We know how important the first year of school is for you and your child. To help parents of new pupils, any member of the Reception team or the Head of School is able to provide a detailed description of Early Years provision.
Read our full Early Years Curriculum Statement. This sets out our curriculum intent and how we implement it. It describes our curriculum and age-related expectations for the Reception class. This guide to Early Years is a really useful overview, too – there are lots of practical tips.
Just like the rest of school, the fundamental aim in our Early Years classes is to be happy and healthy places to learn.
The standards that we meet for the learning, development and care of children in Early Years Foundation Stage is set out in the Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage. In terms of teaching and learning, much of the knowledge and skills we teach are set out in Development Matters. In our Curriculum Statement, you can see we set these out in a sequence of learning (age-related expectations) with some additional/explicit learning according to children’s interests and our own curriculum, linked to The National Curriculum in England (DfE, 2013).
Communication is a key aspect: ‘High-quality early years education, with a strong focus on communication, is good for every child’. Challenge is also important: ‘The curriculum needs to be ambitious… Depth in early learning is much more important than covering lots of things in a superficial way’ (both: Development Matters, DfE, 2021).
Through planned, purposeful play, children are able to discover, practise and refine their skills in literacy and mathematics as well as find out about themselves and their environment. In a broad and balanced way, our provision ensures coverage of the seven areas of learning (see below) and responds to the needs and interests of all our children. At all times, we consider characteristics of effective learning which promote positive attitudes to learning, an enthusiasm for knowledge and the confidence to become successful learners.
The information set out below relates to Early Years specifically. However, there are many other policies and procedures in school of which Early Years staff are aware and which they follow. These include our Policy to Promote Positive Relationships and Behaviour, Relationships and Sex Education Policy and all our safeguarding policies.
Home and school working together
We’re keen to work as closely as possible with you all the way through your child’s time at primary school, and perhaps Reception is the most important time to get this right. Like other teachers, Reception staff are available to speak with you at the start and end of the day. There’s usually a chance to have a quick word with one of the Reception team when you drop your child off in the morning, or collect them in the afternoon. When you’re in, you’re welcome to have a look through your child’s Learning Journey book, too.
Learning happens at school and at home. We want to hear about some of the learning that happens at home. This might be a ‘wow moment’ when your child does something really special at home, such as riding a bike without stabilisers, swimming without armbands, writing their name, reading signs on the street etc. Equally, it might be other learning moments, such as your child re-telling a story they heard at school, choosing to count steps, recognising bus numbers or your child writing a shopping list. Please tell us about these home learning moments: send us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org – please note this email is not checked on a daily basis) or complete this form. As well as a great way to celebrate your child’s development, knowing about the learning which is going on at home will mean staff can make sure they encourage your child to practise or apply the skills they’ve shown.
Sharing information about what your child enjoys and is interested in is important. The Reception team take on board the interests of the class and plan future topics around them. Using our Talking Together document can be a good way to share information. It can also be a good prompt for valuable talk at home and at school – a fundamental aspect of learning (and an introduction to our Talk Time homework in Key Stage 1 and 2).
Don’t forget to come to our ‘Relax and Read’ sessions, happening most Thursdays first thing and lasting around half an hour. They’re a great way to share a story. Occasionally during the year, you’ll be invited to a session to observe phonics being taught – do come along to get ideas about how to support your child in this important aspect of reading and writing.
See the Transition section below for how we work with you to secure a positive start to your child’s primary school years.
Characteristics of effective teaching and learning
We place a good deal of importance on the characteristics of effective teaching and learning:
- playing and exploring – children investigate and experience things, and ‘have a go’ (you can support your child by, for example, making sure they encouraging them to try out new experiences and asking open-ended questions that might stimulate their curiosity);
- active learning – children concentrate and keep on trying if they encounter difficulties, and enjoy achievements (allow your child to play independently – avoid leading your child’s play, and don’t let them engage for too long in passive activities like watching TV); and
- creating and thinking critically – children have and develop their own ideas, make links between ideas, and develop strategies for doing things (when your child is playing, provide some challenges and allow them to be inventive – try leaving fewer toys for them but add a few unknown objects for them to use… don’t forget how much fun a cardboard box can be!).
Our assessment data for older children shows that those children who demonstrate strong characteristics of effective learning are more likely to enjoy and achieve at a higher level as they get older. Supporting your child to develop these characteristics will help to create well-rounded, life-long learning. This document gives you more information about the characteristics – it might help you get an idea of how you can support your child to develop good ‘learning behaviour’. Talk with Mrs Burke for more ideas.
Different areas of learning
There are seven areas which form the basis of the curriculum. These areas are made up of prime areas and specific areas (listed below). Each area of learning has a set of related expectations for the end of the Reception year.
There are seven areas which form the basis of the curriculum. These areas are made up of prime areas and specific areas (listed below). Each area of learning has a set of related expectations for the end of each year group, so what’s typical for the end of the Nursery year and what’s typical for the end of the Reception year.
By the end of Reception year, most children will have acquired the knowledge, skills and understanding to achieve the Early Learning Goals in some or all of the seven areas of learning.
The prime areas are:
- Personal, social and emotional development (self-regulation; managing self; building relationships)
- Communication and language (listening; attention and understanding; speaking)
- Physical development (fine motor skills and gross motor skills)
The specific areas are:
- Literacy (comprehension; word reading; writing)
- Mathematics (numbers; numerical patterns)
- Understanding the world (past and present; people, culture and communities; the natural world)
- Expressive arts and design (creating with materials; being imaginative and expressive)
Transition: starting Reception
Once your child is offered a place in our Reception, a series of transition events takes place.
A welcome meeting (usually towards the end of May) is a chance to learn more about expectations, routines and stages of transition. At this meeting, you’re able to meet key members of staff including the Reception team. Your child is welcome to attend so they’re involved in the move to ‘big school’ from the outset.
Three taster sessions take place in the Summer term. The first is a one hour visit when you’re encouraged to stay. The second is similar, although this time we encourage you to leave your child (we’ll offer refreshments so you won’t need to leave school). The third is a longer visit – a whole afternoon. During this time, your child will have a snack in the dining hall so they’re prepared for this part of school life.
We’ll contact your child’s current nursery setting. We’ll speak to your child’s key person and find out valuable information about their development. If a new child has some specific social, emotional or learning needs, Reception staff will visit the nursery setting so we can see the child in an environment which is familiar to them, and talk with nursery staff about any issues. We invite nursery staff to visit us during a taster session if there’s a large group of children from one setting.
Towards the end of the Summer term, two members of staff will arrange to visit you in your home. This is a chance for you to ask any more questions which you may have, and for us to observe your child in familiar surroundings.
In September, we welcome all of our Reception children into school on a gradual basis. This depends upon various criteria including age and previous nursery experience. You’re welcome to stay until your child is settled and content – for most children, this takes just a few minutes.
We start our learning in Reception from the very first day. We know how important it is to begin our learning journey as soon as possible. This is especially for phonics so we’ll start learning our first sounds straight away. We’ll also begin the Reception Baseline Assessment and our own on-entry assessments where we observe and talk with your child about what they can do and what they like to do. This information means the teacher can make sure we meet the needs and interests of your child, providing just enough support and challenge for each pupil to enjoy and achieve.
Do try to attend our learning workshops to learn more about how you can support your child at home, especially in the areas of phonics and number. Our ‘Learn More’ website pages will also help. Finally, always feel welcome to speak with Early Years staff or one of the school leaders about any particular questions, comments or concerns.
Transition: leaving Reception
Moving to Year 1 is perhaps a less significant change for children, and that’s because we’re a happy and healthy place to learn where we all know each other. Towards the end of the year, Reception children start to use the Key Stage 1 shared learning area, where there are areas of provision similar to those in the Reception class. In July, small groups of pupils spend a morning in the Year 1 class, joining in the learning taking place. This is followed by a whole-school transition afternoon when all children move to their new classroom and meet their new teacher. This takes place towards the end of the year.
To support you, we have an extra, third, parents’ evening. This takes place just after you receive your child’s first annual report and it’s a chance to talk through its contents. Joining you and the Reception teacher will be the Year 1 teacher – it’s a chance for you to meet her and for her to be aware of any questions, comments or concerns you have so that we can all make sure your child’s Year 1 is successful.
Early Years concepts
There are different areas in the Reception classroom (both indoors and the outside). These are known as the ‘areas of provision’: different places set up in different ways. These might vary from time to time, but typically include areas for role-play, reading, writing, maths, sand, creative development, technology… come and have a look! Each area has lots of resources which allow children to learn independently or with an adult to support. Look out for all the different learning challenges in the areas, too – these are prompts for specific learning which could take place.
We believe effective learning in the Early Years is the result of a balance between:
- adult-led learning: this is led and managed by the adult and is typically planned to meet the specific learning needs of the child(ren)
- adult-guided learning: this is where adults might support a child by guiding them (for example, by questioning and prompting, or by providing specific resources in an area of the classroom) and the child(ren) can independently practise or explore
- child-initiated learning: this is when the child chooses where to go and what to do in the learning environment – it might look like play, but a lot of incidental learning can happen
Research shows that the best outcomes for children’s learning occur where most of the activity within a child’s day is a mixture of child-initiated play (actively supported by adults) and focused learning (with adults guiding the learning through playful, rich experiential activities). As the Reception year progresses, and the children become more mature and ready for Year 1, the balance will gradually shift to more adult-led and adult-guided learning.
A key aspect of the Early Years Foundation Stage is to move the learning from what children already know to what children want to know and what children need to know (and there’s often an overlap between the two). Staff in Reception find out what children want to know – what interests them, sparks their natural curiosity, engages them to be effective learners – by making lots of observations of the children and having discussions with children and parents to inform the direction of learning. This will usually influence future topics in the class. What children need to know also derives from observations but staff make sure they use Early Years and Key Stage 1 curriculum documents to make sure we are aware of expectations so children are challenged appropriately.