No Limits, Only Possibilities
West Hill Primary Academy EYFS Overview
‘Early Years provision is only as good as the quality of interaction between adults and children’
Sir Michael Wiltshire
‘Babies and young children are experiencing and learning in the here and now, not storing up their questions until tomorrow or next week. It is in that moment of curiosity, puzzlement, effort or interest (the teachable moment) that the skilful adult makes a difference. By using this cycle on a moment by moment basis, the adult will be always alert to individual children (observation), always thinking about what it tells us about the child’s thinking (assessment), and always ready to respond by using appropriate strategies at the right moment to support children’s well-being and learning (planning for the next moment).’
From National Standards document Learning, Playing and Interacting P.22-23
‘Teaching should not be taken to imply a ‘top down’ or formal way of working. It is a broad term which covers the many different ways in which adults help young children learn. It includes their interactions with children during planned and child-initiated play and activities: communicating and modelling language, showing, explaining, demonstrating, exploring ideas, encouraging, questioning, recalling, providing a narrative for what they are doing, facilitating and setting challenges. It takes account of the equipment they provide and the attention to the physical environment as well as the structure and routines of the day that establish expectations. Integral to teaching is how practitioners assess what children know, understand and can do as well as take account of their interests and dispositions to learning (characteristics of effective learning), and use this information to plan children’s next steps in learning and monitor their progress.’
OFSTED: Teaching and play in the Early Years - a balancing act 2015 Inspection Handbook 2019
The characteristics of effective learning (Revised EYFS)
Playing and exploring – do they investigate and explore things and have a go?
Active learning – do they concentrate and keep on trying if they encounter difficulties, and enjoy achievements?
Creative and thinking critical – do they have and develop their own ideas, make links between ideas, and develop strategies for doing things?
Early Years at West Hill Primary Academy
We believe the experiences children take part in from an early age shape their future learning. By creating a safe and happy environment with motivating and enjoyable learning experiences, we are building lifelong learners with a love of education. These values are underpinned by the four guiding principles from the EYFS guidelines.
- Every child is a unique child, who is constantly learning and can be resilient, capable, confident and self-assured
- Children learn to be strong and independent through positive relationships
- Children learn and develop well in enabling environments, in which their experiences respond to their individual needs and there is a strong partnership between practitioners and parents and/or carers
- Children learn and develop in different ways and at different rates. The statutory framework covers the education and care of all children in early years provision, including children with special educational needs and disabilities
We believe that every child must be provided with opportunities to develop socially, emotionally, academically and physically to achieve the highest possible standards. We are an inclusive learning community that is forward thinking, innovative, confident and committed to ensuring that all children in our care are happy, enthusiastic and purposeful learners.
The importance of play
We want children to be engaged in the learning process and for their learning to be relevant and purposeful. We believe that children learn best by doing. We believe that play, both indoors and outdoors, is an ideal vehicle for young children’s learning. It provides the opportunity for them to explore, investigate and make sense of the world around them. Play enables children to be challenged in their thinking and practice and rehearse skills, and be motivated in their learning. Through play our children explore and develop learning experiences, which help them make sense of the world. They practise and build up ideas, and learn how to control themselves and understand the need for rules. They have the opportunity to think creatively alongside others, communicating with others as they investigate and solve problems. Children are curious and inquisitive by nature and we want to build on this in a positive and enjoyable way.
‘Play is the highest form of research’ Albert Einstein
An enabling environment
The environment plays a vital role in supporting and extending the children’s development. Seen as the third teacher by ‘Reggio Emilia’ inspired schools, our environments support children to be fully engaged in purposeful play of their own choice and interest. The indoor and outdoor areas are organised to allow children to explore and learn securely, safely and independently. There are spaces where children can be active and where they can be quiet.
The indoor areas are set up as workshop style environments which enable children to independently find and locate resources to aid their learning in whichever way they choose. The areas are clear, stocked and tidy at the start of each day ready for the children to select according to their interest. This allows the children to be in control of their learning. They are able to select the area in which to play, the resources to use and what to do with them. Choices are limited by areas and resources available and it is therefore crucial to have appropriate areas with high quality, open ended resources. It is also vital that the areas are well stocked, tidy, clearly labelled with picture and word or shadowed and arranged to allow optimum access. The environment is constantly reviewed and reflected upon to ensure it meets the needs of the children.
At West Hill Primary Academy we have three indoor classrooms set up as a specialist areas.
The studio where children can access different media and materials including paint, clay, play dough, collage and model making resources. We teach children to mix their own colours and shades and to use appropriate tools.
The storyteller room facilitates role play and small world play. Children can act out familiar experiences as well as use props to retell familiar stories or invent their own. Construction, loose parts and small world combine to ignite the imagination.
The explorer room enables children to explore different cultures, natural objects and technology. Experiments can be completed according to interests and close observations can be made. Small world and construction are used to develop understanding of the natural world. Cooking is part of the continuous provision in this room.
Outside learning is as important as the learning that takes place inside. Being outdoors offers opportunities for doing things in different ways and on different scales. It offers the children the opportunity to explore, use their senses and be physically active and exuberant in natural areas.
The most valuable resource in any setting is the group of adults. The adults are there to teach, they do this through observing and interacting. Adults are trained to spot a teachable moment while children are engaged, they know the children very well and have a sound understanding of child development. This ensures the adult enhances and extends the learning at the appropriate level for each unique child. Generally, the adults go to the children. The children become involved in activities of their choice. The adults observe the children carefully, join them, when appropriate and engage in quality interactions (teaching) to move the learning on, they ‘teach’ through modelling, suggesting, providing vocabulary or resources, explaining or encouraging. In this way, if a child encounters a challenge, then they will not give up. Rather they will be supported to persevere, overcome the challenge and move forward in their learning. ‘The effective practitioner tunes into the child rather than expecting the child to tune in to them.’ (Julie Fisher 2016). The adults are key in creating the emotional environment that supports children to be confident, independent and ready to try new things in the knowledge that the adults will help them if necessary, without taking over. ‘Children will learn to do what children want to learn to do’ (Sugata Mitra) so we support them by creating enabling environments including enabling adults.
Planning in the moment
‘Practitioners must consider the individual needs, interests and stage of development of each child in their care, and must use this information to plan a challenging and enjoyable experience for each child in all areas of learning and development.’ (Revised EYFS). Our practitioners continually plan ‘in the moment.’ Each time they interact with a child, they are observing, assessing, planning for, and responding to, that individual child. The traditional cycle of observation, assessment and planning is recommended in numerous documents including Development Matters and The National Strategies document ‘Leaning, Playing and Interacting.’
We wish to highlight the section that states: ‘Babies and young children are experiencing and learning in the here and now, not storing up their questions until tomorrow or next week. It is in that moment of curiosity, puzzlement, effort or interest (the teachable moment) that the skilful adult makes a difference.’ By using this cycle on a moment by moment basis, the adult will always be alert to individual children (observation), always thinking about what it tells us about the child’s thinking (assessment), and always ready to respond by using appropriate strategies at the right moment to support children’s well-being and learning (planning for the next moment). What does this look like in practice? Using the environment as explained above the aim is to organise the setting - including the time, the resources and the adults – to ensure that the majority of the children display deep levels of engagement for the majority of the time. If that happens we can be confident that they are making good progress. When deeply engaged their brains will be lit up, adults will notice when support is needed, interactions will ensure that obstacles are overcome or that new directions and possibilities are available and learning will be meaningful and fun. The children are the focus rather than an activity planned by the adult.
The induction period is crucial and the time when routines and expectations can be established efficiently. Ground rules are essential when so much freedom is given – all children need to feel safe. Clear and consistent expectations are key, for example when indoors we use quiet voices and walk. Sessions are organised to maximise the amount of ‘free flow’ time available. Twenty minutes at the beginning and end of each session is given to group/class adult directed time. This time is given to daily phonics, magic maths, story times, talk times etc. as appropriate. Each week three focus children will be selected and a letter sent home notifying parents. The teacher’s Email will be provided for photos to be sent for sharing with the class. The children will be invited to bring something to school to show and discuss with their peers. During the week positive interactions for that child are recorded on a ‘learning journey’ sheet. These can be completed by any member of staff. The whole cycle should be recorded; the observation, the assessment, the planning, teaching and outcome. Quality interactions should and usually do lead to progress. The learning journey will be shared with the parents/carers at its completion. So what about all the other children? They will pursue their own learning, in the same environment, supported by the same adults. Their journey will not be recorded in the same detail but group interests will be added to the area planning sheet. WOW moments will be recorded in the child’s own Learning Journal. In almost all cases the next step is completed immediately. We work in this way because high level involvement occurs in child initiated activity. When children show high levels of involvement that is when there is progress and development occurring – when the brain is at its most active. High level involvement occurs most often when children are able to pursue their own interests in an enabling environment, supported by skillful staff. Planning in the moment helps to make this possible.
The Early Years Framework
The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework supports an integrated approach to early learning and care. It gives all professionals a set of common principles and commitments to deliver quality early education and childcare experiences to all children. We offer provision, which takes into account the starting points of the children in the Early Years across the seven areas of learning.
- Communication and Language: These outcomes cover important aspects of language development and provide the foundation for literacy. We place a strong emphasis on children’s developing confidence and skills in expressing themselves in a range of situations and also their competence in talking and listening and in becoming readers and writers. Visuals are used to reinforce understanding including a visual timetable. Within the environment and throughout the sessions we provide many talking opportunities including hearing language, using language and resources to stimulate discussion. Language use is modelled through play, routine and interaction. Adults enable speaking and listening at every opportunity, extending children’s conversation skills and vocabulary in a relevant way using current interests and fascinations. Our environments stimulate, inspire and encourage speech, conversation and negotiation and therefore language development.
- Physical development: Physical development is implicit in all areas of the Early Years Framework. Teaching concentrates on developing children’s physical control, mobility, awareness of space and manipulative skills in indoor and outdoor environments. Such programmes as Write Dance, funky fingers, dough disco, BEAM and ‘squiggle while you wiggle’ are used as appropriate, for individuals or groups of children to support development of fine and gross motor skills. Positive attitudes are encouraged towards a healthy and active way of life and towards healthy choices in food.
- Personal, social and emotional development: These outcomes focus on children learning how to work, play, co-operate with others and function in a group beyond family. They cover important aspects of personal, social, moral and spiritual development including the development of personal values and schools behaviour policy, adapting where need be to be age appropriate. Where needed positive behaviour strategies are used depending on the needs of the individual child. Children are encouraged to build positive relationships with each other and the adults that are founded on respect.
- Literacy: Children are encouraged to link sounds and letters and begin to read and write. Children are able to access a wide range of stories and non-fiction texts which are frequently used to inspire storytelling, role play and activities across all areas of learning. Phonics is taught using the Read, Write Inc. scheme. Children are introduced to letters and sounds using rhymes that support letter formation. At the same time children are encouraged to blend sounds in simple words and segment words in to sounds. We use ‘helicopter stories’ (Trisha Lee) and story scribing to encourage children to tell their stories without the pressure of writing, and act out their stories at group times. Adults model writing and children make links between the spoken and written word. ‘Talk for writing’ (Pie Corbett) gives children the skills to structure their stories through the retelling and mapping out of, initially, familiar stories.
- Mathematics: These outcomes cover important aspects of mathematical understanding and provide the foundations for numeracy. They focus on achievement through practical activities using and understanding language and vocabulary in the development of simple mathematical ideas. New concepts and skills are introduced in a class/group twenty minute ‘magic maths’ session. This can use a story or game to introduce the concept and key vocabulary related to this. Resources are made available in the environment for children to explore in their own time and in a practical, purposeful way.
- Understanding the World: This area of learning and enquiry focuses on developing the children’s knowledge and understanding of their environment, other people and features of the natural and man-made world. It provides a foundation for historical, geographical, scientific and technological learning. Children come to school with a wealth of personal experiences and these are used to inform and educate others using the focus week or at relevant times throughout the year (Diwali, Eid). The local area is used for shopping trips and seasonal observational opportunities. Parents are encouraged to share information to increase children’s knowledge and experience, for example a talk from a fire fighter or postal worker. Parents are also encouraged to contribute to their child’s learning journal, particularly in relation to the child’s use of technology at home.
- Expressive arts and design: This area focuses on the development of children’s imagination and their ability to communicate and to express ideas and feelings in creative ways. Opportunities to role play and to use small world continuous provision. Similarly, creative resources enable children to explore colour, texture and form as part of the continuous provision. Children have the opportunity to create using large and small resources. Loose parts available inside and out support children’s creativity.
None of these areas can be delivered in isolation from the others. They are equally important and depend on each other. All areas are delivered through a balance of adult led and child initiated activity.
Parents as partners
Children learn to be strong and independent from secure relationships. We aim to develop caring, respectful, professional relationships with the children and their families. We acknowledge that parents and carers are children’s first and most enduring educators and we value the contribution they make. We recognise the role that parents and carers have played, and their future role, in educating their children. Before starting school we offer an induction meeting for parents. We will visit all children in their home prior to starting school. To support parents and carers we offer parent workshops throughout the year on key topics such as phonics, early years writing and mathematics. We have an open door policy and parents are able to ask questions and discuss their child at the beginning and end of the day. Added to that we will meet with parents before Christmas, before Easter in line with the focus child plan, and at the end of the Reception year. Parents will receive a copy of their child’s focus week 3x a year and a report on their child’s attainment at the end of the year. Parents and carers are encouraged to contribute to their child’s learning journal with work completed from home, photos and observations either written or verbal. All staff involved in the Early Years develop good relationships with the children through their interactions. In Reception the teachers are the main key person whilst the teaching assistant supports alongside.