What is the Early Years curriculum?
At Cliftonville Primary and Pre-School our children in both the Pre-School and Reception year follow the Early Years Foundation Stage framework (EYFS). Children follow the EYFS framework from birth to 5 years old and all professionals (nurseries, child-minders, teachers etc.) use this framework to plan for children’s next steps and support their holistic development. The EYFS is a very important stage for children as it helps prepare them for more formal teaching and lifelong learning. Children’s early years’ experience should be a happy, active, exciting, fun and safe time which enables every individual child to achieve their full potential.
Here at Cliftonville Primary School we aim to ensure that all children learn by ‘doing’ and leave both our Pre-School and Reception year with a love of learning and feeling safe and excited by the opportunities that learning offers.
The EYFS ensures that children learn new skills, acquire new knowledge and demonstrate their understanding through 7 areas of learning and development.
There are 3 prime areas which are:
Communication and Language
Personal, social and emotional development
The prime areas help children to develop skills in 4 specific areas. These are:
Understanding the world
Expressive arts and design
These seven areas are used to plan your child’s learning and activities. The teachers and teaching assistants make sure the activities are suited to each child’s needs. Children in the EYFS learn by playing and exploring, being active and through creative and critical thinking which takes place both indoors and out. We sustain high standards of achievement through careful planning, continuous assessment and tracking of children’s learning. This ongoing process enables us to build a picture of all aspects of each child's development. We believe in creating a colourful, rich, challenging and fun learning environment. If children are happy they will want to learn. We have high expectations for all our children and do everything possible to allow them to fulfil their potential.
Learning opportunities are developed:
Through play which is structured at times to enable new skills to develop
Through children’s interests noted by staff and suggestions from parents
Though allowing children to make their own decisions and choices
Through providing a range of stimulating resources that children are encouraged to explore freely and through direction from staff
Through incorporating drama and role-play into sessions
Through catering for different learning styles and needs so that all children are engaged.
Through offering very high quality pastoral care so that children feel confident, valued secure.
To provide a secure, caring and stimulating environment
To ensure that all children are valued
To build on what the child already knows and to encourage a positive attitude and enjoyment of learning.
To provide a range of opportunities to learn through direct first-hand experience and active exploration, in the classroom and outdoors, using a variety of equipment and materials.
To value the role families can play and work together in partnership.
How do we do this?
We want children to be engaged in the learning process and for their learning to be relevant and purposeful. Therefore, our philosophy is centred around the notion that children learn best by doing. We believe that play, both indoors and outdoors, is an ideal vehicle for young children’s learning. Play helps children to be challenged in their thinking and helps them to practice and rehearse skills and to be motivated in their learning. Children are inquisitive and curious and we wish to build upon this in a positive and enjoyable manner.
We believe that children should have regular access to outside learning opportunities. The use of the outdoor environment complements and extends the learning which takes place indoors. The outside environment can offer unique opportunities for learning and the children have more space to move freely which is crucial for their physical development, social and emotional development. Here at Cliftonville, we have a secure designated outdoor area for our Pre-School and Reception children. Each day there will be a variety of activities set up outside for the children to explore and develop their learning. The areas will be well resourced and there will be systems in place ensuring equal access for all children to this area. The children also have supervised access to other outdoor facilities on the school site including the wildlife area, playing field and playground for trucks and trikes.
Working in Partnership with Families
At Cliftonville Primary and Pre-School, we work hard to develop an active partnership with parents where we build and nurture relationships and often draw them in through social events. We see the parents of children at our school as partners and we greatly value the contribution that parents make to their children’s learning and continual development. We aim to work in partnership with parents even before their children start their learning journey at Cliftonville by talking to them about their children and their needs at our transition evening in term 6 and at our Rising 5s sessions in July.
One evening in June before the children start with us in Reception, we invite all parents into school for our ‘New Entrants Meeting’. They have the opportunity to meet the Reception teachers and Teaching Assistants as well as find out about the transition process to year R. This is a really relaxed yet informative opportunity for parents to understand what they might expect from the first year of their children’s school lives. Each family receives a learning pack made up of items such as a whiteboard and pen, a numberline, a letter formation guide and a phonics grid so they can support their children’s learning at home.
Our successful Rising 5s programme held over the last three weeks of term 6 provides parents and their children with three opportunities to come into school for an hour at a time. The children will be able to take part in an activity with their new teacher and other children that will be in their new class and for the parents to take part in a workshop centred around phonics, maths and play.
Through our ‘open door’ ethos parents have the opportunity to talk to either Mrs Wilson (Deputy Head Teacher and Early Years Leader), or the Year Group Leader as their child enters school in the mornings. Parents collect their children from the classroom door at the end of the school day. Appointments can also be made to see class teachers and members of the Senior Leadership Team through the school office. We also send out termly newsletters informing families of events and learning that will take place during the forthcoming term.
We invite our Year R parents into school at least once a term to celebrate learning with us. This may be a celebration ‘Talk for Writing’ assembly where the children perform the story or text they have learned, perhaps sing some songs and have out on display their writing or creative pieces of art. We also invite families to our Nativity at Christmas time and to our Sports Day in July. We also invite parents in to read with their children in the classroom on a regular basis.
We have workshops throughout the year for families to have an opportunity to share their children’s learning and to develop a greater understanding of the learning that takes place in school.
We will also have designated parent-teacher meetings twice a year and write a full end of year report which is sent home to parents in July.
We welcome parental support at school and have a number of volunteers who either read regularly or play games with our Reception children.
We have an excellent Pastoral team who are on hand to support any families in their children’s learning and wellbeing both at home and at school. Our Parent Support Advisors, Mrs McAvoy, Mrs Walmsley and Mrs Fourie, provide care and provision for all our families and their children.
Staffing and Organisation
Each class has a full-time teaching assistant working alongside the class teacher. We also have ‘floating’ TAs who support the children with development of particular areas such as handwriting, phonics, precision teaching and speech and language. They are also an integral part of child initiated activities to support the development of children’s early language and vocabulary and to challenge their thinking. All staff in the EYFS are continually improving their practice through professional development. This is achieved through attending training courses, weekly TA or staff development meetings and through observations of each other and sharing good practice with other Early Years settings.
A ‘typical’ day in a Reception Class:
8.40 – 9.00
Registration and early morning activities
9.00 – 10.05
Whole class input by the class teacher followed by focussed group activities and both teacher led and child initiated activities both inside and outside the classroom.
10.05 – 10.20
10.20 – 11.45
Whole class input by the class teacher followed by focussed group activities and both teacher led and child initiated activities both inside and outside the classroom.
11.45 – 12.40
12.40 – 2.50
2.50 – 3.05
Story and reflection time.
Children have access to water bottles at any time of the day and we provide them with free fruit at morning playtime.
Transition from Pre-School to Year R
At Cliftonville Primary and Pre-School we want to ensure the best possible start to school life. The move to the ‘big school’ is an exciting and important time for children and their parents. Children look forward to it and mums and dads can see it as marking a significant moment when a special carefree time of childhood is left behind and children embark on a new phase of development.
We feel that children who are supported in a positive way learn to deal with transition whenever it may occur in their lives will become more confident learners as a result of our interventions at these early stages. We want children to feel safe, secure and comfortable and for staff to have an awareness of the needs of the children to ensure continuity and progression.
We have a calendar of transition activities that take place across the Pre-School year so that when our new Foundation Stage children start with us in September they already have lots of positive experiences of being at ‘big school’.
With our on-site Pre-School, we have developed a transition calendar: a straightforward timetable of transition activities beginning in October and running through the year, with an activity penciled in for every term. Planned activities range from shared theme days such as World Book Day, Storytelling Week and Number Day to shared visits from people in our community e.g. a fireman and a policeman. These children are also invited to the main school to watch the year R Harvest celebrations in October, the Nativity at Christmas time, the Talk for Writing celebration assemblies as well Sports Day morning in the summer term. The children especially love the opportunity to welcome children from the main school over to the Pre-School to watch them perform their own Christmas Nativity and to share books and their favourite stories. The calendar also includes planned times for staff to get together to look at transition reports and to review the progress of children in their first year of Pre-School. The emphasis is on familiarity, allowing children to begin to explore and find out about their new school long before making the move.
For those children who haven’t attended our Pre-School setting, we recognise that those early conversations with care providers are hugely important and they all start at our Open Day in November. Members of our Senior leadership Team, Pastoral Care team and our SEND Leader are all available to meet and greet parents and their children as well as answer any questions.
Once parents have been notified of their child’s school place, a cluster of Thanet schools come together with child care settings to discuss in some detail the needs of each child. We also take this opportunity to arrange visits to the settings to see the children in their familiar environments. All staff at our Pre-School come together with our Reception team to attend a transition afternoon here at school to discuss the needs and learning behaviours of the children in our care.
After consulting with nursery settings we meet as a team to sort children into classes – taking into account learning styles, friendships, gender and date of birth. Each class teacher sends out a letter to the new children in their class with a photograph introducing themselves – so they have a friendly, familiar face to spot when they come to school. We also make a point of visiting as many child care settings as we can in term 6 so we really get to know the children.
In September, the children start on a part time basis for the first two weeks and then build up to incorporate lunchtimes whereby most children will become full time after week 3. For a few, the transition to full time is a little slower, decisions being made in partnership with parents.
Our Early Years SLT Lead, Year Group Leader and class teachers are all available to continue to liaise with parents on a daily basis.
Transition from Year R to Year 1
Year R and Year 1 teachers work closely together to ensure that their approaches to teaching and learning are similar. At Cliftonville, we feel it is important to consider retaining some of the child-initiated and independently tackled aspects of the Foundation Stage in Year 1. Regular opportunities for active, independent learning are built into the school day. We also feel it is important to try to keep the timetable of the school day in year 1 as similar as possible to that of the Foundation Stage. This avoids the children becoming confused and can be reassuring at such a daunting time.
We spend a lot of time looking at the progress children have made in the Foundation Stage and analysing the data to identify next steps in learning and ways of moving children on. We understand that not all children are ready, at the very beginning of year 1, to access the National Curriculum and are still working on the Foundation Stage Profile. Therefore, in year 1, children are assessed using a similar approach to the Foundation Stage methods of assessment. Observations of children during learning time are carried out and are used to plan and resource a challenging environment which supports and extends specific areas of the children’s learning. Assessment in Year 1 is purely based on teacher assessment using observations of children and their learning. At Cliftonville, we have a collective responsibility to provide learning opportunities that reflect and build on children’s previous understanding, knowledge and interests. It is the adult’s role to discover what children understand and what motivates them about their learning. We believe this is best achieved by ongoing formative assessment strategies such as:
‘catch as you can’ observations
annotated examples of children’s work
conversations with children using skillful questioning
annotated teacher notes on planning
conversations with children’s parents / carers about their learning
At Cliftonville Primary and Pre-School, we believe that close liaison between staff regarding the academic and personal aspects of each child’s development is absolutely vital. For this to be carried out effectively, quality directed time is devoted to this handover period. It is important that the detailed knowledge that support staff have of the children as people and learners is shared. Time and effort invested in this will help with differentiation, as well as children’s wellbeing, on entry into Year 1. Planning for the beginning of year 1 is based upon assessment information from Foundation Stage. We try, where possible, to move the Teaching Assistant from year R up to the new Year 1 class.
We consider the idea of overlapping routines, particularly for the beginning of the day, across the end of Foundation Stage and into Year 1 to be very significant. Year R and 1 also complete a transition topic so that there is something familiar about the learning in the new year group at the beginning of term.
At Cliftonville, we try to retain some of the physical arrangements of the Foundation Stage in Year 1 as we strongly believe this will help with a smooth transition. This includes accessible and clearly labeled resources will continue to develop decision-making, responsibility, independence and choice. A variety of stimulating displays that recount the learning process and celebrate outcomes will encourage children to make connections. An outdoor learning environment, practical resources readily available and a role play area are also good examples.
We recognise the importance of developing a programme of visits for children, teachers and parents. It often starts informally by children taking a piece of work to show another member of staff. This first step can be extended into a few children at a time spending short periods in Year 1 both with and without the other children, forming connections with different aspects of the Year 1 setting. Little and often seems to be the best approach. Gradually as the year goes on, Foundation Stage children are encouraged to visit Year 1 by themselves, helping them to build their self-confidence. Similarly it is vital that Year 1 team members spend time in the Foundation Stage familiarising themselves with Foundation Stage teaching and learning approaches and interacting with the children. This can also be achieved by spending time in the classrooms observing colleagues, even team teaching. The Year 1 Year Group Leader hosts the year 1 Parent’s Transition afternoon in term 6 so that parents have an opportunity to meet the new teachers, have a look at classrooms and are made aware of rules and routines so they can fully support their children at home.