Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum Statement
Our Aims and Approach
Our approach to the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) at St Michael’s centres on our belief of the importance of developing the whole child. We believe all children are naturally eager to learn and able to be independent in their endeavours. We believe that a welcoming, well-prepared and engaging environment created by caring, supportive and knowledgeable practitioners together enables children to thrive.
We endeavour to communicate openly with children, families and within our team. We strive to build long lasting relationships with children and their families so we are well placed to provide the best opportunities for the children in our school. We ensure children feel comfortable and cared for, they can grow in confidence, feel valued and have the skills to make long lasting relationships.
Play is a key way in which children learn with enjoyment and challenge, and is therefore central to our approach. We aim to provide a balance between child-initiated and adult guided learning so we are able to be flexible in our response to children. For us, this means noticing children’s strength and areas of need and acting upon them in ways appropriate to the child and their learning. We plan for enriching experiences so children gain new life experiences that they can draw upon as a starting point for new learning. We recognise the importance of providing time for children to revisit concepts and new learning within play in enabling children to consolidate learning.
(Working with the revised Early Years Foundation Stage: Principles into Practice by Julian Grenier has been an important influence in evaluating and defining our curriculum).
Children will start in our Nursery or Reception having had a range of different experiences. We consider the needs of our children and revise our curriculum to support every child to make good progress.
St Michael’s is a church school. It is in a small, but growing, town centred around a church, between the city of Norwich and the coast. We are surrounded by countryside, including the Broads. We have an ever-growing community with new housing bringing new families into the area. Central to our curriculum is our desire for children to learn the core values of living in a community, so they are able to thrive in the place they live can take on an active role within this community as they grow. This includes children learning about the role of the church in the lives of the people in the community, learning about the importance and benefits of caring for the natural environment that surrounds where they live and how to stay safe within it. Our school is an Eco School and one that embraces learning outside classroom.
We also believe that children must learn about the wider world that does not feature as part of their everyday life. We believe it is important they learn to appreciate difference and respect and understand the rights of others. For our children this means learning about how and where others live, about different cultures, faiths, festivals and languages.
Teaching and learning in our Nursery and Reception classes is underpinned by the Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage.
How we plan for learning
Our EYFS curriculum at St Michael’s C of E, VA, Primary and Nursery School is planned for our children, and our school, and knits into the wider school curriculum. Our EYFS curriculum holds at its heart the aims and values of our school, and with this the distinctive values of a church school.
(Link to whole school aims and values page)
Our EYFS curriculum is carefully sequenced to help children to build their learning over time and reflects our commitment to the ‘Educational Programmes’ set out in the EYFS Statutory Framework. It is flexible in approach to ensure we can use children’s interests and fascinations as drivers to enable them to become powerful learners. Children will need a range of skills to achieve this. In the EYFS Framework these skills are defined as ‘characteristics of effective teaching and learning’.
These are –
- playing and exploring
- active learning
- creating and thinking critically.
Our curriculum is shaped by the seven areas of learning and development described in the Statutory Framework for the EYFS. All areas are important and inter-connected.
These are the three prime areas –
- Communication and language
- Physical development
- Personal, social and emotional development
These are the four specific areas –
- Understanding the world
- Expressive arts and design
Here is an example of how we carefully sequence our curriculum and how we plan for key experiences so our children are able to develop a strong foundation for future learning –
What teaching and learning looks like at St Michael’s
Acorn Class Nursery introductory powerpoint.
In the EYFS at St Michael’s we help children to learn and make progress through high quality interactions. We model language, show, explain, demonstrate, explore ideas, encourage, question, recall, provide a narrative for what children are doing, facilitate and set challenges. The importance of the introduction, broadening and development of deep understanding of the vocabulary children use is interwoven through all learning and our team have this in mind at all times.
We provide a well-planned communication friendly environment with a wide range of open-ended resources. We review and enhance the resources and opportunities regularly to stimulate new ideas and provide new experiences and challenges.
We have strong, consistent routines in Nursery and Reception. We share these with children using visual timetables. These enable us to set high expectations, particularly around routine activities and learning behaviours.
Here are some of the ways we help children every day to make progress in each of the areas of learning and development –
Communication and Language – We provide a language rich environment where interaction and communication are central. As children engage in play adults support them through listening, 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 poems, stories and information books children meet new vocabulary, which they are encouraged to use.
Personal, Social and Emotional Development – 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. We expect children 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.
Physical Development – 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. sessions weekly where children learn how to move mats and benches 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.
- We share stories every day and endeavour to foster a love of books in every child. We plan to meet and enjoy a selection of core texts and have created a reading spine of books we feel are important for our children to experience and be familiar with. 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 meet and learn new vocabulary when reading together.
- Children also spend time in, and borrow books from, our school library, as well as visiting the town library. We have special book weeks and a visiting bookshop.
- 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. In both Nursery and Reception, we follow the Little Wandle phonics scheme which ensures progression throughout the whole school.
- Children take books home to share with their families. These are wordless picture books initially and quickly move on to those that support their use of the phonic sounds they have been learning in phonics lessons and reading practise sessions.
- Children are encouraged to use their growing sound discrimination and story language when reading in small groups, one to one, when making ‘Helicopter Stories’ and within their play inside and outside.
- We use Helicopter Stories to develop expressive language. Through this approach, we record children’s ideas and language in writing throughout the year. This begins with adults scribing for children and gradually builds to children scribing for themselves. Children are encouraged to share their stories with the class and have the opportunity to act them out with peers. We use a ‘Story Mountain’ to help to scaffold children’s story making.
- 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 children to explore maths resources.
- Children in Nursery cook several times each term as a real life mathematical activity. In Reception, children cook at least once each half term.
- In Nursery, children come together to sing number songs and rhymes and take part in activities to introduce mathematical vocabulary through stories. In Reception, children take part in daily maths sessions where they learn, explore and practise using and applying mathematical vocabulary and concepts. We have planned a carefully sequenced maths teaching overview based on White Rose and supported by NCETM Numberblocks. We use Numberblocks episodes to help bring to life new mathematical vocabulary and new concepts.
Understanding the World – We also take part in cooking and visit our local church regularly. We also explore our local area, go on visits further afield (for example we have previously visited Norwich, Blickling, a farm, a café, Gressenhall, Norwich Puppet Theatre, The Sainsbury Centre, Norwich Cathedral, Pizza Express, Holt Country Park, Holt Hall. We also invite visitors into school. We look at the similarities and differences between the children’s own lives and the lives of others within their own community and those in the past. Through practical hands-on activities we learn about the world around us.
Expressive Arts and Design – We encourage an appreciation of the arts through meeting and responding to the work of others. This includes seeing the art of others; including performances and meeting artists or performers. 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 in school 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.
*More detailed information on our key experiences for each area of learning can be found in our progression plans for each area of learning.
We ensure we are making a difference through purposeful and timely assessment. This takes a variety of forms, with much of it happening in direct response to learning taking place in the moment.
On entry – When children are due to join our Nursery or Reception we spend time getting to know them and their starting points. We gather this information from a range of sources including parents/carers, current or previous settings, meeting the child on transition visits and discussions with any other parties involved in the child’s care and education.
Once children join our setting this getting to know you time continues and supports us in building a picture of each child’s starting points. In the first half term we meet with parents/carers to discuss how children have settled and what we have noticed. This is a joint assessment of the child’s starting points. Our practitioners use our curriculum alongside the checkpoints in the Development Matters document to check children’s development and to support parents where children need extra help to make progress. In Nursery, this focuses on the Prime Areas. In Reception, it considers both the Prime and Specific Areas, however support, where needed, is likely to be focused in the Prime Areas.
Throughout the year – Every day we assess children in the moment, responding to things they have said or done with careful questioning, modelling and support to enable them to move forward in their learning.
Reception, alongside Key Stage One and Two, complete a phonics and maths assessment each half term to identify any gaps in children’s learning so we can quickly act to support any children who need it. We also complete a simple tracking document to support us in following learning across all areas of learning to ensure we are aware of any children, or groups of children, who may not be on track with their progress through our curriculum pathway.
Where possible we focus assessment where there is most need. This means those who are not on track can be quickly identified and supported to move forward.
These are all ways we gain information about the children we teach and these support use in planning for children’s next steps.
Children in Reception take part in a Statutory Baseline Assessment that informs the DfE of starting points of children across the country.
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 parents and our Year One teachers.
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.
Parent as partners in the EYFS
At St Michael’s we understand the importance of working together with parents and we endeavour to achieve this in a range of ways.
Stay and Play sessions – We invite parents and children into our Nursery to join us in play for short sessions before children start.
In Reception, we invite parents into school during the summer term to learn more about how their child will be learning in Reception and everything they will need to know to prepare for the new school year. There is also plenty of time to explore the school, the Reception Class and outside area too. Alongside this, we invite children in for several short play sessions to support their transition into school.
Once children have started school, we invite parents in to share more information about more specific areas, such as reading, as well as how parents can be involved in their child’s learning and with the wider school.
Learning Journals – We work with parents to create a record of each child’s key moments in learning. We call these our Learning Journals. They consist of two parts, a Tapestry account and a purple folder in Reception and in Nursery each child also has a Tapestry account and a scrapbook.
Tapestry is primarily a space for parents to share their children’s learning with us. We use this as a space to share key observations focused on ‘Wow’ moments for a child, times when we have captured and extended language (to focus in on and share the value we place on language development) or when we have captured a process a child has worked through (to support discussions to develop characteristics of learning and learning to set own goals).
The purple folder is chronological collection of any physical element (e.g. paintings, drawing, writing) a child or teacher feels are an important record of their learning.
We also provide ‘proud cloud’ templates and ask parents to note any achievements, we then share these in class.
Parents in school – We hold ‘Family Learning Days’ regularly throughout the year, each focussing on a different area of learning. We share how we teach and encourage parents to join in.
We also hold special events days where parents can come and join us in a range of activities or share celebrations with their child, examples of this are Nativity plays and Sports Day.
Just before each half term break, we meet with parents individually to discuss how children have settled and, where needed, any additional support that might be needed.