At Cromwell, we place great value on the development of children as individuals and providing them with the skills, knowledge and understanding they need to prepare them for the challenges in Key Stage One and beyond. Our aim in the EYFS is to build strong foundations rooted in academic success as well as moral and spiritual development; so that ultimately our pupils can be successful in life, go on to be active citizens of society and happy, curious life-long learners.
Our curriculum is therefore the cultural capital we know our pupils need so that they can gain the knowledge, skills and understanding they require for success. They can only do that if we embed the right habits for learning through effective teaching and learning – Play and Exploration, Active Learning and Creative and Critical Thinking.
Many of our pupils arrive well below national expectations for their age. We have to teach them how to listen, speak and meet the high expectations for behaviour by working together and being kind. As such, we prioritise personal, social and emotional development, communication, and language in the first term within the Reception curriculum.
Our enabling environment and warm, skilful adult interactions support the children as they begin to link learning to their play and exploration. We invest time and energy into helping pupils set and reflect on their own goals by aiming high and developing a love of reading, writing and number. This is delivered through a holistic curriculum which maximises opportunities for meaningful cross-curricular links and learning experiences as well as promoting the unique child by offering extended periods of play and sustained thinking following children’s interests and ideas. We value imagination and creativity and seek to create a sense of enjoyment and fascination in learning through a vibrant continuous indoor and outdoor provision, alongside trips, visits and regular forest school sessions. Children in Foundation Stage are taught through planned, purposeful play and through a mix of adult-led and child initiated activities. Staff respond to children’s needs and interests by planning activities which reflect the different ways that children learn.
Four principles shape practice in early years settings:
- every child is a unique child
- children learn to be strong and independent through positive relationships
- children learn and develop well in enabling environments
- children develop and learn in different ways and at different rates
There are 7 areas of learning that form the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum. All areas of learning and development are important and inter-connected.
The 3 prime areas are:
- communication and language – speaking and listening in a range of situations
- physical development – being active and interactive, developing coordination, control and movement, the importance of physical activity and making healthy food choices
- personal, social and emotional development – forming positive relationships, developing respect for others, developing social skills, managing their feelings, understanding appropriate behaviour and to have confidence in their own abilities
The 4 specific areas are:
- literacy – linking sounds and letters to begin to read and write
- mathematics – developing skills in counting, understanding and using numbers, simple addition and subtraction, describing shapes, space and measures
- understanding the world – making sense of their physical world and their community, finding out about people, places, technology and the environment
- expressive arts and design – exploring and playing with a wide range of media and materials, through art, music, movement, dance, role-play and design and technology
Practitioners reflect on and plan for the different ways that children learn:
- playing and exploring – engagement
- active learning – motivation
- creating and thinking critically – thinking
Implementation of the EYFS curriculum
Pupils learn through a balance of child-initiated and adult-directed activities. The timetable is structured so that children have rigorous directed teaching in English, Maths and Phonics everyday with regular circle time sessions to focus on PSED. This focused group time means the teacher can systematically check for understanding, identify and respond to misconceptions quickly and provide real-time verbal feedback, which results in a strong impact on the acquisition of new learning. Staff also use ‘planning in the moment’, observing and interacting with children, as they pursue their own interests, and also assessing and moving the learning on in that play.
Children are provided with plenty of time to engage in ‘exploration’ throughout the variety of experiences carefully planned to engage and challenge them in the provision. The curriculum is planned for the inside and outside classrooms and equal importance is given to learning in both areas. The curriculum is planned in a cross-curricular way to enable all aspects of the children’s development including understanding the world and expressive art and design as well as to promote sustained thinking and active learning.
Children follow the rigorous Story Time Phonics program so that they meet good outcomes for reading from their starting points. Children start daily phonics lessons straight away when they start school. Children are introduced to sounds daily in a fun, multi-sensory way that involves and interests all children. The children are taught to blend and segment words, to read and spell and to learn tricky words. The children revise the taught sounds each day and have opportunities to practise their phonic skills through activities set up in the class and outside area. Children are encouraged to develop a lifelong love of books and reading; they have twice-weekly guided reading with the teacher and assistant when they practise their sounds, make and read words, read tricky words, read simple captions and eventually take home reading books. The children read within a book band suitable to their development and take home free choice books each week. Parents/Carers have a home/school book to write comments in each week. We encourage older pupils and staff form the secondary phase to come and share reading with pupils in the primary phase and there plans for pupils to read to members of the community i.e. volunteers from the church community and local care home.
We follow the Mastery approach for teaching Maths in Reception with an emphasis on studying key skills of number, calculation and shape so that pupils develop deep understanding and the acquisition of mathematical language. Pupils learn through games and tasks using concrete manipulatives, which are rehearsed and applied to their own learning during exploration. These early mathematical experiences are carefully designed to help pupils remember the content they have been taught and to support them with integrating their new knowledge across the breadth of their experiences and into larger concepts. We use White Rose Maths.
Reception have a big question to answer over the course of a half term, which is broken down into smaller units of learning. The topics are tailored to children’s growing curiosity about the world around them and include questions such a Do Cows Drink Milk ?and How can we be Friends? From these topics, we have chosen multiple high-quality texts to create an integrated approach to learning from which pupils can experience the full curriculum.
Our inclusive approach means that all children learn together but we have a range of additional interventions and support to enhance and scaffold children who may not be reaching their potential or moving on children who are doing very well. This includes, for example, Sensory Circuits, additional ‘catch-up’ provision in Phonics and Maths as well as individual Speech and Language support sessions.
Children arrive in the setting from 8.40am, they self-register and start the day off with adult led structured activities that have been planned to address gaps in learning.
Forest School – the children have regular Forest School sessions, where they are involved in self chosen activities such as den building, bug hunting, climbing trees, muddy kitchen, making swings, collecting leaves etc. Our Foundation Stage teacher is a Level 3 Forest School Leader.
Transition – Pre-School children join the Foundation Stage class in small groups throughout the summer term. Parents are invited to workshops and or meetings to inform them about starting school and how to support their child’s learning. At the end of Reception, the children visit the Year 1 class to meet the teacher and get to know the classroom.
Assessment – Children are assessed regularly about what they know and how they learn. Assessments are made through observing the children as they play. We regularly assess where the children are using the Early Years Framework and then ensure our planning, adult interaction and learning environments support children to reach their next steps and also informs the Year 1 staff about their readiness for the next year of school, including interests and how each individual learns best. Parents/Carers are invited to discuss their child’s progress at consultation meetings in the autumn and spring term and receive an end of year written report.
Our curriculum needs to meet the needs of our children, including our disadvantaged pupils and those with SEND, so we spend time looking at and evaluating how children are learning. This is achieved through talking to children, looking at their work, observing their learning experiences, analysing data and progress by year group, class, groups and individuals. Every member of staff uses ongoing observational assessment to identify eahc child's starting point and plan experiences, which ensure progress. This information is tracked carefully. During each assessment window, the teacher updates the progress children have made, which allows us to assess the impact of teaching. Evidence of children's learning includes observations, work, samples, photographs and verbal contributions from parents.
Our curriculum and its delivery ensure that children make good progress. Children in our Early Years, on average, arrive with much lower starting points than national. During their time IN OUR eyfs, Children make rapid progress. We believe our high standards are due to the enriched play-based exploration alongside the rigour of assessment, individual provision and the teaching children have as they move through Reception - a rich diet of balanced learning experiences is undoubtedly the best way to develop happy, curious children.