The School DayEach class is led by a qualified teacher and supported by a level 3 teaching assistant. The children are allocated one of these members of staff as their key worker, who will support the initial settling period, collate their files and plan individualised experiences around their interests. The class teacher oversees all children’s development. All children have opportunities to learn from and be assessed by both staff.
The indoor and outdoor environment is split into a number of stimulating play spaces to incorporate all subject areas. The environment is a critical part of the teaching and learning process that takes place and is known as the ‘third teacher’ after the teacher and teaching assistant. This is because children are encouraged to explore and investigate, self-initiating the direction their learning takes, prompted by a stimulating and rich environment.
Opportunities to explore natural materials – bark, chippings, fabric, stone, rock – are created by tuning into the stimulus created by every season. Construction toys are carefully chosen to offer more challenge as children develop through school, and children are given free access to art and craft materials daily. Touch tables and investigation areas ensure scientific discovery is an everyday part of learning. Children’s imaginations are far more effective than ours when they are left to explore, and the sense of achievement they enjoy when their creations are celebrated can be life changing, and most importantly they create a valuable springboard into literacy and numeracy.
Children investigate and explore within the areas independently with teaching staff scaffolding their learning through questioning and playing alongside them. As in the Reggio Emilia approach, the adult’s role is to co-explore the learning experiences, provoke ideas, support children to see connections in learning experiences and to help children to express knowledge. Children are observed during play and appropriate individualised next steps are planned to allow children to develop and reach those next steps in their development across all areas of learning.
In line with the Early Years Foundation Stage we strongly believe that all areas of learning are equally important. This is not to dilute the importance of literacy and numeracy but to highlight that many children are stimulated by other areas of learning that are a route into literacy and numeracy. For example, the football fanatical five year old will see the relevance of a league table rather than the numeracy number machines that are frequently used. Using the context of football to develop literacy and numeracy skills will be far more relevant than learning those skills for their own sake.
Alongside self-initiated exploration by children, adult-directed activities (planned by the teacher) take place in small groups. These sessions are focused activities to enhance the children’s knowledge and understanding in all areas of learning. These activities are still through play and first hand experiences.
Children are introduced to an established reading scheme in Reception which appeals to a wide range of learning styles. Children are encouraged to read these books at school and home.
Circle times are an important part of the day where children come together (sometimes as a whole class and sometimes in smaller groups). The focus for these times includes; problem solving, number rhymes, developing imagination, developing self-esteem, developing concentration, listening games, sharing news and learning nursery rhymes. We also incorporate short, sharp phonic and numeracy input. These sessions are offered in response to children showing readiness and aptitude to take their learning forward.
There is no traditional ‘play-time’ as children benefit from free-flow play between the indoors and outdoors during morning and afternoon sessions, exercising free choice during that time. Children’s play outdoors is planned and developed in the same way as indoors.
Lunch-times are part of the learning journey where staff eat the same lunch with the children while developing social skills, problem solving and shared thinking. We feel that this is a crucial time where children can learn skills for life as well as developing confidence, independence and self-esteem. They contribute to setting the table and serving one another from food set into the centre of the table. This gives children many social experiences and support their knowledge of healthy eating.
Afternoon sessions are dedicated to children engaging in first hand experiences and incorporate: sustained shared thinking projects, trips to the local area including the library, park, shopping centre, Concordia leisure centre, theatre groups performing plays. They are planned in conjunction with a half termly topic. Children are regularly part of the decision making process including which role play area to create (changed each half term), outings to go on and things to make during cooking experiences.
Sustained shared thinking experiences play a major role in our ethos (where children work together to solve a problem or develop an idea). We plan experiences of this for the children as well as embracing spontaneous opportunities. This may involve a longer term project, such as finding a teddy in a tree and deciding what to do next or planning and creating our next role play area, or a daily experience such as getting a toy down from the roof.
An outing, outside of the local area, is planned at least once every half term, where children are involved in the planning, risk assessment and evaluation process. This is planned around the topic which the children are exploring and so far have included venues such as Discovery Museum, Toy Museum, Newcastle Safety Centre, Ashington Woods, Theatre Royal, York Chocolate Factory, Alnwick Castle, Warkworth Castle, Forbidden Corner in Yorkshire, St Mary’s Lighthouse, farms and garden centres. Children are provided with the opportunity to experience public transport as well as private coach hire. We sometimes ask for a small voluntary contribution to some of these trips but do not exclude any child from any visit if they are unable to contribute.