Rathfern Primary School is a powerful learning community where children come first. We have the highest aspirations and expectations for all our children and our vision is that every child learns to learn. Children are supported to become active learners who are curious, independent, creative, risk-taking, ambitious and who relish being challenged. We are committed to promoting pupil agency through developing metacognition.
‘Every child deserves the best possible start in life and the support that enables them to fulfill their potential. Children develop quickly in the early years and a child’s experiences between birth and age five have a major impact on their future life chances. A secure, safe and happy childhood is important in it’s own right. Good parenting and high-quality early learning together provide the foundation children need to make the most of their abilities and talents as they grow up.’
Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage, Department for Education, 2012
Early childhood is the foundation on which children build the rest of their lives. At Rathfern we understand the vital role that the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) plays in laying the secure foundations for future learning and development.
It is every child’s right to grow up safe, healthy, enjoying and achieving, making a positive contribution and with economic well-being. At Rathfern the key aim of the EYFS is to help young children achieve these 5 Every Child Matters outcomes.
The UN conventions on the Rights of the Child states that children have the right to a good quality education. They should be encouraged to go to school to the highest level they can and their education should help them use and develop their talents and abilities. It should also help children learn to live peacefully, protect the environment and respect other people. At Rathfern we believe this begins in the Early Years.
We aim to provide a broad and balanced curriculum, which will enable each child to develop personally, socially, emotionally, spiritually, physically, creatively and intellectually to their full potential. Each child is valued as an individual, and learning and teaching is based on the key understanding that children develop at different rates within the different areas of learning.
At Rathfern we understand that the key to learning progress and achievement is developing pupils’ ownership of the learning process and their intrinsic motivation to drive their own learning.
We understand that resilience is a key factor in determining children’s success in life. We are committed to continuously promoting resilience through working with all our children and families.
Therefore, at Rathfern we aim to:
- provide a safe, aspirational, challenging, stimulating and caring environment which is responsive to the needs of all children;
- provide opportunities for children to learn to learn through using learning attributes and promoting learning conversations and continuous opportunities for learning reflection;
- provide a broad, balanced, relevant, creative and inspiring curriculum that will set in place firm foundations for future learning and development;
- provide opportunities for children to learn through planned purposeful adult led activities and child-initiated play in all areas of learning and development in the indoor and outdoor environment;
- use and value what each child can do, assessing their individual needs and ensuring each child makes progress;
- enable choice and decision making, fostering agency, independence and self-confidence;
- work in partnership with parents and carers and value their contributions and challenge when necessary;
- ensure that all children feel equal, valued, respected and included
Within the EYFS there are two Reception classes and one Nursery class (am and pm) which has 16 children attending full time. There are currently 3 teachers, 2 Nursery nurses and 5 teaching assistants staffing the EYFS. The EYFS leader is a member of the Senior Leadership Team. Each classroom is equipped with an interactive whiteboard and a visualiser. Each member of the team has an iPod/iPad to capture learning electronically using the online Tapestry platform. Children also have access to iPads to support their learning.
Our EYFS classrooms have access to designated outside areas. The outdoor area comprises of ‘zoned’ areas of learning including: sensory area, vegetable garden, mud kitchen, stage/music, water/sand, story/writing den and a role play area. Each area is partially covered to enable use in all weathers. Outdoor play is highly valued and activities outside compliment and reflects indoor provision. Children carry out activities and learning in other areas of the school such as the community room/kitchen, the hall, Forest school, KS1 and KS2 playgrounds including the climbing frame.
The Early Years Foundation Stage
The EYFS is based on four guiding principles:
- A Unique Child
- Positive Relationships
- Enabling Environments
- Learning and Development
Self-Regulation: What is it and why is it important? ?
At Rathfern we understand that self-regulation has a foundational role in promoting wellbeing across the lifespan, including physical, emotional, social, and economic health and educational achievement. Self-regulation can be defined as the act of managing thoughts and feelings to enable goal-directed actions. This means, for instance, finding ways to cope with strong feelings so they don’t become overwhelming; learning to focus and shift attention; and successfully controlling behaviours required to get along with others and work towards goals. Supporting self- regulation development in early childhood is an investment in later success, because stronger self-regulation predicts better performance in school, better relationships with others, and fewer behavioural difficulties. Moreover, the ability to regulate thoughts, feelings, and actions helps
children successfully negotiate many of the challenges they face, promoting resilience in the face of adversity.
At Rathfern we have developed a learning environment and approach that support the development of self-regulation. We apply our approach systematically and proactively, this self-regulation support promotes a solid foundation in skills needed for social, emotional, behavioural, and academic success during the school years.
At Rathfern we acknowledge that the environment plays a vital role in supporting and extending the children’s development. We aim to create an attractive, welcoming and stimulating learning environment, which will encourage children to explore, investigate and learn through first-hand experience. We also aim to make it a place where children feel secure and confident and are challenged to develop their independence. Activities are planned for both the inside and outside environment. Children have the freedom to move between the indoor and outdoor classroom throughout the day.
Children have access to a wide range of equipment including construction materials, role play equipment, small world toys, sand and water equipment, art and crafts materials, musical instruments, ICT equipment, mark making materials, counting equipment, books, larger outdoor toys and specialist PE equipment.
All children and adults are expected to take responsibility for the care of and use of resources and the environment and we believe that supporting the children and helping them to look after and respect their environment is a very important part of a child’s development. We encourage children to tidy up as they go through the day and we also have ‘Tidy Up Time’ before lunch and at the end of the day as this offers a valuable opportunity for talking, reading, problem solving, reasoning, counting and sorting activities.
Learning and Development
At Rathfern we recognise that children learn and develop in different ways and at different rates.
Effective learning and development is supported through:
- the partnership between staff and parents that helps our children feel secure at school and to develop a sense of well-being and achievement;
- the understanding that staff have knowledge 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 and other means of communication;
- the carefully planned curriculum that help children achieve the Early Learning Goals by the end of EYFS;
- 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, including the effective use of ICT;
- the identification, through observations, of children’s progress and future learning needs, which are regularly shared with parents.
Play and Exploration
“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 to children’s development.”
(Early Years Foundation Stage, Department for Children, Schools and Families, 2007)
At Rathfern we do not distinguish between work and play. We support children’s play and learning through planned play activities, through observation of child initiated or adult led play activities and then provide the most effective learning opportunities. Adults ‘play partner’ with children to support their learning through play, carefully intervening when appropriate, getting involved with the play and modelling by example to extend the play. EYFS staff have knowledge of initiatives such as ‘sustained shared thinking’, ECaT (Every Child a Talker) Communication Friendly Spaces and ‘learning through play’.
Areas of Learning and Development
The EYFS is made up of seven inter-connected areas of learning and development. The three prime areas crucial for building foundations are:
- Communication and Language
- Physical Development
- Personal, Social and Emotional Development
These are strengthened and applied via the four specific areas:
- Understanding the World
- Expressive Arts and Design
These 7 areas provide a framework for the EYFS curriculum. All areas are delivered through a balance of adult led and child initiated activities and though our provision we attempt to provide activities which cover a range of learning areas and offer the opportunity for deep play experiences.
The revised EYFS curriculum also placed high emphasis on the importance of practitioners recognising and understanding the ways in which young children learn in order to support them as effective learners. These characteristics of effective learning are an integral part of the three prime and four specific areas of learning and describe the skills, attitudes and approaches to learning which can be nurtured in the EYFS.
The characteristics of effective learning are:
- Active learning – children keep on trying if they encounter difficulties and enjoy their achievements
- Playing and exploring – children investigate and experience things, and ‘have a go’
- Creating and thinking critically – children have and develop their own ideas, make links between ideas and develop strategies for doing things.
At Rathfern we believe that these three characteristics describe learning processes rather than outcomes. This means that how a child exhibits these characteristics is observed as part of our formative assessment process. This process enables us to understand each child fully and provides us with greater knowledge to best support the child’s development as a learner.
Play, both indoors and outdoors, is one of the key ways in which children learn. It is the process through which children can explore, investigate, recreate and come to understand their world. It is not just imaginative and role play but includes spontaneous, self-initiated lines of enquiry and exploration. Play is a vital part of children’s lives and is key for children to develop and practise skills. Play is essential for physical, intellectual, linguistic, emotional, behavioural and social development.
Principles of High Quality Play
- Play is an intrinsic part of children’s learning and development
- Play has many possible but no prescriptive outcomes
- Play challenges children and offers them the chance to learn in breadth and depth
- Play draws on what children already know and can do and enables them to master what is new
- Play encourages children to communicate with others as they investigate and solve problems
- Play offers children opportunities to explore feelings and relationships, ideas and materials, connections and consequences
- Play empowers children to make choices, to solve problems and to be independent in their learning
- Play allows children to express fears or relive anxious experiences in controlled and safe situations
- Play encourages children to struggle, to take risks and to become resilient as learners
- Play can be supported and extended but not interfered with by adults
- Play presents no barriers to children because of their language, cultures, abilities or gender.
Child Led Planning
At Rathfern we plan our curriculum in a way that reflects what the children are interested in and what they want to learn more about. Learning in this way promotes optimum engagement, high levels of interest, sustained concentration and development and progress.
With a child led approach, the teacher shares the driving seat with the child and the child’s words, actions, thoughts and play guide the learning curriculum. So, given the child’s current fascination with and questions about a topic, the focus of the learning and choice of activities evolves. At Rathfern the educator will balance this with knowledge of what skills s/he would like the child to be acquiring or practising.
How the environment supports the curriculum
We believe that developing a learning environment that allows the children to select their own resources (using clear labeling) is a crucial part of creating independent and curious learners. Adults support the children to select the things they need to follow their interest. Often when a new interest develops the adults will then adapt the environment and resources to support this thread of learning.
A weekly plan outlines the objectives to be focused on in each area of learning and show how those activities and experiences will be delivered through ‘Adult Led’ and ‘Child Initiated’ learning opportunities. Planning is therefore constantly developed, adapted and evaluated through ongoing observations of child initiated or spontaneous activity and planned opportunities (indoors and outdoors). Assessment for learning is crucial in response to children’s needs and interests. The learning objectives are also informed by a thorough knowledge of child development enhanced by reference to the ‘Development Matters’ document.