Our vision for Early Years at Addington is that through play and exploration, our learners will become:
- better communicators (receptive, expressive, social)
- more independent in life skills e.g. eating, self-care (toileting, dressing), finding resources
- more engaged with people and activities, and ready to attend to semi-formal and/ or formal learning, or follow a sensory curriculum in Middle School.
The pupils in our Early Years classes usually range from 3-8 years old. Widening the department to include children of Key Stage 1 and Year 3 provides the opportunity for more time in school for pupils to learn through a play-based approach. We are passionate about play; it supports children to make strong and lasting connections when acquiring new skills, enables the building of relationships, and promotes independence as children shape their own learning according to their interests.
Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework
We follow the statutory EYFS framework, supplemented by additional areas and skills that we feel are particularly key for our pupils in the very earliest stages of learning at Addington.
There are seven areas of learning within the EYFS curriculum. These areas are:
The prime areas are the real foundations, or building blocks of development, which are crucial for all future learning. In turn, we can focus on the more specific areas, which are underpinned by the prime areas.
These areas overlap and complement each other, and there is rarely just one learning outcome when learning through play. For example, during an activity of making marks in shaving foam, a child may be learning to touch something new, express their feelings, move their fingers and hands, make linear tracks and maintain attention. Therefore, they will be covering aspects from all of the above areas in that one short period. As a result, this means we are not led by set timetables or discrete lessons, but by what each pupil needs and wants to learn at that specific time. Due to the personalised nature of the pupils’ learning, whole-class timetables are used ‘loosely’ to support the organisation of the day, such as showing when the swimming pool is available, rather than as a rigid plan for the day.
The EYFS framework also requires staff to facilitate and observe the following Characteristics of Effective Learning:
- Playing & exploring- engagement:
- finding out and exploring
- playing with what they know
- being willing to ‘have a go’
- Active learning- motivation:
- being involved and concentrating
- keeping trying
- enjoying achieving what they set out to do
- Creating and thinking critically- thinking:
- having their own ideas
- making links
- choosing ways to do things
These characteristics embody the skills and strategies needed to become a good learner, and can be acquired and honed through play-based learning.
Our learners generally fit into one of three groups, although this does not mean the boundaries are rigid. These groups are:
- sensory learners- seeks experiences and resources that stimulate the senses, learning through supported exposure and exploration
- emerging learners- shows clear interest and preferences towards certain activities, begins to explore environment and resources with decreased support
- active learners- seeks out independent learning opportunities, takes some responsibility for own learning, initiates activities, expresses desire to build on existing skills and knowledge
Throughout their time in Early Years, pupils may move from being a sensory learner to more of an active learner, taking a more independent and involved approach in their learning experiences. A child might show a keen interest in numbers, showing emerging learning in maths activities, but generally seek sensory experiences in other aspects of the curriculum. It is imperative that all types of learners can thrive at Addington, by being given the learning experiences that they need. This is done through facilitating practitioners enabling a suitable learning environment, combining a mixture of child-led through to adult-directed activities.
Our learners’ individual needs
We have a wide range of learning needs and attainment in the Early Years classes. Each child has a Personalised Learning Plan (PLP) to ensure that their targets are individual, short-term and cover a breadth of learning areas. These targets are devised from the child’s EHCP outcomes, therapy plans and sensory profiles, as well as the EYFS learning outcomes.
The aforementioned 7 EYFS areas of learning are encompassed within our 5 PLP headings of:
- My Interactions and Emerging Literacy
- My Life Skills
- My Senses
- My Emotions
- My Explorations and Cognition
It is important to note that whilst key links have been highlighted above, these areas do all overlap. For example, a pupil will also need to learn to apply PSED skills during Interactions, and Understanding the World skills within Exploration and Cognition.
Themes within Early Years
We believe children learn best when they can relate what is being taught to their everyday life and a thematic approach supports this. Our themes follow a two-year cycle; when encountering the theme again, skills taught and practised will have moved on to reflect progress and development. The themes are based on real-life situations, such as shopping and transport. There are also opportunities, within the themes, to explore imaginative play and expression.
Each half term a theme map will outline skills and content taught, an example of which can be seen below. This is available to parents and carers, and will be specific to each class. Differentiation and further personalisation will be specified on shorter-term plans.
We have personalised the EYFS ‘Development Matters’ framework by breaking down the development statements into the smallest of steps, to ensure we can show the students’ achievements and progression of learning. Many of our pupils do not acquire their skills in a typical order, and by breaking the steps down, allows us to record each specific achievement, without getting ‘stuck’ on a skill that is harder to achieve. Some of our students may excel in one aspect of learning. We have further developed and personalised our EYFS assessment by also adding additional statements of progression for SEN skills and strategies such as PECS, Intensive Interaction and Attention Autism, amongst many others.
The progress against the pupils’ PLP targets are constantly assessed, and feed into our planning and end of term assessments.
We use the online assessment tool ‘Earwig’ to record the pupils’ learning journeys. This includes observations of the pupils, photos and videos. It will be opening up to parents in the 2020-21 academic year, so that they can add their observations onto it also.
Learning Zone Charts
We use zone charts to document how our pupils function on a day to day basis and focus on the strategies needed to stretch our pupils to work beyond their comfort zones. Each child starts the year with a baseline handover chart to support the smooth transition for pupils to their new class. This provides a snapshot of how the child’s, likes, dislikes, and challenges they face on a daily basis. Each term this is reviewed and is a working document for all pupils in Early Years. This supports staff to focus on extending play skills and the range of activities and experiences that the child feels comfortable with.
Outcomes for the end of Early Years and thinking ahead
By the end of their time in the Early Years department, the majority of our pupils are ready for the new challenges of the Middle School curriculum. These children are now ready for more formal learning opportunities, when appropriate, having developed increased independence, communication and readiness to engage with a variety of activities.
The Middle School will continue to incorporate elements of the Early Years play-based approach to teaching and learning. This is very much dependent on individual needs and strengths. Some learners will go on to explore a sensory-based curriculum, tailored to more complex learning needs.