The Early Years Foundation Stage
GEARIES PRIMARY SCHOOL
EARLY YEARS STATEMENT
Our Early Years Provision has been designed with the following aims:
- To ensure our provision meets the needs of our children and our community
- To ensure our provision is responsive to our children’s needs and driven by the professional learning and development of our practitioners, teachers and leaders.
- Meeting the needs of our children and our community
Families in our community face one of the highest levels of enforced evictions in the UK; whilst also living in a London borough with one of the lowest levels of affordable housing being built. Whilst our community is broadly affluent, some families in our community further face one of the UK’s largest Levels of income inequality.
Pupils from minority ethnic groups make up nearly the whole of our community. The majority of these pupils are from Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lanka, Bangladeshi and other Asian heritages, Romania and Bulgaria. 90% of children speak English as an Additional Language, compared to 66% in The London Borough of Redbridge, where the school is located, 29.7% across the Greater London region and 15.7% nationally. 40.2% of the families within the Gearies Primary School Community were born abroad. In 2019, 94 new families, 204 children arrived from abroad, this represented an average increase, 5 years ago this figure was only 5 families.
Our provision has been designed in response to our sensitive analysis of our children’s and community’s needs; Core Areas of Holistic Child Development and Core Areas of Skills and Knowledge Growth have been researched and designed to ensure we support our children’s personal development within these unique circumstances. It is an ambitious curriculum, focussed on ensuring every child’s needs are effectively met so that they can progress in their learning and development; we have a responsibility to design an Early Years curriculum that meets the needs of the particular children and families we are working with.
A curriculum that is responsive to our children’s needs and driven by the professional learning and development of our Practitioners, Teachers and Leaders.
Our Curriculum puts more emphasis on the links between curriculum and pedagogy. The 1990 Rumbold Report (p. 10) on early education proposed that ‘curriculum planning is not a once-and-for-all operation: it is a continuous cycle involving planning, observing, recording, assessing and returning to planning in the light of the intermediate stages’.
There is a concern that our Practitioners, Teachers and Leaders may become over depend on “Development Matters” to guide their planning for children’s learning because there is so little else for them to draw on. The conclusions of Siraj et al. (2017, p. 5) about the Early Years workforce in Australia were carefully reflected: ‘many current early years educators may not be familiar with key content knowledge, child development theory or the kind of high-quality interactions that children require for their learning… a skilled workforce is needed to deliver a high-quality curriculum in a way that involves pedagogical approaches which are sensitive, engaging and include challenging interactions with children’. We aim to develop our thinking about the curriculum in the Early Years by providing support through professional development. We have aimed to usefully shift the emphasis in our early education provision towards this approach to curriculum design, considering how young children learn, along with the particular strengths and needs of the children in our local communities, and the maintaining of a focus on ambitious goals for every child.
Our curriculum is rooted in values; driven by evidence
- Our curriculum includes many and varied opportunities for adults and children to talk and communicate learning; a curriculum which is real, concreate, relevant; focussed on play, focussed on developing child self-esteem and self-identity.
- The learning the children engage in through the practitioners delivery of this curriculum must be stimulated by curiosity, imagination and wonder; choice, uninterrupted time to explore and engage, a balance between movement and rest.
- The curriculum needs to be enjoyable, aspirational, motivational, social, focussed on mastery, full of purposeful play.
- Our curriculum must challenge perceptions that younger children are not ready to understand bigger notions. It must provide opportunities for our children to think and reason, developing the metacognitive and executive functioning skills and experiences they have yet to encounter.
- Our curriculum needs to provide for moments of “Caring”, ascertaining when a child needs more care- reinforcing, scaffolding, supporting, or nurturing. It also needs to provide moments of, “Daring” when our children are ready to acquire new skills, new learning, tackle something interdependently, independently; the promotion of risk taking, raising of motivation, and energy for exploration and challenge.
Our curriculum aspires to have an inclusive range of outcomes and definitions of success. The EYFS (Educational Programmes DFE) provides a framework, externally prescribed but internally contested. To meet the needs of our children we need to focus on these core skills.
- The curriculum should deepen understanding of our principles and core skills as opposed to a superficial coverage of external frameworks.
- The curriculum must provide ambitious goals for each child
- The inclusive nature of the curriculum should ensure practitioners can provide a high quality experience for all children while further focussing on those struggling, so we can help them overcome barriers to their learning.
- The curriculum should be delivered through a continuous cycle: Planning, observation, recording, assessment, returning to planning in light of these immediate stages.
Our curriculum is responsive to our children’s needs, practical, reflective and driven by professional learning and development. Those delivering it must be able to describe, explain and justify it.
- Our curriculum delivery must create a culture which ensures children thrive in a climate of possibility
- The delivery of this curriculum should widen the experiences of children and practitioners alike. Broadening both children and adult horizons by building on their interests.
3.Teaching and Learning
From extensive reviews of literature and research these principles have been identified as fundamental to the effective delivery of our curriculum:
- Our curriculum will run alongside EYFS guidance, the changes made in our curriculum to that of the EYFS have been designed to ensure our provision is right for our children, as demonstrated by the research evidence on what promotes children’s wellbeing and how young children learn and develop.
- The holistic nature of learning and development should continue to be emphasised. Care must be taken that delivery of our curriculum is not skewed towards particular, “Areas of Learning” at the expense of others. The evidence clearly shows the inter-related processes of learning and development for all Areas of Learning at this stage.
- Provision should continue to promote the importance of a balanced teaching approach which incorporates play-based and relational pedagogic approaches alongside more structured learning and teaching
- The impact of learning outdoors is well-evidenced, and it must continue to be a recognised right for all children in our provision.
- Our provision should emphasise the importance of all children experiencing more opportunities for play, language consolidation and extension and opportunities to develop their wider learning dispositions and capacities.
- Targeted intervention programmes can play a role in the teaching of Communication and Language in Reception classes alongside enriched play experiences.
- Professional learning is a part of curriculum delivery
Guidance on Pedagogical Approaches
Four pedagogic approaches have been shown by research to be particularly effective in supporting young children’s development and enabling the achievement of a young child’s potential: Play-based; Hybrid; Relational and Sustained and Shared Thinking. These pedagogies inform and underpin our Teaching and Learning approaches.
A play-based pedagogy supports young children's cognitive development by tuning into children's individual interests, drawing out their emerging capacities, and responding to their sense of inquiry and exploration of the world around them. Through their play children are using their curiosity, exploratory drive and imagination, developing social and cognitive skills, including language skills, social skills, self-help skills and fine and gross motor skills.
A play-based approach involves both child-initiated and teacher-supported learning. The teacher encourages children’s learning and inquiry through interactions that aim to stretch their thinking to higher levels. Play-based learning appeals to children's natural curiosity and desire to engage in experiences based on their interests, strengths and developing skills as they make sense of their world around them.
A hybrid pedagogy is a combination of two or more pedagogies. Importantly, evidence further indicates that certain pedagogical practices appear to be more effective than others in improving attainment for less advantaged children. The most effective pedagogy combines both ‘teaching’ and providing freely chosen, yet potentially instructive play activities.
The opportunity for children to self-manage, to take initiative and self-direct their learning has been shown to be a key factor and the extent to which adults extended child-initiated interactions is also important. Intellectual challenge should include interventions from adults to extend the child’s thinking.
Freely chosen play activities often provided the best opportunities for adults to extend the child’s thinking. Evidence suggests that extending child-initiated play, coupled with the provision of teacher-initiated group work, are the most effective vehicles for learning. Children’s cognitive outcomes appear to be directly related to the quantity and quality of the teacher/adult planned and initiated focused group work.
A ‘balanced’ or ‘hybrid’ teaching approach, blending adult instruction with play-based, child-led, relational approaches, and incorporating adult‐scaffolded learning objectives, effectively supports mathematical, literacy and communication and language development, offering a ‘blend’ between direct teaching and free play in early years classes.
Teaching and learning is most effective when we view academic and social development as equally important but maintained within a strong educational focus; with a good balance of practitioner-initiated and freely chosen play activities; with adults that extended children’s learning opportunities and provided on-going formative feedback; encouraging ‘Sustained shared thinking.”
Sustained and Shared Thinking
Definition of sustained shared thinking:
‘Sustained shared thinking’ occurs when two or more individuals ‘work together’ in an intellectual way to solve a problem, clarify a concept, evaluate an activity, extend a narrative etc. Both parties must contribute to the thinking and it must develop and extend the understanding. It was more likely to occur when children were interacting 1:1 with an adult or with a single peer partner and during focussed group work.” (EPPE) Project (2004)
Sustained shared thinking is fundamental to how practitioners approach children’s learning and development. Sustained shared thinking is best described as those times when you are totally absorbed with a child, in conversation or in an activity with a genuine interest on both parts to find out more. Sustained shared thinking can happen anytime, anywhere and only requires time and interest on the part of the participants. It can be one to one or in a small group, especially when there is shared group interest. The important aspect is the ‘meeting of minds’ and subsequent learning that occurs on both sides.
Practitioners need to be aware of the connection and they the child/ren are fully engaged in the activity or conversation. These occasions present important opportunities for the practitioner to see a child’s world through their eyes. They will reveal much about the child including their level of cognitive development, schemas and self-esteem. The child may also be learning things such as social interaction, a technique, how to think creatively, cause and effect and factual information.
The Effective Provision of Pre-School Education (EPPE) Project (2004) clearly identified that the ‘most effective settings encourage sustained shared thinking’ and that it is a ‘necessary pre-requisite for the most effective settings’. The EPPE Project concluded: ‘In addition to sustained shared thinking, staff engaged in open-ended questioning in the settings where children made the most progress and provided formative feedback to children during activities. Adult ‘modelling’ skills or appropriate behaviour was often combined with sustained periods of shared thinking; open-ended questioning and modelling were also associated with better cognitive achievement.”
Relational pedagogy emphasises inter-human, personal encounters and relationships in the classroom where the focus is on the quality of interactions between children and their teachers, developing classroom communities that promote academic, social, and emotional growth.
Relational Pedagogies are underpinned by four key dimensions of good quality pedagogy for all children:
- Stable relationships and interactions with sensitive and responsive adults
- A focus on play-based activities and routines which allow children to take the lead in their own learning.
- Support for communication and language
- Opportunities to move and be physically active.
4.The importance of evaluating and assessing the implementation and impact of our curriculum.
“Finding out whether we are improving, not proving we are.”
Understanding the impact of our curriculum design and delivery on children’s performances or academic or behavioural competences involves more than looking at comparative data (Early Learning Goal percentages, Average Total Points Scores, Good Level of Development percentages). It is more than comparing one set of children’s scores to those of others. It is important that we know and understand what underlies the children’s performances, what has influenced the outcomes, it is important that leaders, teachers, practitioners and parents understand the constructs underlying such evaluation of impact so that they can continue to make informed and appropriate decisions about the children, the curriculum, our provision.
Before outlining guidance on the evaluation and assessment of our curriculum design and provision, it is important to note that as a school we are responsible for ensuring our innovation remains linked to the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) statutory framework.
The EYFS profile is not intended to be used for ongoing assessment or for entry-level assessment for early years settings or reception classes. The EYFS framework sets the statutory standards for the development, learning and care of children from birth to age 5. The EYFS statutory framework sets the standards that all early years providers must meet to ensure that children learn and develop well and are kept healthy and safe. It promotes teaching and learning to ensure children’s ‘school readiness’ and gives children the broad range of knowledge and skills that provide the right foundation for good future progress through school and life.
These Early Learning Goals are built into our curriculum, and will be edited in accordance with outcomes of 2018-2019 review, and other statutory changes which follow. It is important to note that this curriculum is to a certain extent a working document, responsive to implications drawn from: the continuous professional development engaged in by the school; informative developments reviewed from research, literature; Government guidance, and statutory demands.
5.Evaluation and Assessment
High-quality assessment and evaluation practice must enable us to understand the learning, or the barriers to learning, of every child. Our practices are underpinned by clear values, centred on a belief in every child’s potential to learn.
Evaluation and assessment activity must be built into both the daily work of all Early Years team members, with protected time dedicated to a clear focus on children’s learning and success, and the teams engagement in a continuous professional development programme.
The assessment and evaluation process is one of gathering information to make decisions about a child. This is a systematic process, multi-disciplinary and based on everyday tasks and experiences within the educational setting. Our evaluation and assessment practices will of course adhere to DFE expectations, however, this guidance aims to support our school’s leaders, teachers and practitioners to avoid confusing process and impact evaluation with external accountability. Monitoring and evaluation is about high quality implementation, quality assurance and finding out whether our strategies, pedagogical approaches and intended improvements to our practice improves children outcomes, not proving that they do. When conducting evaluations and assessments it will be essential to establish first a clear rationale to the reasons for evaluating the aspects chosen. Evaluation and assessment processes will be systematic. Time spent on diagnosis will be managed to ensure it is balanced against the time to be spent on improvement.
At the heart of this process, we want to know:
- How are we doing?
- How do we know?
These questions focus on the achievements of our provision in relation to its key purpose and the impact of our school on children, parents and the community. To judge our success in relation to these two questions and to plan for improvements, we need to consider the key factors which influence them. That is why it is essential that assessment and evaluation is centred on the child, but, also accompanied by a transparent, rigorous assessment and evaluation of our performance as adults delivering the provision. Therefore, we need to consider the first two questions in the light of other questions:
- How good is the quality of education provided through the curriculum or the learning and teaching?
This approach enables us as professionals to reflect on practice within our own classes, and within the EYFS and school as a whole, and to consider the deep inter-relationships between aspects of our work and our successes and achievements.
It is essential that we look at aspects of the quality of education we provide and ask the following questions:
- What outcomes have we achieved?
- How well do we meet the needs of our community?
- How good is the education we provide?
- What is our capacity for improvement?
- Is the curriculum appropriate for their needs?
This kind of focused approach will enable our team to concentrate on areas of priority rather than routinely covering all aspects of our work in turn.
6.Professional Development: Reflection as a community of professionals
Self-evaluation is a reflective professional process through which we will get to know ourselves, as professionals well and identify the way forward, which is best for our children. It should promote well-considered innovation. Self-evaluation is a forward-looking process. It is about change and improvement, whether gradual or major. It should result in clear benefits for children.
All staff need to continuously reflect on the quality of their work. As professionals, and as members
of the staff team which is accountable for the overall quality of education, we are accountable for the quality of our work and for the achievements of the children we teach and engage with. Members of staff engaging with children’s learning should take pride in their own work and reflect on it in relation to their individual responsibilities.
Self-evaluation also involves groups of staff reflecting on their work together. This should be developed through the following ways:
- commenting on each other’s work;
- discussing plans for learning experiences and children’s progress;
- working together to promote high-quality play experiences;
- engaging in cooperative teaching and discussion; and
- looking at each other’s practice to experience different approaches.
Peer evaluation is a very important professional activity. It is well established in our early years team. The process of collegiate self-evaluation, by leaders, teachers and practitioners works best when all have a shared understanding of what is meant by, ‘quality’. This curriculum has been collectively created, by a working party representing all stakeholders in our school community. This guidance serves as a clarifying of our values and principles and an agreement on how these values and principles will be put into action to influence the work of the team, school, the curriculum, the learning environment, the ethos of the school and the way that everyone is included.
We have a strong sense of purpose to achieve our aims. Our co-constructed curriculum and the practice carried out by our reflective professionals, forms the basis of the collegiate culture which underpins the leadership of our curriculum at all levels: in the classroom; the outdoor spaces; within working groups and development teams.
As noted, our guidance to evaluation is about high quality implementation, quality assurance and finding out whether our strategies, pedagogical approaches and intended improvements to our practice improves children’s outcomes, not proving that they do. Taking part in continuous reflection, assessment and evaluation of our practice and provision is what we mean by being a member of a, ‘community of learners’.
7.Effective Transition from Reception to Year 1.
As a school we ensure that teachers devote sufficient time each day to the direct teaching of reading, writing and mathematics, including frequent opportunities for children to practise and consolidate their skills, but, believe that an effective curriculum for Reception, Year 1 and beyond is one which is underpinned by, “Responsible Pedagogy”:
“Responsible pedagogy enables each child to demonstrate learning in the fullest sense. It depends on the use of assessment information to plan relevant and motivating learning experiences for each child. Effective assessment can only take place when children have the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding, learning and development in a range of contexts.”
(Early Years Foundation Stage Profile Handbook, 2014)
Our Transition process was built to adhere to these clear principles:
- When we think of effective practice and transition, we must start with the child.
“We speak of starting with a child, “where he is” which in one sense is not to assert an educational desideratum but an inescapable fact; there is no other place the child can start from. There are only other placers the educator can start from” (Bissex, GNYS AT WRK, 980 p. 111)
- An effective pedagogy is an “affective” pedagogy (Rogers. S, 2017)
“Developmentally, there is very little difference between a Reception child and a Year 1 child. All of the development literature that concerns children of this age says that the key changes in children’s development come around the end of year 2 when children approach the age of 7. Nowhere in the literature does it say that suddenly, at the age of 6 children prefer to learn by listening to their teacher. Nowhere does it say that children learn best when they are sitting on a carpet. Nowhere does it say that children no longer need play and no longer like to learn out of doors. In fact, the literature is unequivocal in saying that children’s learning needs at the age of 6 are pretty much the same as at age 5, so as teachers we need to be asking whether current practices and opportunities in Year 1 classrooms reflect the active and interactive children we see learning in the Foundation Stage.” (Fisher, J, 2010)
- If high standards in progress and attainment for all children are to be protected, then the children’s learning journeys from The Foundation Stage must continue into Year 1.
“We need to truly “continue the learning journey” from the Foundation Stage to Year 1. This does not mean that children’s learning will stand still or that standards will decline… But what the child development literature informs us is that how children learn should not be different in a Key Stage 1 class than it is in a Reception class; that what is deemed to be, “developmentally appropriate” practice in the Foundation Stage remains every bit as developmentally appropriate in Key Stage 1.” (Fisher, J, 2010)
- Each adult in our school must support all children by following this guidance to ensure a consistency of approach, collaboratively supporting our children during this time of transition to make sense of they can make sense of the changes and challenges they will face.
“At school as well as at home, the most effective talking and learning will take place when adult and child engage together collaboratively in the negotiation of meaning.” (Wells, G, 1988)
8.Parental partnership forms and essential part of Early Years Provision
The provision recognises the importance of parents as the children’s first educators. Our provision recognises that momentum for learning comes from the growth of the child as a person, both in school and at home. The curriculum must bridge gaps between life at home and the wider world and we must have a provision that will support a shared instilling of virtues that will lead to critical thinking.
Our community are an integral part of our Early Years experiences. All staff strive to develop responsive and reciprocal relationships with families to create a partnership which aims to empower the child. Through positive parental partnerships we aim to create a family learning environment, home and school learning being interconnected