Intent: why do we teach what we teach?
At St Andrew & St Francis (SASF) our priority is the development of children as individuals. In EYFS, we provide them with the skills, knowledge and understanding they need to prepare them for the challenges in Key Stage One and beyond.
Many of our pupils arrive well below the national expectations for their age: a high proportion come from disadvantaged backgrounds and with complex needs. We therefore support them to become confident children who communicate effectively and develop positive relationships with those around them. We strive to create resilient pupils, who have a strong sense of self-belief and a love for learning. We want our children to believe in themselves and their abilities.
We endeavour to provide our children with the cultural capital they need to enable their future success. By giving each child the best start in life and providing them with rigorous support, we enable them to fulfil their full potential and achieve their utmost. We believe it is imperative to foster a sense of belonging within the school's learning community and the wider community in order to be successful in their academic career and beyond. We are passionate about creating opportunities for children to communicate more easily. As such, we concentrate on developing language and communication skills and teaching vocabulary specifically.
Our EYFS curriculum is designed to:
- recognise children’s prior learning and experiences;
- provide first-hand learning experiences which allow the children to develop interpersonal skills;
- build resilience; and
- become critical and creative thinkers.
We work in partnership with our parents and carers to promote independent, confident and enthusiastic learners who thrive in school so that they make at least [AM1] good progress from their various starting points.
We carefully plan topics so that the breadth of the curriculum is taught throughout each term. Each unit builds from the term before, is tailored to need and is relevant to the time of year and season. For example, the topic 'Myself and my family/Super me!' is taught at the beginning of the year to develop children's sense of self; this is followed by ‘People who help us’ in spring, and ‘Growing and animals’ takes place in the summer, when the children can take advantage of the opportunities to explore the outdoors.
Our curriculum is driven by the children's interests, key concepts from the Developmental Framework and a wide range of texts (both fiction and non-fiction). We are proud to expose children to core texts, which they then know inside out by Year 1. Year 1 then uses these texts as a basis for their teaching, thus building on prior knowledge and reducing cognitive overload when developing their writing skills early in Key Stage One.
Implementation: how do we teach what we teach?
In Nursery and Reception, we meet the welfare requirements laid down in the Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage. We actively safeguard and promote the welfare of all of our children. We recognise that children learn most effectively when they are healthy, safe and secure; when their individual needs are met and when they have positive relationships with the adults who care for them. We aim to provide a safe and stimulating environment where children are able to enjoy learning and grow in confidence and independence, in line with our whole school approach to the Six Dimensions of Health.
Pupils learn through a balance of child-initiated and adult-directed activities. The timetable is carefully structured so that children have rigorous directed teaching in English, maths and phonics everyday with regular circle time sessions to focus on PSED. These sessions are followed by group work where children work with a member of staff to develop their individual targets. This focused group time enables teacher to systematically check for understanding, identify and respond to misconceptions quickly and provide real-time verbal feedback, which has a positive impact on the acquisition of new learning.
Children are provided with plenty of time to engage in ‘exploration’ through a variety of experiences that are carefully planned to engage and challenge them. Equal importance is placed upon the planning and implementation of the curriculum in both the inside and outside classrooms. Provision is also designed in a cross-curricular way to enable all aspects of the children’s development, including: understanding the world, expressing through art and design, promoting sustained thinking and learning actively.
In Nursery, adults create a rich and exciting environment that inspires awe and wonder in the children. Activities are chosen that lead to talk, collaboration and exploration. Animal workshops, musical recitals and visits from 'People who help us' (e.g. nurses, dentists and police officers) are just a taste of what our children experience. In Reception, our children visit museums and farms as part of their curriculum, as well as experiencing visits from a variety of special guests[AM1] .
At SASF, we recognise that language and communication are vital in all areas of a child’s development. We welcome children from culturally diverse backgrounds and many of our children are at an early stage of learning English as an Additional Language (EAL); communication and language development are therefore a consistent focus. We support the children’s development by providing a language rich environment, where conversations, singing and sharing stories are a regular part of each child’s day.
Reading is at the heart of our curriculum. We have core books which we read frequently with the children. These rich stories can be re-visited again and again on different levels to support language development. Through these core books, children not only develop their language and increase vocabulary but also gain a love of books. Through their increasing familiarity with these known texts, children develop their memory and expression: remembering and re-telling stories throughout EYFS and into Key Stage One. Yet another key aspect of our provision are the core rhymes which are crucial for supporting language development; children chant or sing the rhymes during group and carpet times and, by the time the children progress from nursery, they are familiar with each core rhyme. Our reading practise is further supplemented by the rigorous and highly successful Read, Write Inc. program, ensuring children achieve good outcomes in reading, regardless of their starting point, with most children passing the Year One phonics screening.
We follow the Maths Mastery approach in Reception with an emphasis on studying key skills of number, calculation and shape so that pupils develop deep understanding and the acquisition of mathematical language. Pupils learn through games and tasks using concrete manipulatives which are then rehearsed and applied to their own learning during exploration. Nursery pupils begin to develop these key skills during daily maths lessons where they explore sorting, quantities, shape, number and counting awareness. These early mathematical experiences are carefully designed to help pupils remember the content they have been taught and to support them with integrating their new knowledge across the breadth of their experiences and into larger concepts.
The curriculum offer covers the breadth of subject areas. We have established the concepts in each area of learning we want the children to leave EYFS with so that they can build on them in KS1 and beyond.
We regularly assess where the children are to ensure our planning, adult interaction and learning environment; including continuous provision, support children to reach their next steps.
Our inclusive approach means that all children learn together but we have a range of additional intervention and support to enhance and scaffold children who may not be reaching their potential or moving on children who are doing very well. We know that many of our children need support with their language development and this is why we support our lowest 20% in Reception with the Nuffield Early Language Intervention (NELI).
Impact: how do we know what pupils have learnt and how well they have learnt it?
Our curriculum needs to meet the needs of our children, including our disadvantaged pupils and those with SEND, so we spend time looking at and evaluating how children are learning. This is achieved through talking to children, looking at their work, observing their learning experiences and analysing data and progress by year group, class, groups and individuals.
Children’s progress in our Early Years is monitored closely from the moment they start and their unique journey is closely tracked using Arbour allowing appropriate support and challenge to be put in place. We react quickly to children at risk of falling behind and intervene to accelerate their learning. Our assessments are integral to our effective teaching and learning. We use both summative and formative assessments in conjunction with each other. Consequently, GLD in our EYFS is largely in line with National Average, having started well below.
Self-esteem blossoms in our Early Years, children are happy, confident and have a sense of belonging, a positive disposition to learning and are well equipped with a broad range of knowledge and skills to begin the next chapter of their educational journey.
Through our curriculum our children learn about risks and safety, how to make good choices and gain an understanding of boundaries. They develop into independent, confident and successful learners.