St Michael’s, Church of England, VA, Primary and Nursery School

Early Years

Learning and teaching in nursery and reception classes is underpinned by the statutory framework for the EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage). Children grow and develop towards the Early Learning Goals.

Planning for this curriculum is informed by practitioners’ observations of children’s interests, progress and enthusiasms, defined as ‘characteristics of effective learning’. These are

  • playing and exploring
  • active learning
  • creating and thinking critically.

If children move into Year One without having reached the Early Learning Goals they continue to be taught in line with the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum.  Transition to the Year One curriculum does not happen at a point in time but rather when children have reached that stage in their development.

Children will start in nursery or Reception having had a range of different experiences. We consider their individual needs and achievements and plan a range of learning experiences that will help them make progress. Well-planned play is a key way in which children learn with enjoyment and challenge, both within the indoor and outdoor learning environments.

We make sure children feel comfortable and cared for, that they can grow confident, feel valued and be able to make long lasting relationships. The curriculum is planned around seven areas of learning and development. All areas are important and inter-connected.

Prime Areas

 Communication and Language Development involves giving children opportunities to experience a rich language environment; to develop their confidence and skills in expressing themselves; and to speak and listen in a range of situations.

How – As children engage in play adults support them through joining talk, modelling and extending language. We teach the meaning of concept words each week and encourage parents to talk about the new vocabulary we have taught. Through poem, stories and information books children are introduced to new vocabulary, which they are encouraged to use when they are supported in scribing their own ideas.

  • Physical Development involves providing opportunities for young children to be active and interactive; and to develop their co-ordination, control, and movement. Children must also be helped to understand the importance of physical activity, and to make healthy choices in relation to food.

 How – Our outside learning environment provides opportunities to move in different ways, to ride bikes, to dig, throw and catch, build and balance. Children can access our outside learning environment every day. Children also take part in P.E. weekly sessions where children practice undressing and dressing themselves, learn how to move mats and bench and explore moving in different ways. Children independently visit our fruit café during the day and are encouraged to take responsibility for washing their hands, choosing a healthy snack and drink and cleaning the table. There are also opportunities for children to develop their fine motor skills through using threading, hammers and pins, small construction, play dough, scissors and pens and pencils of different thicknesses and shapes.

  • Personal, Social and Emotional Development involves helping children to develop a positive sense of themselves, and others; to form positive relationships and develop respect for others; to develop social skills and learn how to manage their feelings; to understand appropriate behaviour in groups; and to have confidence in their own abilities.

 How – Children develop confidence and independence through a well-resourced accessible environment that enables them to make their own choices and select what they need to achieve. They are expected to take responsibility for caring for their learning environment. Adults sensitively support children in ways that are appropriate to the individual, such as through verbal support or visual prompts. Children are encouraged to help each other. We talk about and model language to enable children to talk about how they are feeling and what they want to happen so they can build positive relationships.

 Specific Areas

  • Literacy involves encouraging children to link sounds and letters and to begin to read and write. Children must be given access to a wide range of reading materials (books, poems, and other written materials) to ignite their interest.

How –

  • Our classrooms have dedicated reading and mark making areas as well as relevant books in each area of the classroom for reference and inspiration.
  • Through shared reading sessions we expose children to a range of different reading materials and encourage children to talk about and respond to them and their features.
  • We use ‘Story scribing’ throughout the year to record children ideas in writing. This begins with adults scribing for children and gradually builds to children scribing for themselves. Children are encouraged to share their writing with the class daily through posting in our story telling sacks. In Reception, we use a ‘Story Mountain’ to support children in building stories.
  • In Nursery, children are encouraged to hear sounds and rhyme through small group activities. In Reception, children take part in daily phonics sessions that build letter sound knowledge and use over time. We use Jolly Phonics actions and the Letter and Sounds approach to support this.
  • Children are encouraged to use their growing sound discrimination and story language when reading in small groups, one to one, in their story scribing and within their play inside and outside.
  • Children take books home to share with the families. These are wordless picture books initially and then those which support their use of phonics. Children also spend time in and borrow books from our school library.
  • Mathematics involves providing children with opportunities to develop and improve their skills in counting, understanding and using numbers, calculating simple addition and subtraction problems; and to describe shapes, spaces, and measures.

 How –

  • Opportunities to explore mathematical concepts are also provided through most areas of our continuous provision, for example in independent access to dough making in Reception and when building and balancing with blocks, logs and planks, in sand and water play, when cooking in the mud kitchen or laying the table in the house.
  • In addition, our maths areas are always available for to children explore maths resources.
  • We are developing weekly cooking in Nursery as a real life mathematical activity.
  • Group maths sessions use number rhymes, songs and activities to introduce mathematical vocabulary and teach new concepts.
  • Understanding the World involves guiding children to make sense of their physical world and their community through opportunities to explore, observe and find out about people, places, technology and the environment.

 How – Children are involved in planting and tending to our growing areas and enjoy eating any fruit and vegetables they produce. They also take part in cooking. We regularly visit our local church regularly. We also explore our local area, go on visits further afield and invite visitors into school. Children also take part in forest school sessions. We are lucky enough to be able to use our school site as well as visiting West Lodge during these sessions. Children have access to a range of technology.

  • Expressive Arts and Design involves enabling children to explore and play with a wide range of media and materials, as well as providing opportunities and encouragement for sharing their thoughts, ideas and feelings through a variety of activities in art, music and movement.

 How – Our freely accessed continuous provision enables children to explore media, materials and imagination. Our workshop enables drawing with different media, collage, model making, painting and colour mixing. These opportunities are also available outside alongside those that allow for larger scale exploration. Imaginative play is supported through our role-play areas, small world and music making resources. Children learn songs along with the wider school in Collective Worship and for whole school celebrations. They also explore dance in P.E. sessions.

Assessing Our Learners

We use the Early Years Assessment Tracker (EExAT) to build a picture of children’s learning and development throughout the Early Years Foundation Stage. The EExAT statements are 6 monthly developmental milestones. EExAT enables us to consider children’s wellbeing, involvement and their learning behaviours alongside their development in the EYFS Prime and Specific Areas of Learning. Children are assessed at regular intervals throughout the year and alongside their ‘Focus Child’ week. We use these assessments to inform our planning for next steps.

There is also a statutory assessment completed at the end of the Reception Year in which children are assessed against Early Learning Goals to determine if a Good Level of Development (GLD) has been reached. This supports our transition conversations with our Year One teachers.