Learning in the Early Years
We offer a curriculum that gives the children the opportunity to acquire the social and academic knowledge, skills and understanding of the world that will adequately prepare them for the next stage of their learning and ultimately for later life.
Our curriculum is underpinned and formed by the following principles
- has meaningful experience, to develop children’s character and their appreciation of the ‘fullness of life’
- inspires curiosity, interest and imagination
- develops children’s’ knowledge, understanding , skills and critical thinking
- cultivates an appreciation of how actions, both past and present, impact our world
- provides children with the tools to become active citizens
Many of our children begin their journey with us below the expected level of development in all areas of learning. As a result, we prioritise the Prime Areas of learning throughout the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) because they are imperative for building a foundation for igniting children’s curiosity and enthusiasm for learning, forming relationships and thriving.
Our school is located within the most deprived wards in London, and subsequently, the percentage of children from disadvantaged backgrounds is higher than national average. Housing poses a significant challenge to many of our families, including a lack of permanence, poor living conditions and overcrowding. Many of our families have low to no income and have no recourse to public funds. Therefore, our children often have limited resources at home and fewer opportunities to experience the wider world. A lack of regular access to outdoor environments beyond our children’s school experiences is a common theme across our Tri-School.
Our curriculum aims to ignite and embrace children’s interest, curiosity and imagination by providing a breadth of experiences to grow their cultural capital for success in the Early Years. Ultimately, children will possess the knowledge, skills and qualities of a successful learner to use throughout their lifetime.
We aim for all of our children to:
- feel safe and secure so that they become confident and resilient to pursue their own interests and take and manage risks;
- learn the crucial language and vocabulary to effectively communicate their needs, wants and emotions as well as their knowledge and understanding. This extends to interacting and conversing with others in a positive way;
- become fluent readers and masters of numbers;
- develop awareness and respect for diversity which cultivates an appreciation of how actions, both past and present, impact our world;
- transition into Key Stage One (KS1) with a solid foundation of learning behaviours embedded through the Characteristics of Effective Teaching and Learning and Christian Values.
Children learn through a balanced approach of child-initiated and adult-initiated opportunities. The timetable is adjusted to match the developmental needs of our children as they progress through the year and from Nursery to Reception. Time is always dedicated to the rigorous direct teaching of Phonics, Literacy, Communication & Language, Mathematics and Personal Social Emotional Development (PSED). For children in Reception this is usually followed by a small group focus activity where a member of the EYFS team supports children to move towards their next step.
We promote the unique child by offering extended periods of play and sustained thinking following children’s interests and ideas. During this time our EYFS team support the children to make links in their learning by checking for understanding, identifying and addressing misconceptions, asking probing and process questions, and providing in the moment verbal feedback. These high quality interactions are a defining attribute of our language rich learning environments.
We ensure children have access to a range of open-ended resources as well as core teaching resources in our continuous provision. Our children have access to the outdoor learning environment daily and throughout the year and are taught to be independent in their selection and use of resources. Our EYFS teachers thoughtfully plan enhancements to our indoor and outdoor provision which give our children the opportunity to consolidate and apply learned knowledge and skills and to extend their learning in varied contexts. We monitor how children engage with the provision and make adjustments accordingly.
Reading is at the heart of our curriculum. We have fidelity to our systematic synthetic phonics (SSP) Programme - Little Wandle Letters and Sounds, which provides our children with the tools to ‘crack the code’ and become fluent readers.
A love of reading is promoted in school with books across the curriculum, comfortable areas for reading and daily story time. A love of reading is promoted at home through RED TED; an acronym for Read Every Day, Talk Every Day, whereby children take home a book of their choosing to share with an adult.
We have created a reading spine of high quality texts that we consider to be essential reading for EYFS children because of their structure and language and ultimately because of the lasting enjoyment they bring. We also engage our children with non-fiction, poetry and nursery rhymes across the areas of learning. We use the Talk for Writing approach to plan for whole-class Literacy, Language & Communication. This approach empowers our children to become storytellers and confident writers by embedding story patterns, language structures and key vocabulary.
Developing a strong grounding in numbers is essential so that all children develop the necessary building blocks to excel mathematically. We use White Rose as a tool for planning Mathematics in Reception and our Nursery curriculum is also based around the knowledge and skills required to succeed in Reception and beyond. Our children are provided frequently with multiple opportunities to apply and build on their understanding of number through the use of manipulatives and hands-on practical activities and games. Through enhanced provision activities and open investigative opportunities, our children are also able to develop their spatial reasoning skills. Our EYFS team are excellent at modelling positive learning attitudes and interest towards mathematics. We support children to look for patterns and relationships, spot connections, ‘have a go’, talk to adults and peers about what they notice and not be afraid to make mistakes.
Our EYFS curriculum is organised into terms with three big questions and underpinned by core experiences –
- What is your story?
- How has it changed?
- Where could your book take you?
These core experiences are essential for building our children’s cultural capital. They are authentic and meaningful, draw on our children’s interests and expose them to possibilities they might not otherwise encounter. They include activities such as experiments and investigations, baking, and exploring the local community and wider world (refer to the Curriculum Overview for a more detailed description). The Characteristics of Effective Teaching and Learning are considered integral to all areas of learning.
Diversity and inclusion are embedded in our curriculum. Not only are a range of significant cultural and religious events planned for throughout the year, we also celebrate and promote diversity through our core texts and read alouds across the curriculum. Our inclusive approach to learning means that we all learn together and ensures that the most disadvantaged children, children with SEND and the lowest 20%, are quickly identified and supported with appropriate early intervention. This includes, for example, the NELI (Nuffield Early Language Intervention) and immediate phonics follow up.
Our children join our school at varied points in their development and with limited cultural capital. As a result of the high expectations of our curriculum, all children, including the most disadvantaged and those with SEND, will make rapid progress to meet or exceed local and national outcomes at the end of Reception.
Our EYFS team possess an in-depth knowledge of child development. When assessing whether a child is at the expected level of development, our teachers draw on their knowledge of the child and use their expert professional judgement. Development Milestones for each of the seven areas of learning can be used to support our early career teachers and teaching assistants in making judgements using a ‘best fit’ approach and to engage in professional dialogue with other practitioners. Our assessments are moderated across the Tri-School and in discussions with other schools within our Local Academies Trust.
Within the first six weeks of our children starting Nursery and Reception, teachers undertake a baseline assessment of children’s current level of development. This is informed by observations of children engaging with the environment and the relationships within it. The baseline is used to identify children’s individual needs and interests and allows the teacher to target next steps.
Ongoing formative assessment is integral to teaching, learning and development. It forms the basis for our teacher’s professional judgements about children’s progress. It involves our teachers and teaching assistants observing and interacting with children, recognising when a child demonstrates a ‘WOW’ moment and recording this using the application ‘Evidence Me’. Recorded observations are succinct, focused and display one or more of the qualities of WONDER. An accumulation of formative assessments is used as the basis of summative assessment data input at three points throughout the year including the baseline.
We value the information and unique perspectives that parents/carers and previous establishments can offer and use this to develop a view of the whole child. Parents and/or carers are kept up to date with their child’s progress through regular informal conversations, termly parent meetings and annual reports. Parents and/or carers, teachers and other professionals maintain a dialogue and work in partnership to address any learning or development needs.
The effectiveness of our EYFS Curriculum, teaching and pedagogy is evaluated regularly to ensure we are meeting the unique needs of our children. The EYFS team meet termly to identify any aspects of the curriculum requiring adaptation or change in view of children’s progress and achievement of the Development Milestones. Third party persons, Heads of School, Leading Practitioners and Subject Leads undertake regular formal and informal visits to EYFS classrooms to observe the interactions between teachers, children and the environment. These are opportunities to identify strengths and develop strategies to address areas for improvement as a team.
We also use quantitative measures of progress to determine the impact of the EYFS curriculum. This includes comparisons between the percentage of children achieving GLD in Reading at the end of Reception and the percentage passing the phonics screener in Year 1 as well as end of KS1 outcomes.
We hold a holistic view of the child and believe the impact of our EYFS enables children to access the KS1 curriculum successfully. Ongoing dialogue between our EYFS and Year 1 teachers and a progressive curriculum means that children are able to build on their knowledge, skills and key vocabulary ensure all our children experience an effective transition to Year 1.