Early Years Foundation Stage
Our Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) consists of a Nursery class and one Reception class. Children who start with us at SMBS will have the opportunity to engage in planned adult-led and self-initiated activities which will stimulate and develop their learning. Activities will take place both indoors and outdoors and are specifically created to deliver the high quality learning outcomes based upon the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum.
In EYFS we teach and support our pupils to become confident, independent and compassionate members of St Mary's school. We place great value on the development of each child as an individual and provide them with the skills, knowledge and understanding they need to prepare them for next phase of their education. Our main aim in EYFS is to develop strong foundations rooted in academic success whilst developing secure personal and social skills.
The staff at St Mary’s have worked extensively on developing their curriculum to ensure that it is exciting, challenging and relevant, whilst achieving full coverage of the EYFS Framework and making smooth transition to Year 1. During our planning process we include children’s interests and fascinations. We take pride in the fact that this curriculum is unique to St Mary’s, recognises best practice and strongly considers our local setting in preparing children for the challenges of living and thriving in the 21st century.
We have a high number of children with English as an Additional Language which has driven our focus on using high quality vocabulary and clear modelling use of formal standard English language.
We value our partnerships with parents and carers and work together to encourage independent, happy learners who thrive in school and reach their full potential from their various starting points. All practitioners are fully equipped to support, listen and respond to children through every stage of their development.
The Nursery and Reception classes work closely to motivate pupils to learn alongside each other and build positive relationships, whilst developing their own talents and interests. We encourage pupils to play and explore, engage in active learning, and to create and think critically. We teach a variety of planned topics, including cultural and calendar events, and maximise opportunities for child initiated learning, using the interests of individual pupils as a stimulus.
We work closely together with our parents and carers to provide a safe start to school life, where families feel welcomed and included in their child’s learning. We do this through induction sessions, parent workshops and parents’ evenings. We hold morning reading sessions where parents are invited into the classroom to share a story with their child. Additionally, during topic sessions, parents are invited in to share with the class information about their jobs, talents, cultures or hobbies.
We promote and maximise the opportunities of outdoor learning, and ensure our pupils play and learn both indoors and outdoors every day. We know that for many of our families, outdoor space is limited and therefore, we make the most of our well-resourced and maintained EYFS outdoor space, which includes a mini-beast hotel and children’s garden. We also make use of our ‘Edible Playground’ shared with the wider school community.
We use an online assessment tool, called Target Tracker which can record ‘in the moment’ photographs of pupils’ learning. The pupils are observed regularly and activities are planned to meet their needs, and extend their learning. Next steps are identified and are shared with all members of the teaching team within each class.
We plan using both the school values and the EYFS curriculum, we are aware that the curriculum sets out the minimum expectations for children, so we have ensured that our plans and our curriculum is aspirational and does not cap children’s learning at any point, working towards our school vision of Excellence with Compassion.
The Early Years is categorised into Prime Areas, which underpin all learning, and Specific Areas:
Personal, Social and Emotional Development
For many pupils, our Early Years Classrooms are the first setting they have been to, away from parents and loved ones, a place to explore and call their own. Staff create a welcoming and caring environment for all pupils to join, ensuring that it is inclusive in all aspects of its working. This is done through providing routine and structure to pupils, using age appropriate strategies and techniques to develop and strengthen the characteristics of effective learning. Throughout, our pupils will become increasingly independent through taking on responsibilities and completing challenges during a school week. Pupils will interact quickly with teachers and peers to build relationships. Interventions and scaffolded play are introduced to those children who find these interactions trickier.
It is important for pupils in Early Years to build up both their gross and fine motor skills. We provide space and time for the pupils to develop their larger muscle groups outside, using bikes, climbing and balancing equipment, as well as weekly PE lessons for both Nursery and Reception. We teach catching, throwing and kicking skills through turn-taking group games. We support the development of fine motor skills progressively throughout the two years, starting with activities that strengthen muscles through to handwriting practice. We also work with parents to encourage this aspect of their child’s development through promotion of activities such as ‘Walk to School’ week.
Communication and Language
Pupils will develop their speaking and listening skills throughwell planned and purposeful activities, carpet time and 1:1 interventions. Formal Language and good models of speech is modelled carefully by all members of staff, who also have a clear understanding of all pupils and their differing and personalised targets. This is supported through carefully planned professional development and regular peer working with colleagues from the Speech and Language Service. Pupils are exposed to new vocabulary through learning different topics. We use a three tiers vocabulary framework to help pupils develop from everyday use of basic words to general academic language and then to "subject specific language". This could be developing from the word ‘tree’ to ‘pine’ or ‘oak’ to ‘deciduous’ or ‘evergreen’. We also use Colourful Semantics programme, as recommended by the Speech and Language team, to develop sentence structure for all children, particularly those who have EAL needs.
We develop a love of reading and a passion for writing with all of our pupils. We teach phonics using Letters and Sounds. Our teaching of phonics begins in the 3rd week of the academic year. In Nursery, pupils join in with early phonics games and are encouraged to make marks, start to form letters and write their name. Pupils in Reception are taught to use their phonics knowledge to decode letters for reading and to segment sounds for spelling. Our pupils are given every opportunity to write with indoor and outdoor mark-making areas. In Nursery, we begin to develop the pupils’ pre-reading skills by telling and sequencing stories and introducing narrative into our play. We develop this further in Reception by reading fully decodable texts, high frequency word cards, writing our own stories and acting out stories using props.
In Nursery, pupils are encouraged to count within their play, reciting and ordering numbers to 10 and recognising numerals. In Reception, pupils are taught numbers to 20 and beyond as well as adding, subtracting, doubling and sharing. Shape, pattern and measurements are also an important part of our mathematical curriculum, with pupils being encouraged to identify and recognise shapes within the environment, leading to describing and comparing the properties of shape by the end of Reception. There are many areas of Maths that are taught predominantly through play, such as capacity, weight, height and length. Pupils investigate these concepts in areas such as the water tray, the sand pit and the Bryanston Cafe.
Understanding the World
Pupils begin to develop the skills and understanding needed to make sense of the world around them. They will have first-hand opportunities to engage with science, design technology, history, geography and computing. We encourage the pupils to make observations, predictions, test, research and question the world around them. We also deliver weekly RE lessons and have a weekly visitor from St Mary’s Church to lead our EYFS collective worship. We also take part in assemblies and visit the church each term for a whole school collective worship.
Expressive Arts and Design
Pupils explore a variety of media and materials where they can design, build, construct and create. They will also develop their imaginative skills through first-hand experiences in art, music, dance, role-play and imaginative play. Both classes perform throughout the year in the nativity.
In order to implement our intent, we have:
- Meaningful learning experiences, developing each pupil’s characteristics of learning
- A curriculum which is broad and balanced and which builds on the knowledge, understanding and skills of all pupils, from individual starting points
- A curriculum which is inclusive and meets the needs of all pupils (including children with SEND and EAL needs)
- A curriculum which uses a combination of ‘in the moment’ planning, topic themes and enrichment opportunities
- High quality interactions with adults that demonstrate and impact on the progress of all pupils
- Careful assessment opportunities through observations, which are recorded on Target Tracker and shared with parents. These are used to inform the next steps of learning and meet individual needs.
- Developed an effective and engaging environment that is set up so that pupils can access all areas of learning both inside and outside at any one time
- Home learning opportunities that allow children to build on their school experiences at home
- Daily differentiated phonics lessons, continuous provision where phonics activities are available for children to consolidate and extend phonic skills and knowledge
- Ensured that staff are equipped with the necessary professional development to deliver our curriculum
- An Early Years lead who monitors teaching and learning to improve standards and outcomes
- An Early Years lead who regularly works with a wider professional network and other settings to quality assure our offer alongside that of other providers
- Regular opportunities for parents to attend interactive sessions such as parent workshops or Reading Mornings to support learning at home and be involved in school life.
Through implementing the above, we believe that the impact of this will be:
- Children’s progress will be at least good or better from their individual starting points
- Children will reach or exceed the Early Learning Goals at the end of Reception
- A collection of evidence of children’s achievements help them celebrate and acknowledge their learning
- Formative assessments will inform in the moment or future planning and ensure that all pupils build on their current knowledge and skills at a good pace
- Judgements are secure and are moderated both in school and externally with local schools
- Children are ready to transition from the Early Years curriculum to the National Curriculum in Year 1
- Children actively demonstrate curiosity, independence, resilience and other characteristics of effective learning