Subject Leader: Miss Mace
“The quality of provision in the Early Years is outstanding.” School Review, 2018.
Across a two-year journey, we support pupils to become confident, independent and social members of the Meadlands family. We promote independence by ensuring pupils build a happy, secure relationship with staff for a smooth transition. We develop resilience by building up their skills and encouraging them to keep trying until they succeed. We want our pupils to thrive in a world of language and be equipped with a vast amount of vocabulary by the end of the Early Years. The pupils will also begin to build on their cultural capital through learning, building on social skills and participating on school trips and outings.
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 Nursery class, using a mixture of both play-based and adult-directed activities to provide a varied and engaging curriculum. The Nursery and Reception classes work closely to motivate pupils to learn alongside each other and build positive relationships, whilst developing their own talents and interests. We encourage pupils 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 pupils as a stimulus.
We work closely together 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 in to share with the class information about their jobs, talents, cultures or hobbies.
Along with the rest of the school, we love outdoor learning, and ensure our pupils 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 pupils have the opportunity to experience weekly Forest School lessons.
We use an online assessment tool, called Target Tracker which can record ‘in the moment’ photographs of pupils’ 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:
Personal, Social and Emotional Development For most pupils, our Early Years Classrooms are the first setting they have been to, away from parents and loved ones, a place to explore and call their own. Pupils become increasingly independent through taking on responsibilities, such as snack time helper, and completing challenges throughout the week. Pupils interact quickly with teachers and peers, building those friendships that can last a lifetime. Interventions and scaffolded play are introduced to those who find relationships and interactions trickier. We use our PATHS scheme alongside ‘Zones of Regulation’ to teach our pupils about their emotions and how to deal with those feelings when they arise.
Physical Development It is important for pupils in Early Years to build up both their gross and fine motor skills. We provide space and time for the pupils to develop their larger muscle groups outside, using bikes, climbing and balancing equipment, as well as weekly PE lessons for both Nursery and Reception. We teach catching, throwing and kicking skills through turn-taking group games. We support the development of fine motor skills progressively throughout the two years, starting with activities that strengthen muscles through to hand writing practice.
Communication and Language Pupils develop their speaking and listening skills through purposeful activities, Lego therapy, carpet time and 1:1 interventions if required. Speech is modelled carefully by all members of staff, who also have a clear understanding of all pupils and their differing and personalised targets. Pupils are exposed to new vocabulary through learning different topics. We use a three tiers vocabulary framework to help pupils develop from everyday use of basic words to general academic language and then to "domain specific language". This could be developing from the word ‘tree’ to ‘pine’ or ‘oak’ to ‘deciduous’ or ‘evergreen’.
Literacy We aim to give pupils a love of reading and a passion for writing. We teach phonics using the programme ‘Read, Write Inc.’. In Nursery, pupils join in with early phonics games and are encouraged to make marks. Pupils in Reception are taught to use their phonics knowledge to decode letters for reading and to segment sounds for spelling. Our pupils are given every opportunity to write with indoor and outdoor mark-making areas. In Nursery, we begin to develop the pupils’ pre-reading skills by telling and sequencing stories 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, pupils are encouraged to count within their play, reciting numbers to 10 and beginning to recognise numerals. In Reception, pupils 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 pupils 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. Pupils investigate these concepts in areas such as the water tray, the sand pit and the mud kitchen.
Understanding the World Pupils 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 computing. We encourage the pupils to make observations, predictions, test, research and question.
Expressive Arts and Design Pupils will explore a variety of media and materials where they can design, build, construct and create. They will also develop their imaginative skills through first-hand experiences in art, music, dance, role-play and imaginative play. Both classes perform throughout the year in the nativity and class assemblies. The children also have the opportunity to audtion for our whole school celebrations, ‘Poetry Slam’ and ‘Meadland's got Talent’.
Phonics is taught in both Nursery and Reception. We use the Read Write Inc. scheme of work to teach letter sounds. In Nursery, we begin with phase 1 phonics, which is broken into seven aspects of sound discrimination, including: 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 pupils 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 pupils 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 pupils 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.
The School Day
The Nursery consists of provision for pupils 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 upon the principles of ‘learning through play’ which allows the pupils freedom and choice. The environment inspires pupils 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 upon and extends the pupils’ experience in Nursery, gradually moving towards a more structured programme, incorporating daily phonics, literacy and numeracy lessons. The pupils 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 pupils at Meadlands make excellent progress throughout their time in the Foundation Stage, preparing them for a successful journey into Key Stage 1.