Subject Leader: Miss Mace
“The quality of provision in the Early Years is outstanding.” School Review, 2018.
In the Early Years at Meadlands School, each unique child has the opportunity to learn, grow and develop. Our Early Years Foundation Stage is comprised of a Reception class and a Nursey class, both using a mixture of play-based and adult-directed activities to provide a varied and engaging curriculum. The Nursery and Reception classes work closely together to motivate children to learn alongside each other and build positive relationships whilst developing their own talents and interests. We encourage children to play and explore, engage in active learning, and to create and think critically. We teach a variety of planned topics, including cultural and calendar events, and maximise opportunities for child-initiated learning, using the interests of individual children as a stimulus.
We work closely with our parents and carers to provide a safe start to school life, where families feel welcomed and included in their child’s learning. We do this through induction sessions, transition stay, play events and home visits. We also have specific days, such as Grounds Day, International Day, VIP morning and Book Week, where parents are invited into school to give talks and share information about their jobs, talents, cultures and hobbies.
Along with the rest of the school, we love outdoor learning, and ensure that our children play and learn both indoors and outdoors every day. We make the most of our class guinea pigs, school chickens, wildlife area, treehouse and award winning grounds! One of our Early Years team is Forest School trained, meaning both our Nursery and Reception children have the opportunity to experience weekly Forest School lessons.
We use an online assessment tool, called Target Tracker, which records progress and ‘in the moment’ photographs of pupil's learning. The pupils are observed regularly and activities are planned to meet their needs, and extend their learning.
We plan using both the school values and the Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum (EYFS). The EYFS is categorised into Prime Areas (which underpin all learning) and Specific Areas, as detailed below.
Personal, Social and Emotional Development – divided into ‘Self Confidence and Self Awareness,’ ‘Making Relationships’ and ‘Managing Feelings and Behaviour’. Self-confidence and self-awareness focuses on supporting the children to become more independent, describing their own abilities and areas in which they need help, as well as talking in front of larger groups, sharing ideas and asking questions. Making Relationships is an area that we develop mainly through play, by modelling positive interactions and discussing the impact that our actions have on others. This feeds in to our value of kindness, and our school motto of ‘Work Hard and Be Kind’. 'Managing Feelings and Behaviour' supports children with transitions, as well as developing resilience and patience.
Physical Development is divided into ‘Moving and Handling’ and ‘Health and Self Care’. 'Moving and Handling' develops both gross motor
For 'Health and Self Care', we teach our children how to manage themselves independently, with an emphasis on toileting, handwashing and dressing, as well as making healthy lifestyle choices.
Communication and Language is divided into ‘Speaking’, ‘Understanding’ and ‘Listening and Attention’. In 'Speaking', we teach the children new vocabulary, both general and specialised, related to our topics, such as dinosaurs or space. Through 'Understanding', we explore the children’s use of questioning, encouraging them to ask open-ended questions and to justify, reason and explore new possibilities. In 'Listening and Attention', we support children with their two-channelled attention span, as well as their ability to listen in larger groups.
Literacy – We aim to give children a love of reading and a passion for writing. We teach phonics using the programme ‘Read, Write Inc.’. In Nursery, children join in with early phonics games and are encouraged to make marks. Children in Reception are taught to use their phonics knowledge to decode letters for reading and to segment sounds for spelling. Our children are given every opportunity to write with indoor and outdoor mark-making areas. In Nursery, we begin to develop the children’s pre-reading skills, by telling stories, sequencing our favourites and introducing narrative into our play. We develop this further in Reception by weekly reading scheme books, writing our own stories and acting out stories using props.
Mathematics – In Nursery, children are encouraged to count within their play, reciting numbers to 10 and beginning to recognise numerals. In Reception, children are taught numbers to 20 as well as adding, subtracting, doubling and sharing. Shape and pattern are also a large part of our mathematical curriculum, with children being encouraged to identify and recognise shapes within the environment, leading to describing and comparing the properties of shape by the end of Reception. There are many areas of Maths that are taught predominantly through play, such as capacity, weight, height and length. Children investigate these concepts in areas such as the water tray, the sand pit and the mud kitchen.
Understanding the World – Children begin to develop the skills and understanding needed to make sense of the world around them. They will have first-hand opportunities to engage with science, design technology, history, geography and information and communication technology (ICT). We encourage the children to make observations, predictions, test, research and question.
Expressive Arts and Design – Children explore a variety of media and materials where they can design, build, construct and create. Children will also develop their imaginative skills through first-hand experiences in art, music, dance, role-play and imaginative play.
The School Day
The Nursery consists of provision for children who attend for mornings, afternoons or for whole day sessions. Each session consists of whole class learning, snack time, early phonics and adult-led small group activities. Much of the session is based on the principles of ‘learning through play’, allowing the children freedom and choice. The environment inspires children to access all areas of the curriculum and particularly encourages mark making, communication and physical skills. Our Nursery also boasts an exciting sensory room!
The Reception year builds on and extends the children’s experience in the Nursery, gradually moving towards a more structured programme, incorporating daily phonics, literacy and numeracy lessons. The children begin guided reading sessions, weekly homework and three carpet inputs a day, as well as continuing to learn through play during independent learning sessions. The children at Meadlands make excellent progress throughout their time in the Foundation Stage, preparing them for a successful journey into Key Stage 1.
Phonics is taught in both Nursery and Reception. We use the Read Write Inc. scheme of work to teach the children the letter sounds. In Nursery, we begin with phase 1 phonics, which is broken into seven aspects of sound discrimination, comprising environmental sounds, instrumental sounds, body percussion, alliteration, rhythm and rhyme, voice sounds and oral blending. This is taught through weekly whole class input, starting from pre 3 age and through the environment with specific activities. We then move on to teach the initial sounds, as and when the children are ready. This is taught on a one sound per week basis, to encourage school readiness.
In Reception, we teach sounds from the first term of the year. We teach four sounds in a week, starting with single letters and moving on to digraphs (sh, ar, ch) and trigraphs (ear, air, ure). We teach children the skill of blending the sounds together to create a word, in order to support their reading. This is then developed into segmenting skills, where children learn to hear each sound in a word, to support their writing. Reception phonics is taught through daily whole class carpet sessions, small group sessions and provision within the environment.
On Thursday 7 May, we held an Early Years workshop in our Ingenium to enjoy a story together and build our own reading corner. We strongly believe in working in partnership with our parents and this will be the first of many workshops we will run in the Early Years.
The Nursery Curriculum covers the seven areas of learning as listed in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). These areas are Communication and Language, Physical Development, Personal, Social and Emotional Development, Literacy, Mathematics, Understanding the World and Expressive Arts and Design. The Nursery fosters children’s learning through a programme of structured play that supports and extends children’s early development.
We are fortunate at Meadlands to have extensive grounds, including an orchard, wildlife area, storytelling circle and allotment, which is used for activities such as gardening and exploring the natural world as well as providing opportunities for physical development.
The Reception year builds upon and extends the children’s experience in the Nursery, gradually moving towards a more structured programme and incorporating daily Literacy and Numeracy lessons.