Lynn Kearney – 3rd year student at Edge Hill University, studying Primary Early Years Education 3 – 7 years (with QTS).

Lynn Kearney, 3rd year Primary Early Years Education student

The Birth to 5 Matters non statutory guidance is wonderfully written ‘by the sector, for the sector’ (Early Education, 2021: 1) and it is this aspect that makes it so useful when planning to meet all of the children’s needs within the statutory Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). Due to the coalition’s extensive experience and knowledge, current, useful strategies and information are provided. Anyone working in the field of early childhood should find this information useful (Stewart, 2021).

Throughout my training to become an early years teacher, I have found this resource to be indispensable when I am on placement, referring to it often for the purpose of providing the children with the experience they need to take the next steps in their learning. There is a consistent sense of professionalism and evidence-based rigor throughout this document, which gives me confidence in its content. A high standard of care and education is clearly emphasised in the guidance in a concise manner. An example would be the need for continuous professional development of all practitioners within a setting, which is led with enthusiasm and energy, and with a focus on quality care and educational programs (Early Education, 2021).

At first glance, it may seem daunting to read through every section, because there is a wealth of valuable and rich information to absorb. However, that is another benefit of this guide; individual or multiple sections can be accessed dependent on the practitioner’s changing needs. As a good place to start, it could be a good idea to spend some time reading through each section’s ‘key points’ as this will give an insight into the more detailed contents. It is also possible to find additional information, advice, and guidance on the website. While I have found the terminology used in the guidance and on the website to be easy to understand, there is a comprehensive glossary near the end of the guidance for those who might need further clarification.

One of the purposes of the guidance is to lay strong foundations that will ensure children are sustainably able to flourish and become independent thinkers, as well as develop a life-long love of learning, and maintain strong mental and physical health for the rest of their lives. The interests of the child and the wider context, such as the community and social needs and changes in society, are taken into consideration and embedded throughout the guidance. It is extremely important to take into account the holistic needs of all children, as demonstrated in the infographics on pages 47 and 48 of the guidance document. The images emphasise the holistic nature of an everyday experience and the exploration that takes place with water and construction with children.

In the Birth to 5 Matters guidelines, the four guiding principles are based on the four principles of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) statutory framework (DfE, 2021, revised in 2023). We can strive to ensure that children’s learning and development will be enhanced by knowing them well (unique child), creating strong, effective, professional relationships (positive relationships), and creating environments where they can thrive and engage (enabling environments). As part of Birth to 5 Matters, we consider the abilities, skills, and strengths that a child might possess and demonstrate. As part of our overall approach, we also consider what adults may do and what additional supports they need. It is then the practitioner’s responsibility to utilise their knowledge of the child and diversify to meet the needs of each individual child. Thus, practitioners will have the autonomy to make their own pedagogical preferences and to exercise their professional judgment to develop a learning environment that meets their needs. According to Moylett (2018: 7), this is a combination of “skill, will, and thrill” that occurs when a child discovers what he or she can accomplish.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) (UNICEF, 1989) and the code of practice on Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) (DfE, 2015) are incorporated into this guidance. It explains how barriers can be eliminated and children’s voices heard, putting inclusion at the core of all activities involving children and families. Providing support for the child’s needs in the form of a respectful partnership means that parents and other professionals need to be involved in the child’s care as a team.

Play is acknowledged as a right within Birth to 5 Matters, enabling practitioners to appreciate the importance of fun and engagement for children when they are learning, which is associated with the Characteristics of Effective Learning: playing and exploring, active learning and creative and critical thinking (Early Education, 2021).

The diagram and accompanying points depicting the Observation, assessment, and planning cycle from Birth to 5 Matters (Early Education, 2021: 38) is a useful source of information to keep referring back to. This robust process relies on knowing each child as a unique individual, and this reinforces what is truly important, as well as what should be considered and included. At first, it may appear confusing or to be a time-consuming process, but it soon becomes a matter of course.

The Birth to 5 Matters guidance, alongside the Development Matters non statutory guidance (DfE, 2020 revised 2023), assists me, as well as countless other practitioners, in meeting the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) statutory obligations and advises how to help children make progress towards meeting the Early Learning Goals (ELGs). Practitioners can use the guidance to bring the classroom, and beyond, to life to ensure that all children are in an emotionally and physically supportive environment which is conducive to growth.


DEPARTMENT FOR EDUCATION (DfE), July 2020 revised 2023. Development Matters [Online]. Available from: [Accessed 21 September 2023].

DEPARTMENT FOR EDUCATION, 2021, revised 2023. Early years foundation stage statutory framework [online]. Available from:–2 [Accessed 21 September 2023].

DEPARTMENT FOR EDUCATION, 2015. Special educational needs and disability code of practice: 0-25 years [online]. Available from: [Accessed 21 September 2023].

EARLY EDUCATION, 2021. Birth to 5 Matters: Non-statutory guidance for the Early Years Foundation Stage [online]. Available from: [Accessed 21 September 2023].

MOYLETT, H., 2018. Helping young children become great learners: observing and supporting self-regulation. Early Education Journal [online]. 84, pp 7-9. Available from: [Accessed 21 September 2023].

STEWART, N., 2021. Making Birth to 5 Matters work for you. Tapestry [online]. Available from: [Accessed 21 September 2023].

UNICEF, 1989. How we protect children’s rights with the UN Conventions on the Rights of the Child [online]. Available from: [Accessed 21 September 2023].

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