EARLY YEARS Subject Aims
Intent, Implementation and Impact.
The Statutory framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage sets the standards for learning, development and care for children from birth to 5 years.
“Whatever life experiences and achievements are to be built on, they need foundations that are rich, broad, varied and robust”.
Julia Fisher, The Foundations of Learning, 2000
At St Bernadette’s, from the moment a child joins our School family, we create a learning environment which builds relationships that support, enhance, and invite a child’s curiosity, confidence, and individual competency to flourish regardless of background, circumstance or needs. From their first warm welcome at the door, to the clear and calm routines, that are embedded from day one, our children are encouraged to drive their own learning with confidence and resilience.
We work extremely closely with parents and build positive relationships even before the children begin in our setting. We work in partnership to recognise the children’s starting points, needs and prior learning from both previous settings and experiences at home through our:
- Our Toddler ‘Bernie’s Bears’ stay and play group (from birth to 4),
- Starting School information evening
- Nursery Reception Transition events (Summer Term)
- Liaising with other settings
- Identifying children’s needs with our School Nurture & SENDCO, outside agencies and the School Nurse,
- Completion of the children’s Summer scrap books and
- Clear communication through our Parent App & Class Dojo.
Thus, providing the children with the best possible start and ensuring that each child reaches their full potential from various starting points.
Our team have high expectations in line with The New Early Years Framework and the enhancement of skills for learning is achieved through a well-resourced, stimulating and engaging environment that maximises opportunities for meaningful cross-curricular links and learning. We understand the clear progression in skills needed across the Prime Areas of learning and the Specific Areas. Thus, allowing children to thrive as we foster a love of learning by ensuring that we capture and learn through the children’s interests as much as possible. Every opportunity is a learning opportunity!
At St Bernadette’s, we believe that ‘Reading and Writing float on a sea of talk’. Talk is inextricably linked to all children’s development- We need language to think and understand, which in turn promotes self-confidence, resilience and empathy which supports each child’s well-being We recognise that the children’s language experience varies considerably and so give valued time, plan for and explicitly teach oracy, as they not only learn to talk but learn through talk. Oracy not only improves academic outcomes but is a life skill to ensure success beyond school, in life and future employment.
We carefully structure our day to balance short adult led learning, with longer child-led sessions. We ensure both approaches foster the characteristics of effective learning and produce deep level learning. We strive to foster excellent attitudes to learning by providing effective and timely adult interactions to ensure that learning is instantly captured and enhanced. We believe that high level engagement ensures high level attainment. Extended periods of play promote each unique child in our setting. Our enabling environments and warm, skilful adult interactions support the children as they begin to link learning to their play and exploration right from the start. By following the children’s interests and ideas to foster a lifelong love of learning both in and outside of school.
Our children are taught by a PE specialist who engages and supports all the children with their gross and fine motor skills.
Our key purpose is to ensure that children are ready for the next phase of school life, making at least good progress from their starting points and are equipped with the skills and knowledge to have a smooth transition into Year 1. We focus on ensuring that all children have developed a sound base of early reading skills and phonics which gives them the foundations for future learning, especially in preparation for them to become confident and fluent readers.
By the end of the Reception year, our intent is to ensure that all children make at least good progress
Our School Mission, values and Ethos
On their journey through our school, children will GROW TOGETHER, supported by a school community, to strengthen their FAITH; LOVE one another and LEARN to achieve excellence in everything they do.
The School Values and Ethos formulates practical ways of working to meet our Mission Statement, “Growing Together in Faith, Love and Learning”:
- We are a Catholic school who wish to help parents educate their children to appreciate the awe and majesty of God and His Creation, including respect for themselves and others as they recognise that all are made in God’s image. We will build a prayerful community who support each other on our Faith Journey by preparing for and sharing the Sacraments together.
- We are determined to create an inclusive culture of learning where all children will be challenged in their thinking, to achieve to the best of their abilities and strive to become lifelong learners.
- We will empower our children to become respected citizens to enable them to make valuable contributions locally, globally and to contribute to our world’s sustainable future.
This can be done most effectively when all staff, parents and children understand their responsibilities and work together towards the same goals, as detailed in our home/school agreement.
Each half term, EYFS staff introduce a new theme to provide inspiration for learning, whilst providing the flexibility for children to follow their own interests and ideas. Children learn through a balance of child-initiated and adult-directed activities. The timetable is carefully structured so that children have directed teaching during the day. The timetable changes throughout the year to take into consideration the changing needs of the children. These sessions are followed by small -focussed group work. This means the teacher can systematically check for understanding, identify and respond to misconceptions quickly and provide real-time verbal feedback. This strongly impacts the acquisition of new learning. 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 environments and equal importance is given to learning in both areas.
All pupils’ basic needs are met through the provision of a safe, stimulating, and secure environment and staff regularly reinforce messages about how to stay safe and healthy and to ensure that their friends do too. We follow the ‘Heart smart’ PSED principles which are planned and delivered throughout the year.
Communication, Language and Literacy
Oracy is at the forefront of everything that we do. We give valued time, plan for and explicitly teach oracy, as they not only learn to talk but learn through talk. We enrich our curriculum through our ‘Word of the day’ and creating language topic webs to enrich all areas of the curriculum.
Reading is at the heart of our curriculum and our purpose is to encourage a love of reading right from the start. In the EYFS we have ‘Our Golden books’ that are our core texts. These are read and revisited throughout the year. The aim is to expose children to a variety of books which not only develop a love of reading, but have been chosen specifically to develop their oracy, vocabulary and comprehension. Central to this is exposing children to books from a range of cultures different to their own in Shevington. These books are embedded in our provision through activities, story sessions and on display for children to access independently. Through this, children begin to internalise new vocabulary, language patterns, begin to retell stories and experience lives which are different to theirs.
In our daily Phonics sessions, we follow the DfES Letters and Sounds programme to ensure consistency as well as Jolly Phonics’ songs for mnemonics. Nursery children focus on Phase 1 which concentrates on developing children's speaking and listening skills and lays the foundations for the phonic work which starts in Phase 2. The emphasis during Phase 1 is to get children attuned to the sounds around them and ready to begin developing oral blending and segmenting skills, prior to GPC. In Reception, Phase 1 continues but children are introduced to Phase 2 and 3 where they develop GPC and segmenting and blending skills to decode words. During the Summer term, children move on to Phase 4 if they are ready. Children are encouraged to read at home and are listened to regularly in school. They are given books that match their phonic knowledge in order for them to apply their learning with the aim of becoming successful, confident and fluent readers.
Parents are involved and engaged in supporting their child to learn to read through parent workshops, information leaflets, weekly phonic newsletters, and comments in their child’s reading record. We also provide time for our Year 6 Buddies to come and share books with our Reception children, whether that’s a book from our book corner or hearing them read their own reading book.
Writing is embedded in all areas of the curriculum. Children are praised and encouraged form the first marks they make, so that by the end of their Reception journey they are confident to use all the language and phonics skills they have learnt to express their ideas. From starting to mark make in their ‘Squiggling Books in Nursery to their Writing Books in Reception. Every mark matters! Gross and fine motor skill development is at the forefront of developing these skills.
A comprehensive Mathematics curriculum is taught and then embedded through the wider curriculum. We believe that Maths (as all subject areas) must be purposeful and connected to real life situations for children to learn. Revisiting and repetition are crucial for long- term memory. Our children learn through games and tasks using concrete manipulatives and pictorial structures and representations which are then rehearsed applied and recorded within their own child-led exploration. We share with parents our weekly newsletter on ‘The Number of the Week’ so they can support their children’s learning at home. We are also currently working with the Northwest Early Years Maths Hub to develop our CPD and provide a high-quality Maths Curriculum with a clear understanding of progression and skills to support all our children.
Our wider curriculum is taught through the learning areas; ‘Understanding of the World’ and ‘Expressive Arts and Design.’ EYFS staff have a good understanding of how ELG’s feed into the National Curriculum through our robust planning and CPD opportunities. In reverse, colleagues throughout the school are also aware of the key ELG’s that link to each foundation subject and the progression of the subject.
Children have access to a high-quality learning environment covering all the required areas of learning. Staff are skilled at asking questions that encourage children to think more deeply about their learning, to extend their use of language across the curriculum and to make connections to embed new learning. Regular opportunities are planned to reinforce new learning and for staff to check understanding.
Exciting, purposeful and contextual activities are planned to build on children’s natural curiosity. For example, building a boat for their favourite toy enables them to think like a ‘Scientist’ and ‘Engineer’ as they explore a range of materials and test out their own ideas.
Building further on our oracy focus, children are encouraged to employ subject specific language and terminology in foundation subjects, and such vocabulary is modelled, both verbally and orally, by supporting practitioners.
Assessments are relevant, purposeful and not time consuming, leading to improved outcomes for children.
Our inclusive approach means that all children learn together, but we have a range of additional intervention and support for children who may not be reaching their potential or are showing a greater depth of understanding and need further challenge. Intervention is crucial and happens daily so that gaps are plugged, and children are not left behind. Our intervention groups are for fine motor, speech and language using the NELI programme.
Our children with SEND Needs have bespoke plans and their learning is planned carefully to ensure that they make ‘small steps’ in their development.
Regular monitoring of teaching and learning by SLT and the EYFS Team keep abreast of the changing world of Early Years theory and research. We were an Early Years Adopter school which enabled us to gain valuable insight and practise into the changes for the new EYFS Framework in September 2021. We ensure staff develop good subject knowledge. The EYFS Team ensures staff receive CPD specific to Early Years to develop their practice.
Prior to children starting, our team to spend time to get to know each child’s Learning Journey so far. By speaking to the child’s parents, previous settings and reading previous learning journey’s they gain an understanding of the whole child and where they are at.
During the first half term, all staff use ongoing assessments, observations and conversations with the child to develop a baseline assessment. This identifies each child’s individual starting points in all areas so we can plan experiences to ensure progress. The following baseline assessments are also carried out.
The RBA (Statutory Reception Baseline Assessment)
This assessment focuses on ‘Language, Communication and Literacy,’ and ‘Mathematics.’ The purpose of this is to show the progress children make from Reception until the end of KS2.
NELI (Nutfield Early Language Intervention)
NELI is an evidence-based oral language intervention for children who show weakness in their oral language skills and who are therefore at risk of experiencing difficulty with reading. The assessment informs us if the child is at expected for their age or requires intervention from trained NELI practitioners.
All ongoing observations are used to inform weekly planning and identify children’s next steps. This formative assessment does not involve prolonged periods of time away from the children and excessive paper work. Practitioners draw on their knowledge of the child and their own expert professional judgements through discussions with other practitioners, photographs and physical examples such as a child’s drawing / making. Some observations are uploaded using Tapestry and shared with the supporting parents and carers and examples – Star Moments recorded on Dojo.
Phonic assessments are carried out using phonics Tracker every half term to quickly identify pupils that are not making expected progress. Our aim is for children to ‘keep up’ rather than ‘catch up’ where possible.
Assessments are completed three times per year and shared with parents, whereby the Class Teacher updates the progress children have made. In Summer Term 2, the EYFSP is completed where teacher judge whether the child has met each of the 17 ELG’s. They will be assessed as either ‘emerging’ or ‘expected.’ Whilst there is no judgement to state if a child is exceeding beyond an ELG, teachers, have a duty to provide a narrative for both parents and the Year 1 teacher.
Impact is also evident through our successful transitions into Year 1. EYFS staff have a good understanding of how ELG’s link to the National Curriculum, and through our robust planning and delivery across the spectrum of subjects – both core and foundation.
By the end of the Foundation Stage, most (need %) children read accurately and are starting to develop fluency in their reading. Their vocabulary and understanding of language are good and most children achieve the early learning goals, particularly in mathematics and literacy, representing high achievement from on occasions low starting points. Children enjoy their learning and the participate eagerly and enthusiastically. They are beginning to manage their own feelings and behaviour and understand how these have an impact on others.
As a result of the creative, stimulating environment we provide, by the end of the Foundation Stage our children flourish and develop into confident, motivated and independent learners, who understand right from wrong and are ready for the next stage of their learning journey as Scientists, Historians, Artists, Musicians and Geographers.
"Growing Together in Faith, Love and Learning"