivation to learn about the universe is reflected in the ‘awe and wonder’ that children experience as they discover new knowledge every day through the characteristics of effective learning. Even the very youngest children will begin to observe the night sky – whether they are seeing it at bedtime or in the early hours of the morning. The moon and stars are integral to many childhood stories, songs, and rhyme. They are embedded in children’s vocabulary, long before they begin to comprehend what they are. As they grow older, children are inspired to ask unprompted questions such as “why is it dark at bedtime?” or “where does the sun go at night?” By following such interests, educators in the early years can help children to build on their existing knowledge in a meaningful way, so why not make use of the solar system as the biggest free resource at your disposal and celebrate International Astronomy Day in your setting?

Find your launch pad Start by considering the interest that children may already be showing in space. For your youngest children it will probably be connected to a nursery rhyme such as Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star… The repetition of rhymes, accompanied by hand gestures

quickly become familiar as babies respond and begin to join in. This becomes the hook on to which new knowledge can be hung. Space-themed mobiles hung with shiny stars, colourful planets and flaming rockets will capture babies attention, helping with their gross motor skills as they turn and reach towards them. Stay with the night sky theme and convert sleep or rest areas to give a relaxing sensory look to ceilings and walls using glow-in-the-dark stars and planets.

Reach for the stars! Older children may have heard the term ‘astronaut’ or be aware of Buzz Lightyear from the film Toy Story. This gives you a good introduction to our very own astronauts Helen Sharman, Michael Foale and Tim Peake. There are plenty of YouTube clips that will give children an insight into what a real astronaut does.

Get ready for lift-off Once you have identified what is capturing the interest of your group of children, think about how you can prepare for a trip to space. It is easy to make helmets and backpacks, complete with rocket launchers from recycled materials. All you will need is plastic bottles, a couple of cereal boxes, some silver duct tape and red and yellow tissue paper for flames. Remember to let the children use their own imagination too because that is where the real learning takes place.

Commencing countdown, engines on… Once you are equipped for space, it is simply a matter of getting there! This is where children’s imaginations can really take flight. With everyone dressed appropriately, take your seats on chairs (or the floor), strap yourselves in and prepare to countdown. Incorporate story time with a good book or, better still, make up your own story with the children. There are no limits to where you might end up, or what you might see. With curtains drawn and lights dimmed,

adults can float past your imaginary rocket holding cut-outs of stars and planets and maybe even the occasional friendly alien!

Touchdown! It is easy to turn your floor space into a lunar landscape. Clear a large area of the room and cover cardboard boxes, beanbags or soft-play blocks with old sheets. Add a few funny looking aliens to complete the scene – you can make these in a separate activity with the children. Once your rocket lands and you disembark, think about how you will move on the surface of the moon. Make a flag on a pole and plant it in one of the space craters. Different groups of children can create their own flag if they visit your lunar landscape during different sessions.

A universe full of possibilities These are just a few of the many activities that you can introduce to get things started. Every area of learning and development can easily be covered by following the children’s lead, whether that takes you to the moon, or further afield, or you stay firmly on the Earth looking up. The important thing to remember is that it begins with something that has captured the children’s imagination.

Considering your educational programmes A theme as big as space gives plenty of scope for igniting children’s curiosity and enthusiasm for finding out more. The activities and experiences you provide through your educational programmes are crucial to children’s aspirations, by helping to build on their cultural capital and opening their eyes to the possibilities that the world (and wider universe) has to offer. There is no need to plan a topic in detail, all you need is a theme that ignites the spark – the children will do the rest. The role of the educator should be to follow the children’s lead whilst making sure that you take full advantage of the teachable moments as they arise.

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From milk to food and beyond! The Infant and Toddler Forum shares ideas for helping families with weaning


he first 12 months with a new baby can be an exciting time for parents – but that’s not to say that it’s without challenges. This is particularly true when it comes to introducing complementary foods. Information and advice on weaning has changed over the years, leaving some parents a little confused. Many parents will have questions about whether they are feeding their babies the right foods, whether they are getting enough nutrients and whether they should be spoon-feeding, or letting their babies lead the way themselves. This does not have to be the case. Feeding can be a rewarding and enjoyable bonding experience for parents. Early years professionals are well-placed to offer advice and support on best feeding practice. This year’s Weaning Week (3-9 May 2021) is the perfect time to upskill on the topic. Here are our top tips for supporting parents through this daunting phase:

1. Finger foods are suitable from the very start of weaning Finger foods help babies to develop their selffeeding skills and learn to recognise different foods. They can also help babies develop

motor skills through touch and become more active in the eating process. Parents should also be made aware that soft fruit and vegetables, such as bananas and boiled carrots, are ideal examples of first finger foods to introduce when starting weaning. First finger foods should be offered in easy-to-grasp sizes and should mash easily between baby’s gums. As a baby gets older, they’ll be able to progress to firmer and more challenging textures.

1. Recognising cues is important As an early years professional, you can reinforce the point that parents must look for cues that their child is receiving the right amount of food. Infants up to six months old may cry if they don’t want any more food, swipe food away from their mouth or turn their heads away. These are all examples of fullness cues. Infants older than six months may use more fine-motor responses such as pointing towards food or even attempting to sound out the name of the food around the 11-12 month stage. These are examples of hunger cues. You can use these to remind parents to really listen and wean in a way that is perfect for the individual needs of their own children.

2. All babies develop at their own pace It is important to keep offering babies more and more complex food textures during the second half of their first year, so that they continue to develop their feeding skills. They should be able to join in with family meals, eating minced and chopped family foods and self-feeding firmer finger foods by 12 months old. Some babies are more sensitive to textures and need more practice to accept them. Babies who spit out lumps can continue to be offered lumpy food and soft finger foods so that they learn to manage lumps in their mouth, rather than chewing non-foods (such as toys, whether soft or hard). This will help to desensitise them to different textures and improve their eating skills.

Remember Parents should be reminded that this process is not a race! The timings are guidelines that are flexible. Parents should not panic or rush their infant through the process if they are taking a little time to get used to finger foods.

3. Be allergy aware Allergens can sometimes cause more stress that necessary. Current advice is that common food allergens should be proactively introduced during weaning. Parents should introduce allergenic foods one at a time from six months. For some babies, who are at risk of allergy, it may be recommended that they introduce them earlier. One allergenic food can be given each day for about three days and, if tolerated, should continue to be given it regularly – at least weekly, but ideally two or three times a week – for certain allergies including egg or peanuts.

Find out more For more information about the introduction of complementary foods and the transition to family foods, download our 10 Steps for Feeding Babies booklet at infantandtoddlerforum.org. Don’t forget to visit our shop for all our latest products shop.infantandtoddlerforum.org.




Exploring th September 2021 sees the introduction of the revised Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). The EYFS was last updated in 2017 with minor amendments to reflect changes in legislation. Prior to that the last major review was in 2012 following the Tickell review which resulted in a revised curriculum, a reduction in the number of Early Learning Goals from 69 to 17 and greater focus on the prime and specific areas of learning that are most essential for children’s development. The EYFS 2021 update focuses primarily on the early learning goals, along with a rewrite of the educational programmes. The final version is the result of a lengthy process that has seen early years experts voice their concerns about the lack of input from the sector on the nature of the changes, and the implied direction of travel for the early years sector.

Following consultation with the sector, some concessions were made, and the final draft of the framework was released in March this year, giving early years providers time to consider the changes and prepare for its implementation from September. For more information about the changes to the EYFS, please see pages 18-19.

The new EYFS in practice

The four overarching principles of the EYFS remain paramount and each child’s learning journey is different.

The new Alliance publication ‘Exploring the EYFS 2021’ begins with a considered critique of the direction of travel of the EYFS, which sets the scene and should help educators recognise that the beliefs and values that underpin their practice remain fundamental to the implementation of their educational programmes. Subsequent chapters focus on the changes in more detail whilst exploring the practical applications of the government’s stated intentions for the revisions: to improve outcomes at age five, particularly in early language and literacy to reduce workload such as unnecessary paperwork




The publication emphasises that the four overarching principles of the EYFS remain paramount and reminds educators that each child’s learning and development journey is different, and it is not linear. Consideration is also given to how the process of tracking and assessing children’s progress through defined age-bands often detracts from the most important concern, which should be that the child is secure in a particular area of learning and development before they are moved on to the ‘next’ target. Exploring the EYFS 2021 also takes a closer look at the nonstatutory guidance, the Department for Education’s (DfE) Development Matters 2020 and the Early Years Coalition’s Birth to 5 Matters ‘guidance from the sector for the sector’ published this March. Both documents, whilst very different in tone and layout, have the aim of supporting educators with the intent and implementation of their educational programmes. Finally, an understanding is given to how providers can ensure that they are ready for September by considering what Ofsted do and don’t expect to see during inspection.


he EYFS 2021 Special offer 30% off EXPLORING THE EYFS 2021 Early Years Alliance (Ref: A025) £5.95 members, £8.50 non-members

The new Exploring the EYFS 2021 online publication explores how the successful implementation of the setting’s educational programmes depends on educators recognising that each child is unique. It is the positive relationships and enabling environments that will encourage their engagement with the world around them whilst acknowledging this uniqueness. Pre-order by 31 May to receive access in June – quoting EYFS21 to receive 30% off.

Printed copies of the following documentation are also available for those who prefer to have a copy easily available within the provision. Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage. £4.95 The new Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), which comes into effect on 1 September 2021, sets the standards for promoting the learning, development and safety of children from birth to five years for all registered early years providers in England. Development Matters. £5.95 Non-statutory curriculum guidance to support the implementation of the statutory requirements of the EYFS, which sets out the pathways of children’s development in broad ages and stages, to help you assess each child’s level of development. It sets out the pathways of children’s development in broad ages and stages, to help you assess each child’s level of development Birth to 5 Matters. £8.50 Non-statutory guidance which practitioners may use to support their implementation of the EYFS, which sets out the legal requirements for delivering care and education for children from birth to 5 in England. It outlines the foundations of good practice and offers information and guidance for practitioners to consider how the principles of the EYFS can be brought to life in their setting. New sections on play, characteristics of effective learning, and self-regulation are designed to help practitioners to reflect on and develop their own pedagogy.

Alliance annual conference We will also be exploring the revised EYFS at the Alliance conference on 15 June 2021 – with a seminar on the topic by teacher, consultant and trainer Nancy Stewart. See page 12 for more information.

Interested in buying? Please visit shop.eyalliance.org.uk, call 0300 330 0996 or email shop@eyalliance.org.uk. shop.eyalliance.org.uk

What is Birth t After concerning headlines in the national press, Beatrice Merrick, chief executive at Early Education, introduces the new Birth to 5 Matters guidance and explains how practitioners can use it


pril 2021 saw the launch of ‘Birth to 5 Matters – Guidance for the sector, by the sector’, a new set of guidance created by the Early Years Coalition, designed to help early years providers deliver the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). But while the document was happily received by the sector, with more than 20,000 copies downloaded, a number of national newspapers took issue with some of the guidance on combatting racism in the early years. The Sunday Telegraph published an article, Nursery teachers should give lessons on white privilege (3 April 2021), quoting Conservative MP Robert Halfon, who said the guidance was “unacceptable”. He told the newspaper: “We have all got to combat racism but this is the absolute wrong way to go about it and insults white working-class people from disadvantaged backgrounds.” Here, Early Education chief excutive Beatrice Merrick clears up the confusion…

What is Birth to 5 Matters? Birth to 5 Matters was developed by the




Early Years Coalition – that’s a group of 16 membership organisations which worked together to produce guidance for the early years sector. The guidance was compiled by a central team in conjunction with 20 working groups, consisting of 100 practitioners, consultants and academics. The guidance then went through a series of three consultations, gaining input from the early years sector itself. It is aimed at all practitioners involved in delivering the EYFS – across the whole age range and in all types of early years provision.

Why is this needed in addition to the statutory guidance from the Department for Education? The members of the Early Years Coalition wanted to produce something that delivered what practitioners were telling us that they needed and wanted. It provides continuity by building on previous guidance, with updates and improvements to ensure that it is principled, pedagogically sound and transparent about the evidence on which it is based.

How should practitioners use Birth to 5 Matters? It’s down to each individual practitioner whether or not they want to use the guidance and how best to implement it. It’s non-statutory, which means it’s optional – like Development Matters. Birth to 5 Matters aims to help both those at the start of their careers in the early years, who are looking to understand the core principles underlying the EYFS and typical child development, and more experienced practitioners, who can use it as a prompt to review and reflect upon their practice. The online version of the guidance includes links to additional resources which will support professional learning. It’s also important to understand how not to use the guidance. It must not be used as a ticklist to measure children’s progress. One of the key aspects of the latest EYFS reforms moves away from ticklists and excessive evidencegathering. Grids which show typical patterns of child development and how the adult can support these are intended as a reference and resource.


to 5 Matters? Practitioners need to develop the confidence to apply their professional knowledge about whether or not a child’s progress is broadly on track, and which children may benefit from additional support. But this should not require lots of detailed record-keeping. Assessments should not take adults away from interacting with the children or involve excessive data-gathering. We know this is a big culture change for some providers. But it’s important to remember the messages from the DfE and Ofsted are very clear on the move away from excessive data to a much more streamlined and focused way of tracking children’s progress.

How should we use this guidance alongside the new EYFS? The EYFS framework, which sets out the Educational Programmes, the Early Learning Goals at the end of Reception and safeguarding and welfare requirements is a legal requirement for all early years providers. Non-statutory guidance such as Development Matters and Birth to 5 Matters, are optional – you can use both, or neither!

If your provision decides to use Birth to 5 Matters, you must use it alongside the EYFS Statutory Framework. It is designed to help you think about how you will deliver the framework in the way that best meets the needs of your children and the pedagogical values and principles of your setting and staff team.

What does Birth to 5 Matters say about race and racism in the early years? Birth to 5 Matters describes inclusion and equalities as applying to every individual and all groups in society. It calls for “celebrating difference and diversity in all its guises and creating a culture of “we” rather than “us and them”. The guidance advocates ensuring that all early years practitioners have access to training on diversity and anti-racism in order to support children in age-appropriate ways to consider how best to address issues of equality in their EYFS practice. As the guidance says, this might include being ready “to challenge stereotypes and misunderstandings as they arise in play, conversation, books or other contexts”,

as well as ensuring an environment that encourages respect for differences and values fairness, where all children can feel they belong. For example, if a child says another child can’t play with them because of their race, the adult could intervene to support an age-appropriate conversation about race and fairness. The guidance suggests that professionals might engage with current debates around anti-racism and equalities to better understand their possible implications for their practice. 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.

Find out more Nancy Stewart, teacher, consultant and project lead for Birth to 5 Matters, will be speaking at the Alliance’s annual conference this year about the new EYFS and how Birth to 5 Matters can help support practitioners. Find out more on page 13.





Supporting isolating parents Did you know that the Test & Trace support payment scheme has been extended to include parents who have to take time off when their children need to self-isolate? Here’s everything you need to know…


y now, we’re all fairly familiar with the government’s Test and Trace system. But are you aware of the latest update to the scheme, which supports parents who have to take time off work when their child is asked to self-isolate? The Test and Trace Support Payment scheme, which provides a £500 payment to workers on certain benefits or low incomes when they are required to self-isolate, has been extended to the parents and carers of children who cannot work because their child/children are required to self-isolate. The scheme is limited to just one parent or guardian per household for the duration of the child’s self-isolation period. You’ll also need to meet all the relevant means-tested eligibility criteria in order to qualify for a payment. The payment is designed to ensure that parents receive the financial support they need if they are unable to attend work as usual due to childcare responsibilities caused by a child needing to self-isolate.

Which parents are eligible for the Test and Trace Support Payment?

How can we apply for the £500 Test & Trace Support Payment?

Parents and carers should apply via their local authority to receive a payment. To apply for the payment, they will need to either provide their child’s NHS Test and Trace Account ID, or a communication from their early years provider or school informing them that their child needs to self-isolate.

To be eligible, applicants must meet all of the below criteria:


You can help parents take advantage of this scheme by providing them with a letter w hen you let them know that thei r child needs to selfisolate after a positive case at your setting.

Further information on the eligibility criteria for the scheme is available on the government website here: bit.ly/3elyl93.

When can we claim the payments?

they are the parent or guardian of a child/ young person in the same household and need to take time off work to care for them while they self-isolate. This is limited to one parent or guardian per household for the child or young person’s self-isolation period

Government guidance states that a parent or carer needs to claim within 42 days of their or their child’s first day of self-isolation. The scheme actually ‘went live’ on 8 March 2021, so parents will be able to make a backdated claim from then.

they are employed or self-employed

Self-isolation letters

they cannot work from home while undertaking caring responsibilities and will lose income as a result they meet all the other means-tested eligibility criteria for a Test and Trace Support Payment or locally determined criteria for a discretionary payment. That their child or young person: is aged 15 or under (or 25 or under with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHC)) and normally attends an education or childcare setting has been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace or by their education or childcare setting because they have been identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19).

If a child’s nursery, pre-school or childminder advises a parent or carer that their child needs to self-isolate, then that provider will need to provide them with a letter to support their application to the Test and Trace Support Payment scheme. Once an application for a payment has been received, the local authority will be in touch with the child’s early years provider to verify the details of the child provided on the application. This will include a check of the child’s name, age, address and days of self-isolation, and is to minimise the number of fraudulent claims. This check may be conducted before or after a payment is made, depending on the arrangements the individual Share this gu local authority has chosen idance with parents to put in place.

Family Corner

and carers

Find out more




For more advice and tips aimed at parents and families, visit familycorner.co.uk and sign up to our newsletter.



a Mini Mud Pie Kitchen from Cosy Direct This Mini Mud Pie Kitchen is absolutely ideal for smaller outdoor spaces. It might be small, but it is strong, sturdy and exactly what is needed for when children become engrossed in their creativity. For this giveaway, we’re bundling it with a Metal Mud Pie Baking Kit, which contains 15 items and lives really well outside. This bumper set will keep children busy for hours. Contents of kit may vary. Kitchen requires some assembly. For your chance to win, simply send your answer to the following question, along with your name, contact details and postal address to: under5.competitions@eyalliance.org.uk, using the subject line ‘Mini Mud Pie Kitchen’. When does the Alliance’s National Week of Play begin? (hint: see page 16-17) a) 19 June b) 20 June c) 21 June

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