“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” – Albert Einstein
Mrs D. Taylor
In our Early Years unit at Saint Augustine Webster Catholic Voluntary Academy, we aim to do all we can to help our children have the best start in life and their learning, nurtured in our faith community. To provide our children with an environment that enables them to develop their personalities, talents and abilities. By understanding and knowing our children, adults can plan for and support each child’s individual development pathway.
Children develop and learn in different ways and the practitioners in the unit utilise their experience to ensure that every child is cared for uniquely and all learning is valued; this includes children with special educational needs, disabilities and from vulnerable backgrounds. The experience within the EYFS team ensures a consistency in expectations and sets clear boundaries within which the children can grow and learn.
Children enter our unit from a diverse range of backgrounds and cultures and this rich and valued diversity gives each child their own starting point for exploration and learning. Strong, positive relationships with families and professional agencies, external to school, support the care and educational provision for the child. Through the positive relationships we foster, we support each unique child to develop their curiosity and resilience to become caring, creative, capable, confident, strong and independent individuals.
Our values and statements to live by are embedded into school life and are integral to the way we care for and educate our children. Our mission is to develop happy children who have the cultural capital, the essential knowledge that they need, to find their way in the world around them and prepare them for their future success. Our aim is to enable children to be ready for the next stage in their exploration, development and learning journey.
Practitioners teach children by ensuring challenging, playful opportunities both indoors and outside across the EYFS curriculum. We are sensitive and responsive to the children’s needs and their interests. Independence, curiosity, exploration and learning in the child's play is encouraged and all efforts are valued and celebrated.
Knowledge and understanding of the children and their families begins with the transition processes between school, home, pre-school settings and external agencies. All information to support the child is shared with the relevant professionals in school i.e. School Leadership Team (SLT), Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL) and the Special Needs co-ordinator.
This understanding of the child and their needs enables the practitioners to assess the children’s starting points for development and plan the curriculum to meet their needs. These assessments are both formal BASEline assessments through Cambridge Assessment and ongoing teacher observations in provision.
Opportunities for focused teacher and child led exploration and learning are planned for and the Long Term Plan (LTP) ensures that there are further opportunities to revisit learning are in place throughout the year.
The academy values and statements to live by, are threaded through our approach to the love, care and education of our children and are specifically included in the Long Term Plan to ensure consistent focus. The Come and See religious education programme supports our faith teaching across the school and this begins in the early years unit.
The EYFS curriculum is designed to meet all the areas of the EYFS framework. The themes and continuous provision enhancements are adapted to meet the needs of each cohort. The attainment in each area is reviewed termly, strengths and weaknesses are noted and the curriculum is adapted to meet individual children’s needs e.g. this year (2020), with children missing months of education, the focus is on PSED and with the high percentage of EAL pupils, the emphasis is always on communication and language. These actions ensure the curriculum is targeted to meets the needs of the children in the current cohort.
Early reading is the gateway to developing imagination and learning. Children are given books to share at home at the beginning of the school year. This adds value and supports a love of reading when children are able to share a book with someone special to them. The books without words encourage imaginative story-telling, develop communication and language, vocabulary acquisition and further develops strategies for reading e.g. noticing details in illustrations such as character facial expressions. When a child is ready, books with words are sent home for practise and the enjoyment of books is encouraged and expected from parents.
The school and EYFS use the ‘Letters and Sounds’ programme for learning synthetic phonics and this is supported by building sight vocabulary to build and recognise words. This systematic approach fosters segmenting and blending sounds into words, sight recognition of ‘tricky words’, to support early reading. At the appropriate developmental phase for the child, the formation of letters will support writing and the spelling of simple words.
Other programmes support the children’s learning across the seven areas of the EYFS curriculum:
Prime: (Personal Social and Emotional Development, Communication and Language and Physical Development);
Specific: (Literacy, Numeracy, Understanding the World, Expressive Arts and Design, Technology);
- Jolly Phonics, The Imagination Library, Reading Eggs, Fast Phonics, Oxford Owl Reading, CUSP curriculum - vocabulary
- White Rose Maths, Power Maths
- Nurture programmes in school, Go-Givers – PSED
This ongoing, systematic planning of the curriculum ensures that children are best prepared for the next stage of their learning in Key Stage 1.
The school has very good relationships with our feeder nurseries and other outside agencies meaning that the support provided is implemented early and consistently. Early Years staff visit nurseries, conduct home visits and children have taster days in school before starting. Children’s care and learning is shared effectively with parents through newsletters, text messages, face to face conversations, Tapestry (an online platform) and hard copy learning journeys. These systems build the children’s profile and offer a secure communication tool between home, school and external professionals.
We strive to ensure that our children’s progress across the EYFS curriculum is good from their varied starting points. We also strive for children to reach the Early Learning Goals at the end of Reception and to be at least in line with National Expectations. Evidence in children’s learning journeys support all areas of the EYFS curriculum.
We measure the percentage of pupils achieving age related expectations throughout the academic year and put supportive interventions in place if and when needed. Class teachers use observations to make formative assessments which inform future planning and ensure that all children build on their current knowledge and skills at a good pace. Summative assessment compares children attainment to age related expectations using month bands in Development Matters. Children’s formative and summative assessments are recorded on OTrack to ensure rates of progress are at least good for all children, including vulnerable groups such as those with SEND, disadvantaged or summer born children.
Teacher assessments, learning journeys, Tapestry and OTrack formulate the Foundation Stage Profile at the end of Early Years Foundation Stage and aim for the majority of children to be at a Good Level of Development (GLD) in preparedness for Year 1.
If you were to walk into the EYFS Unit at Saint Augustine Webster’s, you would see:
- Warm, supportive relationships between adults and children.
- Happy, engaged children who are able to work both independently and collaboratively with adults and their peers.
- A stimulating environment that enables and encourages exploration, fosters play and develops the characteristics of effective learning.
- Systems and procedures that support the care and education of all children.