At Wellington we recognise that our children are both unique individuals and world citizens: part of an increasingly globalised and interconnected planet. As such, we plan to build on their diverse strengths and prior experiences of the world around them, exploring not just their local area, but offering glimpses of extraordinary places and forces of nature, whether that be polar lands and rainforests or volcanoes and hurricanes.
Across the EYFS, building relationships, developing communication and language and strengthening gross and fine motor skills are key drivers. Onto this is layered the knowledge and skills the children need in literacy (to be authors), mathematics (mathematicians), understanding the world (scientists, geographers and historians), and expressive arts and design (artists, musicians and storytellers), in order to make a successful transition into Year 1.
Whether the children start their Wellington journey in Nursery or Reception, we foster a warm and respectful partnership with them and their families. Cultural and religious differences are acknowledged across the year, as we recognise and explore a diverse range of festivals and important community celebrations.
The Early Years Statutory Framework sets out the seven areas of learning that our curriculum must encompass and the Early Learning Goals we must assess children against at the end of Reception. To build that curriculum, Development Matters offers detailed guidance regarding the knowledge and skills children need to acquire during their journey through the EYFS. We then carefully plan a sequence of engaging themes and experiences to ensure that the children participate in a holistic programme which maximises the cross-curricular nature of the EYFS, enhanced by a series of trips and visits.
Whilst phonics gives children the tools to read words and therefore start to access the world of decoding books, a love of reading is fostered through their emotional engagement in books and story. Opportunities for children to hear quality picture books, rhymes and poems read aloud by engaging adults are crucial, as well as access to traditional tales, modern classics and non-fiction books in the classroom provision for them to enjoy with their friends. We timetable at least one daily story time and as well as reading for pure enjoyment we start to weave in those crucial comprehension skills such as prediction and inference.
Across EYFS we have been following the Letters and Sounds phonics programme. However, in accordance with the latest DfE advice and after significant research into finding the best validated Systematic Synthetic Phonics scheme (SSP) to meet the needs of our children, as a school we have chosen ‘Anima Phonics: Letters and Sounds Updated’. The programme will be implemented from September 2022, across Nursery and Reception, as well as in Year 1 and 2.
In Nursery we explore the seven aspects of Phase 1 phonics, which develop children’s speaking and listening skills, laying the foundation for the start of phonics lessons in Reception. Here, children learn the letter sounds in Phase 2 and 3, segmenting and blending words in order to read, then encountering Phase 4 (longer words) later in the year. Alongside this, they practice forming the letters, gaining confidence writing words, simple captions and then short sentences. Children also regularly read decodable books aligned with their phonic knowledge to an adult to apply their learning and take these books home to practice.
In Nursery we explore early number concepts with the children, including number songs and rhymes, games and counting principles. In Reception we build on this foundation, creating our curriculum using the White Rose guidance, which matches the maths knowledge and skills detailed in the statutory framework and Development Matters, utilising a small steps mastery approach that embeds mathematical thinking and talk. Short, practical carpet input sessions are supplemented by small group focussed activities to consolidate concepts and self-chosen opportunities in provision to practise those skills.
Throughout Nursery and Reception, early language, vocabulary and communication are key to our interactions with the children. Back and forth conversations between children and interested adults provide the best opportunity for introducing new words, modelling language and important skills such as turn taking when communicating.
Children learn by playing and exploring, being active and thinking critically and creatively. Within the classroom provision the children can investigate the current themes we are exploring, through interactive activities, linked stories and non-fiction texts. Resources are used flexibly – flowers that one minute are being examined with magnifying glasses then appear in the creative area for observational drawing. Our themes predominantly involve investigating the natural world, both near and far and are enhanced by trips and visitors coming into school. It is one thing to study rainforests and minibeasts, but the opportunity of seeing some of those animals up close in the flesh is one of many moments of awe and wonder the children experience across the year.
Continuous provision areas such as block play and small world are enhanced with resources to help children create their own narratives within their play and often reflect the children’s interests.
Outside the children can enjoy building with larger scale construction resources, riding trikes and a enjoying a range of physical play equipment and games that help improve core strength and develop balance, co-ordination and agility.
One of the greatest rewards of working in Early Years is witnessing the progress of the children – the shy ones whose personalities have blossomed, the ones who were unsure at the beginning of the year but have developed into confident learners, the ones whose kindness and tolerance have singled them out as role models among their peers.
From the children’s varying starting points, across the EYFS we gauge the impact of what we are delivering to the children through a mix of day to day formative assessment and regular summative assessment points to track progress. This allows us to implement timely support and interventions where they are needed across the cohort. At the end of Reception, the children are assessed against the seventeen Early Learning Goals (spread across the seven Areas of Learning), to provide crucial information for parents and Year 1 teachers as to whether the children have reached the expected standard or are still working towards it.