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At St Robert Bellarmine, we believe that in the Earl Years all children deserve to have an equal chance of success. A high-quality early years education should acknowledge that children are powerful learners and that every child can make progress in their learning with the right help. In line with the aims of the Early Years framework, the EYFS curriculum at St Robert Bellarmine inspires in pupils the ability to think critically and develop a more rigorous understanding that will remain with them for the rest of their lives. We encourage this through playing and exploring, active learning and creating and thinking critically (CoEL). We enable our children to develop knowledge and skills that are transferable and which can and are used to promote their spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. It demonstrates how early years both reflect and shape our history and contribute to the culture, creativity and wealth of our nation.
In ensuring high standards of teaching and learning in early years, we implement a curriculum that is progressive across both settings. We work hard to ensure that learning is built upon each year, to give our children the opportunity to continually progress. This means that children need to have regular opportunities to explore, use and combine skills through a range of different tasks within a culture of a mix of different approaches; play, adult modelling, observation of one another and through guided learning and direct teaching. Throughout, these activities allow them to explore whilst applying their knowledge at increasing levels of depth. In doing so they should be encouraged to develop an understanding of the characteristics of effective learning.
The early years is, by nature, an investigative curriculum, it has the potential to make a significant contribution to children’s development: increasing confidence and self-esteem, developing leadership, team working, concentration and problem-solving skills, and developing identity and improving social cohesion within the EYFS, the school and wider community.
The early years currirulum at St Robert Bellarmine is taught in themes throughout the year, so that children can achieve mastery and depth in their learning. Teachers have identified the key skills of each theme and consideration has been given to ensure progression across topics throughout both year groups and across every child’s journey from Nursery to Reception.
At the beginning of each topic, children have opportunities to engage in pre-learning activities to allow them to begin to develop their own curiosity surrounding a particular topic. They also have opportunities to discuss what they already know. This informs the programme of study and also ensures that lessons are relevant and take account of children’s different starting points. All children have the opportunity to engage with progressive early years activities using a variety of media and skills to ensure our children are pushed to reach their full potential. Our early years children are provided with the knowledge they need at the beginning of a new topic and have opportunities to continually refer back to this throughout the year. Expectations are high and through our planning approach of basic, advancing and deep knowledge activities all children have opportunities to deepen their learning at an individual level.
At St Robert Bellarmine, we ensure that each area of the early years curriculum has the same importance given to it as mathematics and literacy, as we feel this is fundamental in enabling all children to gain ‘real-life’ experiences. Our staff are committed to ensuring they dedicate specific time each year to allow them to develop their own subject knowledge and become better early years practitioners for the benefit of our children. We plan and implement our approaches to ensure children are getting the most from the subject.
Cross-curricular outcomes in early years are specifically planned for where they are relevant. Curriculum areas are linked and planned into the long-term curriculum for each year group to ensure topics provide our children with relevant links and context and a more meaningful understanding. Our early years curriculum involves giving children opportunities to engage in processes as well as celebrating our achievements. At St Robert Bellarmine, class teachers are actively encouraged to always consider how to enrich the learning opportunity for pupils. A curriculum map and medium term plans are kept for reference and monitoring.
At St Robert Bellarmine the early years learning is loved by teachers and pupils. Teachers have high expectations as well as children and they strive to reach their full potential with confidence. As children progress across the early years, they develop a deep knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the seven areas of learning. The early years at St Robert Bellarmine extends children’s interest and knowledge beyond their immediate experiences, The Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic approach to teaching and learning is fundamental in all our curriculum provision.
Children will begin to make relevant links from their learning to other curriculum subjects, such as The World and Expressive Arts and Design. They will develop the ability to be able to compare their work with previous work, to be able to select appropriate materials, develop their organisational and collaborative skills, respond to the visual curriculum and be able to make judgements of their own and other’s development.
Assessment is crucial in improving learning. Formative assessment is used regularly to inform teachers of ongoing progress and allows adjustments to be made that reflect the learning needs of all children in our settings. Feedback is continually given to children, which leads to better outcomes in the early years. In line with our school assessment policy, summative assessment in the form of teacher assessment is carried out at the end of each term in Nursery and each half term in Reception to inform the overall progress made by each child on a yearly basis.
We want the children to have thoroughly enjoyed learning in the early years therefore encouraging them to undertake new life experiences now and in the future and be able to understand the part they play in it. All children in the early years will be able to communicate about their learning, skills and knowledge.
Our Nursery and Reception classes follow the Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage. Our aim is to provide the children with a play-based curriculum that is tailored for each child’s individual needs. We offer a welcoming, safe and secure environment where children’s excitement and love of learning can be sparked and developed. We offer a broad, balanced, relevant and differentiated curriculum that offers continuity and progression through our indoor and outdoor classrooms. In line with Early Years philosophy and good practice we always ensure we plan to maximise every opportunity to enable our children to access each area of learning, in so far as possible, both indoors and outdoors. We have very attractive outdoor spaces for both Nursery and Reception. There is a wide variety of activities on offer both adult led, child led and adult supported.
Our teaching style across FS incorporates assessing of prior learning to inform planning, explicit teaching, developing confidence and independence with the skills that have been taught and application of these skills in adult led and child initiated experiences. They are planned for using a concrete, pictorial and symbolic approach.
We have looked at ways to incorporate principles of Feuerstein’s thinking on “Learning to learn” and meta-cognition into our daily delivery across all areas as a direct response to the training the whole school has received.
We ensure that we work in conjunction with parents/carers and have strong communication systems in place to ensure that we share as much information as possible. Each half term we have a very successful ‘Stay and Share’ session where parents are invited to bring a ‘Magic Moment’ card they have completed with their child at home on a designated area of the curriculum. Everyone comes together to celebrate the achievements of each other and the ‘magic moment’ cards are then put on display for visitors to see. In addition to this the parents have the opportunity to look at their child’s Learning Journey during these sessions. We ask that the adult complete a short evaluation of what they have seen and what they think. At the end of each theme a topic evaluation is sent out to parents to gain the child’s view and their view on the work that has been undertaken. These help to inform future planning.
We work closely as a Foundation Stage Team to ensure that key information and transition from both Nursery to Reception and Reception to Year One is smooth.
Our main priorities are to ensure that our children are secure, safe, happy and learning!
Literacy sessions are planned for daily. Our Literacy sessions are based upon the themes that we are to cover and follow our teaching style. The sessions are based upon the children using the concrete, pictorial and symbolic approach. This means that they will have as many practical experiences as possible before we expect them to make the connection with pictorial images and finally more abstract symbolic concepts.
Reading starts in the Early Years and is facilitated through the Read, Write, Inc Phonics programme; children are taught the sounds and then taught how to blend these sounds for reading. Children are introduced to tricky words; words that cannot be sounded out. When they are ready, the children take home a reading book that is suited to their ability.
In the Early Years, any mark that a child makes is considered important as these are the early stages of writing. Children are monitored as they experience using different grips with writing implements, with the aim of encouraging children to use the pincer grip when they are developmentally ready. Children will start ascribing meaning to their marks and as they take part in daily phonics sessions their writing will develop into beginning to write some simple CVC words and then onto writing sentences. In Reception we also focus on letter formation and so as we learn a sound in phonics sessions we also learn the correct way to form it.
Phonics sessions are timetabled for 4 days of the week and the children are in three different ability groups in Nursery and two different ability groups in Reception, this enables the staff to tailor the sessions as closely as possible to the individual needs of each child. These sessions are explicitly taught with opportunities for the children to rehearse and develop confidence in skills previously learned as well as apply their skills to new situations.
Maths sessions are planned for daily and children are taught explicitly in small groups with either the Teacher or the Teaching Assistant. They are then given opportunities to consolidate what they have learned in the continuous play areas and to apply their understanding in different planned activities or challenges.
The children in Nursery and Reception are immersed in maths; it is planned for in the environment and with additional opportunities to develop mathematical skills.
are taught enactively, then iconically and, finally, symbolically as ways of capturing experiences in the memory. We also believe that it is important to include practical activities and discussion
Numicon's imagery uses patterns to represent each numeral. The patterns are structured so number relationships can be seen and experienced. Numicon encourages an understanding of numbers and their relationships. Understanding numbers is reinforced through talk and use in real-life contexts. We strongly believe in a do, talk, record approach to using Numicon.
Expressive Art and Design
Children in the Early Years are encouraged to explore different medias and materials and to be imaginative. This can be through 2D and 3D work. Children in the Early Years are encouraged to be creative and make a variety of models for different purposes. They are encouraged to think of the design process and are shown how to plan. Children have access to a variety of different musical instruments that allows them to explore with pitch and sound. Children participate in singing lessons and regular music sessions where children are encouraged to sing as part of a group or individually. They are also introduced to rhythms and early music notation.
Understanding the World
In the Early Years we start with looking at the history of our own families, such as what we did when we were little. We encourage them to talk about what their families do and the traditions they have. The children are encouraged to talk about their immediate environment and notice similarities, differences and change. The children are encouraged to interact with a variety of different technologies including iPads, computers and programmable toys such as Beebots. Children also have access to the Computer Room where they can access a variety of age appropriate programmes and practice their mouse skills.
In the Early Years children focus on improving skills of co-ordination both gross and fine motor skills, control, manipulation and movement. This is through structured PE lessons and through continuous provision. Children also learn about the positive benefits of being healthy and active and the effects of physical exercise on the body!