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Early Years St Helen's Catholic Primary

What Is Our Vision?

In our Early Years setting our children are happy, excited and motivated to learn through rich and challenging learning experiences; opportunities to explore, take risks, and first-hand experiences.

We have high ambitions for all our children and recognise that children have different starting points to their learning. We plan according to individual stages of development so all children can thrive and develop. We aim for children to be well-rounded individuals who are independent, resilient, and confident in themselves and with others.

Children enter our unit from a diverse range of backgrounds and cultures and this rich and valued diversity gives each child their own starting point for exploration and learning. Strong, positive relationships with families and professional agencies, support the care and educational provision for the child. Through the positive relationships we foster, we support each child to develop their curiosity and resilience to achieve their maximum potential.

Our partnership with parents means that parents have the opportunity to work closely with our staff to support children’s transition into the setting. We like parents to feel secure in the knowledge that their child is well cared for and happy at school.

We recognise that parents are the first educators in children’s lives and value contributions to judgements about children’s development. We use this information to support our assessments and share information about what children need to do next to develop and thrive.

Our Approach

Every day, we provide opportunities for children to come together to share their experiences and have fun. Our children are happy, proud and feel secure knowing that we celebrate their successes and value their achievements. The curriculum is centred around children’s interests with a balance of child-initiated and adult-led learning. We have an overarching focus on language development and the introduction and use of new vocabulary. All children will receive daily maths and phonics teaching and quality story-time.

Children in the EYFS learn by playing and exploring, being active, and through creative and critical thinking which takes place both indoors and outside. It is very important that they develop social skills, such as turn-taking, sharing and independence, which help them greatly in the next stages of their learning. The guiding principles that shape our practice in the Early Years are that children are born ready, able and eager to learn. They actively reach out to interact with other people, and in the world around them. Development is not an automatic process, however. It depends on each unique child having opportunities to interact in positive relationships and enabling environments.

Our learning environments, both indoors and outdoors, facilitate child-initiated play and provide children with carefully planned opportunities which allow children to explore, create and learn through exciting, stimulating, interactive and accessible resources. We are continually developing our outdoor environment and finding new ways to enhance the areas.

We use our knowledge of the children's needs and interests and the information we gain from previous settings and professionals to help create a stimulating environment and activities. This understanding of the child and their needs enables the practitioners to assess the children’s starting points for development and plan the curriculum to meet their needs. These assessments take the form of initial baseline assessments when a child joins our setting and then ongoing observational assessment in the provision.

Opportunities for focused teacher and child led exploration and learning are planned for and the Long Term Plan (LTP) ensures that there are further opportunities to revisit learning are in place throughout the year.

As our EYFS provision is delivered in a mixed age group class (Reception & Year 1) our Long Term Plans reflect the balance between both these year groups. For our EYFS provision this takes the form of continuous provision enhancements and adult led activities designed to meet the needs of each cohort across all areas of learning.

The attainment in each area is reviewed termly, strengths and weaknesses are noted and the curriculum is adapted to meet individual children’s needs e.g. this year (2020), the focus is on PSED and communication and language. These actions ensure the curriculum is targeted to meets the needs of the children in the current cohort who will have potentially missed a lot of time in their previous settings..

We believe that developing a love of reading at a young age is essential in helping children to achieve as highly as possible in the future and is a gateway to developing language, imagination and learning. Children are given books to share at home at the start of the school year to help create and foster this love of reading. Initially these may be books without words to encourage imaginative story-telling, develop communication and language skills as well as further developing strategies for reading such as looking at character facial expressions and noticing details in illustrations. When a child is ready books which link with our phonics scheme (Read Write Inc) are sent home to allow children to further develop and practise these skills.

The school and EYFS use the ‘Read Write Inc’ programme for learning synthetic phonics and this is supported by building sight vocabulary to build and recognise words. This systematic approach fosters segmenting and blending sounds into words, sight recognition of ‘red words’, to support early reading. At the appropriate developmental phase for the child, the formation of letters will support writing and the spelling of simple words.

Through our ongoing planning and reviewing of the curriculum and provision we ensure that the needs of each individual are identified with activities and support quickly implemented to help ensure each child's readiness for Key Stage 1.

Curriculum Impact

The EYFS is a very important stage in a child’s life as it helps prepare for school ‘readiness’ as well as preparing them for their future learning and successes. Children’s early years experience should be happy, active, exciting, fun and secure. Children develop quickly in the early years and a child’s experiences before the age of five will have a major impact on their future life chances.

Assessment plays an important part in helping parents, carers and practitioners to recognise children’s progress, understand their needs, and to plan activities and support. Ongoing assessment is an integral part of the learning and development process. It involves practitioners observing children to understand their level of achievement, interests and learning styles, and to then shape learning experiences for each child reflecting those observations.

Based on each child's initial starting points and informed by ongoing observation we aim to ensure progress for all children across the EYFS curriculum is good. We also strive for children to reach the Early Learning Goals at the end of Reception and to be at least in line with National Expectations. Evidence in children’s learning journeys support all areas of the EYFS curriculum.

Throughout the year we track the percentage of children achieving age related expectations and where necessary put supportive interventions in place to aid this attainment.

Class teachers use observations to make formative assessments which inform future planning and ensure that all children build on their current knowledge and skills at a good pace. Summative assessment compares children attainment to age related expectations using month bands in Development Matters. Children’s formative and summative assessments are recorded to ensure rates of progress are at least good for all children, including vulnerable groups such as those with SEND, disadvantaged or summer born children.

Teacher assessments, learning journeys and summative assessments formulate the Foundation Stage Profile at the end of Early Years Foundation Stage and aim for the majority of children to be at a Good Level of Development (GLD) in preparedness for Year 1.

We believe every child deserves the best possible start in life and the support that enables them to fulfil their potential. We aim to provide this through structured well-planned activities and environments, support and development of fundamental learning skills and collaboration with parents to ensure every child has the opportunity to reach their full potential.

If you were to walk into the EYFS setting at St Michael & All Angels, you would see:

  • Happy, engaged children working collaboratively and independently with adults and peers across a wide range of tasks.
  • Warm, supportive relationships between adults and children.
  • A stimulating and engaging environment designed to encourage exploration, develop the characteristics of effective learning and help children to learn through play.
  • Supportive and caring adults dedicated to the education of all the children in the setting.