St Winifred’s Catholic Primary School

Early Years Policy

 

Introduction

‘Every child deserves the best possible start in life and support to fulfil their potential. A child’s experience in the early years has a major impact on their future life chances. A secure, safe and happy childhood is important in its own right and it provides the foundation for children to make the most of their abilities and talents as they grow up.’

Early Years Foundation Stage Profile – Department for Children, Schools and Families 2012

The Early Years Foundation Stage applies to children from birth to the end of the reception year. At St Winifred’s Catholic Primary School children are admitted to reception in the September following their fourth birthday.

Early childhood is the foundation on which children build the rest of their lives. At St Winifred’s Catholic Primary School we greatly value the importance that the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) plays in laying secure foundations for future learning and a child’s preparation for life.

 

Aims & Objectives

We aim to support all children to become independent and collaborative learners. We will provide a broad and balanced curriculum that will enable each child to develop personally, socially, emotionally, spiritually, physically, creatively and intellectually to their full potential.

At St Winifred’s Catholic Primary School, we will:

  • Provide a happy, safe, stimulating and challenging programme of learning and development for the children to experience as they begin their journey through school.
  • Provide a broad, balanced, relevant and creative curriculum that will set in place firm foundations for further learning and development in Key Stage 1 and beyond and enable choice and decision making, fostering independence and self-confidence.
  • Use and value what each child can do, assessing their individual needs and helping each child to progress.
  • Develop excellent relationships with parents and carers to build a strong partnership in supporting their children.
  • Provide a caring and inclusive learning environment which is sensitive to the requirements of the individual child including those who have additional needs.
  • The early-years education we offer our children is based on the following principles:
  • It builds on what our children already know and can do;
  • It ensures that no child is excluded or disadvantaged;
  • It offers a structure for learning that has a range of starting points, content that matches the needs of young children, and activities that provide opportunities for learning both indoors and outdoors;
  • It provides a rich and stimulating environment;
  • It acknowledges the importance of a full working partnership with parents and carers.

 

Background to the Early Years Foundation Stage

The Early Years Foundation Stage is based on four themes:

  1. A Unique Child
  2. Positive Relationships
  3. Enabling Environments
  4. Learning and Development

 

  1. A Unique Child

At St Winifred’s Catholic Primary School we recognise that every child is a competent learner who can be resilient, capable, confident and self-assured. We recognise that children develop in individual ways and at varying rates.

Children’s attitudes and dispositions to learning are influenced by feedback from others; we use praise and encouragement, as well as celebration and rewards, to encourage children to develop a positive attitude to learning.

We give our children every opportunity to achieve their personal best and planning is adapted to meet the needs of all groups and abilities. We do this by taking account of our children’s range of life experiences when we are planning for their learning.

We work closely with parents, carers and other outside agencies to ensure all children’s needs are met so they can access the curriculum and make good progress.

  1. Positive Relationships

At St Winifred’s Catholic Primary School we recognise that children learn to be strong, confident and independent from being in secure relationships. We aim to develop caring, respectful, professional relationships with the children and their families.

We recognise that parents and carers are a child’s first and most enduring educators and we value working with them in their child’s education through:

  • Talking to parents/carers before their child starts school at our open afternoons and induction meetings.
  • Providing a starter information pack about commencing Reception at St Winifred’s.
  • Outlining the school’s expectations in the Home-School agreement.
  • Providing an induction meeting for Reception parents/carers to meet with staff to discuss school routines, expectations and to answer any questions parents/carers may have.
  • Ensuring that parents/carers are able to discuss any queries or concerns, either face to face at the school gate or by telephone.
  • Written contact through the school newsletters.
  • Sending home ‘WOW’ slips designed to enable parents to record outstanding achievements.
  • Publishing a half-term overview detailing the areas of learning.
  • Sharing the children’s ‘Learning Journey’ with parents/carers and valuing the on-going contributions to this from parents/carers.
  • Offering three parent/teacher consultation meetings per year at which their child’s progress is discussed.
  • Sending a written report on their child’s attainment and progress at the end of their time in reception.
  • Parents are invited to a range of activities throughout the school year such as whole school mass, Christmas productions and sports day.
  • Offering opportunities for parents and carers to visit the school on a volunteer basis to assist with the children’s learning e.g. hearing readers.

All staff in the Foundation Stage aim to develop good relationships with all children, interacting positively with them and taking time to listen to them.

  1. Enabling Environments

At St Winifred’s Catholic Primary School we recognise that the environment plays a key role in supporting and extending the children’s development, where the children feel confident, secure and challenged. The children have daily access to an indoor and outdoor environment that is set up in discrete areas of learning with planned continuous provision. Play-based learning is paramount and children have opportunities to direct their own learning with planned opportunities provided by staff.

We plan a learning environment, both indoors and outdoors, that encourages a positive attitude to learning and reflects the individual’s interests, passions and abilities. We encourage the children to make their own selection of the activities on offer, as we believe that this encourages independent learning. We ensure that resources and spaces are safe to use and checked regularly.

  1. Learning and Development

Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum

There are seven areas of learning and development that shape educational provision in early years settings. All areas of learning and development are important and inter-connected. None of the areas of learning can be delivered in isolation from the others. Our children’s learning experiences enable them to develop competency and skill across a number of learning areas.

They require a balance of adult led and child initiated activities in order for most children to reach the Early Learning Goals at the end of EYFS. Three areas are particularly crucial for igniting children’s curiosity and enthusiasm for learning, and for building their capacity to learn, form relationships and thrive.

The three Prime areas are:

  1. Personal, Social and Emotional Development
  2. Communication and Language
  3. Physical Development

Staff will also support children in four specific areas, through which the three prime areas are strengthened and applied.

Specific Areas:

  1. Literacy
  2. Mathematics
  3. Understanding the world
  4. Expressive arts and design

Children’s development levels are assessed and as time progresses in Foundation, the balance will shift towards a more equal focus on all areas of learning, as children grow in confidence and ability within the three prime areas.

However, if a child’s progress in any of the prime areas gives cause for concern, staff will discuss this with the child’s parents/carers and agree how to support the child.

Children in the Foundation Stage also participate in a daily phonics sessions, following the guidance in the DFES “Letters & Sounds” phonics programme.

Characteristics of Effective Learning

We ensure that our environment and delivery of the curriculum incorporates the three characteristics of effective teaching and learning:

Playing and exploring – children will have opportunities to investigate and experience things, and ‘have a go’.

‘Children’s play reflects their wide ranging and varied interests and preoccupations. In their play children learn at their highest level. Play with peers is important for children’s development.’

Through play, our children explore and develop learning experiences, which help them make sense of the world. They practise and build up ideas, learn how to control themselves and understand the need for rules. They have the opportunity to think creatively alongside other children as well as on their own. They communicate with others as they investigate and solve problems.

Active learning – children will have time and space to concentrate and keep on trying if they encounter difficulties, and enjoy their achievements.

‘Children learn best through physical and mental challenges. Active learning involves other people, objects, ideas and events that engage and involve children for sustained periods.’

Active learning occurs when children are motivated and interested. Children need some independence and control over their learning. As children develop their confidence, they learn to make decisions. It provides children with a sense of satisfaction as they take ownership of their learning.

Creating and thinking critically – we encourage and support children to have and develop their own ideas, make links between ideas, and develop strategies for doing things.

“When children have opportunities to play with ideas in different situations and with a variety of resources, they discover connections and come to new and better understandings and ways of doing things. Adult support in this process enhances their ability to think critically and ask questions.”

Children should be given the opportunity to be creative through all areas of learning. Adults can support children’s thinking and help them make connections by showing interest, offering encouragement, clarifying ideas and asking open ended questions. Children can access resources and move around the classroom freely and purposefully to extend their learning.

Planning

The Early Learning Goals provide the basis for planning throughout the Foundation Stage and are described in the DfE’s Statutory Framework. The supporting document Development Matters helps teaching staff break down the curriculum into age appropriate objectives that will help the children reach the Goals.

The planning is based upon themes with discrete directed teaching of phonics, maths and reading. However, planning, which is based upon a different topic and acts as vehicle of interest to deliver the children’s next steps in learning, also therefore responds to the needs, achievement and interest of the children. Our medium-term planning identifies the intended learning, with outcomes, for children working towards the Early Learning Goals. This medium term planning is shared with parents and carers in the form of the half termly newsletter.

Observations

Foundation Stage staff are trained to use observations as the basis for planning, observing children to identify their achievements, interests and next steps for learning. These observations then lead the direction of the planning. Relevant and significant observations are recorded in the children’s Learning Journeys.

Assessment

During the first term in Reception , the teacher assesses the ability of each child using a baseline test. These assessments allow us to identify patterns of attainment within the cohort, in order to adjust the teaching programme for individual children and groups of children.

The Foundation Stage Profile is the nationally employed assessment tool that enables teachers to record their observations at the end of the Foundation Stage, and to summarise pupils’ progress towards the Early Learning Goals. It covers each of the seven areas of learning contained in the curriculum guidance for the Foundation Stage.

We record each child’s level of development against the 17 Early Learning Goals as Emerging, Expected or Exceeding. We make regular assessments of children’s learning, and we use this information to ensure that future planning reflects identified needs.

Assessment in the Foundation Stage takes the form of both formal and informal observations, photographic evidence and through planned activities. Assessment is completed regularly and involves both the teacher and other adults, as appropriate. The collection of assessment data in the Foundation Stage Profile is a statutory requirement.

We keep a record of children’s progress for each term, aiding assessment and tracking of children through the school. We record each child’s level of development to be just working towards, comfortably working within or securely working within the Development Matters age-bands.

At the end of the final term in Reception we send a summary of these assessments to Lewisham Council for analysis. Parents and carers receive this information at the end of term along with their child’s end of year report. The child’s next teacher uses this information to make plans for the year ahead.

The Learning Environment

The Foundation Stage classrooms, Nursery and Reception, are organised to allow children to explore and learn securely and safely. There are specific areas that offer a range of different experiences that allow them to engage, explore and investigate.

Children have access to both inside and outside area across the day; this has a positive effect on the children’s development. Both Nursery and Reception have their own outdoor learning areas.

Teaching & Learning Styles

The features of effective teaching and learning in our school are defined in our policy on teaching and learning. They apply to teaching and learning in the Foundation Stage just as much as they do to the teaching and learning in Key Stage 1 or 2.

The more general features of good practice in our school that relate to the Foundation Stage are:

  • the partnership between teachers and parents, carers and other settings that helps our children to feel secure at school, and to develop a sense of well-being and achievement;
  • the understanding that teachers have of how children develop and learn, and how this must be reflected in their teaching;
  • the range of approaches that provide first-hand experiences, give clear explanations, make appropriate interventions, and extend and develop the children’s play, talk or other means of communication;
  • the carefully planned curriculum that helps children achieve the Early Learning Goals by the end of the Foundation Stage;
  • the provision for children to take part in activities that build on and extend their interests, and develop their intellectual, physical, social and emotional abilities;
  • the encouragement for children to communicate and talk about their learning, and to develop independence and self-management;
  • the support for learning, with appropriate and accessible space, facilities and equipment, both indoors and outdoors;
  • the identification, through observations, of children’s progress and future learning needs, which are regularly shared with parents;
  • the good relationships between our school and the other educational settings in which the children have been learning before joining our school;
  • the clear aims of our work, and the regular monitoring of our work to evaluate and improve it;
  • the regular identification of training needs for all adults working at the Foundation Stage.

Transition

Starting school can be a difficult time for young children; we therefore plan this time carefully to support children with the transition and to ensure it is as smooth as possible for each child and that they settle in to their new class quickly and happily.

Parents of all children starting in Foundation will be invited to an induction meeting in the Summer term to meet their child’s new teachers and other key staff and to get an overview of the school.

Starting Nursery In July new Nursery children are invited to attend a stay and play session. Likewise in September there is another stay and play session. In September, Nursery children have a staggered start, with the size of the class starting as a small group then increasing incrementally each day until all the children are in attendance. This gives the children a chance to become familiar with each other. At the end of the Nursery year in the final term, Nursery children are given an opportunity to free flow and visit Reception independently. Their Learning Journey books are shared with Reception staff to familiarise them with the Nursery children.

Starting Reception Children starting Reception are given an opportunity to come in to school in the summer term before starting to meet their new class teacher and other children in their class. Parents get another chance to meet the teacher to get more information about the curriculum, routines and general housekeeping, as well as asking questions directly.

In September, children begin with several half day sessions, which then become whole day sessions. This allows the children to adapt to the longer days over time.

Starting in Key Stage 1 (Year 1) Throughout the Reception year, each child’s involvement in whole school life will have been built upon; many of the teaching and support staff will already be familiar people to them. They will have taken part in Key Stage and whole school assemblies as well as sharing playtimes with the Key Stage 1 children. Children have the opportunity to meet their new class teacher and spend a morning in their new class during the summer term.

 

Safeguarding & Welfare

‘Children learn best when they are healthy, safe and secure, when their individual needs are met, and when they have positive relationships with the adults caring for them.’

(Statutory Framework for EYFS 2014)

At St Winifred’s Catholic Primary School, we understand that we are legally required to comply with welfare requirements as stated in the Statutory Framework for Early Years Foundation Stage 2014, namely to:

  • Provide a setting that is welcoming, safe and stimulating where children can grow in confidence;
  • Promote good health;
  • Manage behaviour effectively in a manner appropriate for the children’s stage of development and individual needs
  • Ensure that all adults who look after the children, or who have unsupervised access to them, are suitable to do so;
  • Ensure that the setting, furniture and equipment is safe and suitable for the purpose it was intended for;
  • Maintain records, policies and procedures required for the safe efficient management of the setting and to meet the needs of the children.

It is important to us that all children in the school are safe. We aim to educate children on boundaries, rules and limits and to help them understand why they exist. We provide children with choices to help them develop this important life skill. We encourage children to take risks and highlight the importance of keeping themselves safe by teaching them how to recognise and avoid hazards. We aim to protect the physical and psychological well-being of all children, which is covered in more detail in the school’s Safeguarding policies.

Monitoring and Review

It is the responsibility of those working in Reception to follow the principles stated in this policy. The Head teacher and EYFS co-ordinator will carry out monitoring on EYFS as part of the whole school monitoring schedule. The Governing Body will also be part of this process. This policy will be reviewed in February 2018 or as necessary.