The Early Years curriculum has been carefully developed to ensure it meets the needs of our pupils and the community we serve. Our curriculum is inspirational as well as aspirational and was designed to give all pupils, particularly the most disadvantaged, the knowledge, self-belief, and enriching opportunities they need to succeed in life. We promote a practical, playful approach to learning, based on the needs and interests of our pupils, and is delivered mainly through topic-based planning. Through a combination of teacher input and continuous provision opportunities, learning is planned to encourage pupils to develop their learning independently (child-initiated activities) through exploration and challenge. We have also ensured the EYFS team works closely with KS1 to develop consistency and cohesion across the year groups as part of the focus on progression and sequencing of all subjects. As a result, there is a clearer whole school curriculum from the nursery to year 2 which reflects our context and our ethos.
The ‘Characteristics of Effective Learning’ are at the heart of our Early Years Curriculum, to ensure there is a clear progression for all the areas of learning. A significant number of pupils join our nursery from very low starting points, with language (CLL) being often the biggest barrier to learning. Therefore, the offer in the Early Years ensures pupils engage in language and vocabulary rich experiences enabling them to learn new concepts and skills which will prepare them to achieve high standards by the end of Reception (Early Learning Goals).
Our Early Years offer is effectively meeting the needs of all our pupils, it is centred on the school’s context and history, baseline information, pre-school experiences, and local environment. We encourage and develop pupil’s confidence by helping them to develop a strong, positive sense of self. We build good relationships with our pupils and give them ownership of their environment through pupil voice which enables them to feel secure in their surroundings.
The new EYFS framework 2021 supports our creative approach to teaching and provides opportunities for more meaningful interactions with our pupils. This supports a deeper knowledge of individual pupil’s development across the EYFS. This reflects our pupil centred approach, and how we explore their likes and dislikes, the way they learn and their individual needs in great detail.
Our learning environments, both inside and outside are stimulating, exciting, and relevant, giving our pupils the skills to be confident and curious, explore and learn from the world around them. The classrooms are well stocked with high quality books for the different topics, which supports subject-specific vocabulary. The teaching of reading supports pupils to develop their word reading and comprehension skills through high-quality discussion to foster the love and enthusiasm for reading at the earliest stages. We do this through regular 1:1 reading as well as ‘book Talk’ where texts are closely matched to pupil’s abilities and stages of learning. Pupils also enjoy whole class shared reading as well as stories read by their teacher. Author focus and reading events are planned regularly. All home reading is matched to pupil’s abilities to reinforce the class reading provision.
We teach our pupils to read and write through phonics. Pupils are taught phonics through phonemes (sounds) associated with graphemes (letters). These can be pronounced in isolation and blended together (synthesised). Pupils are also encouraged to use their phonic knowledge during their daily focused writing activities. Understanding the World is intricately linked to the progression of learning in History and Geography in KS1. Writing is developed through mark making, which has a positive impact on developing fine motor skills. We model and encourage writing for a purpose e.g. a shopping list, letter writing, messages to parents etc. Mathematics is taught well as through a concrete, pictorial and abstract approach, which allows all pupils to access the maths curriculum, feel sufficiently challenged, and develop a love of maths. The EYFS Leader and the team work closely to ensure pupils are prepared to the next stage of their education in KS1 and the transition is seamless.
Behaviour for learning is excellent, pupils listen, and concentrate well. The EYFS environment supports pupils feel emotionally secure which contributes to character development. The school’s Learning Behaviours are well embedded within the EYFS, pupils are curious and ‘have a go’, they are resilient because they remain positive and keep trying, they become resourceful as they learn to make links and solve problems. Our monitoring cycle shows that observations are consistently being used to inform planning and provision. This year we are further developing the outdoor provision by building stronger links with the indoor provision, in particularly areas of learning. The strong partnerships with parents and carers begin with home visits and open days. We also produce an EYFS booklet to ensure all stakeholders are fully aware of our offer, how the EYFS works and how parents and carers can best support their children.
Most pupils achieve well regardless of their starting points. In 2018/19 the school was significantly above national and local data with 81% of pupils achieving ELGs, with LA and National averages at 72%. Our monitoring indicates that this upward trend will be set to continue, reflecting the improvements we have made to the quality of Education in the EYFS.
In 2020/21 although the Reception cohort was affected by the restrictions brought about by the pandemic, we implemented a robust recovery plan in place upon the return to school, which contributed to excellent outcomes for the Reception cohort of 80% ELGs.
Our pupils talk about what they are learning and explain it, they also take risks when exploring the unknown. Pupils are listened to, respected, and treated with kindness. They work independently to resolve disagreements and can be trusted to make the right choices. Pupils leave the Early Years with a love of reading, leaving Reception with good knowledge of blending, word recognition and good understanding of plot and purpose of the story.
The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) is the period of education from birth to 5 years. At the Convent, it starts in the Nursery class and ends in Reception.
The new framework for the EYFS was published 31 March 2021 and is effective from 1st September 2021. There is a strong emphasis on learning through play, both child initiated and planned play. The curriculum is delivered through a combination of whole class activities, adult led focused activities and child initiated activities. The Department for Education Development Matters guidance was revised in July 2021.
The new EYFS framework has a stronger emphasis on the three prime areas which are most essential for children’s healthy development. These three areas are: communication and language; physical; and personal, social and emotional development.
Assessment in the EYFS
In the EYFS the staff use an online learning journal for recording observations, photos and videos of the children across the seven areas of learning. We use our observations and teacher knowledge of the children to make a judgement of their development and how they are progressing in the seven areas of learning.