We aim for our school to be a place of possibilities. A place where children and childhood are honoured, their ideas and abilities valued. We aim to motivate, inspire and challenge children in their learning, to create a space where fascination, creativity and endless possibilities for learning are at the core of what we do.
We believe that when teaching and learning is relevant, challenging and inspiring, children will develop a true passion for learning. This passion will encompass and support every aspect of growth – physical, social, emotional, intellectual and moral.
We believe that when a child has the freedom to explore the world around them and share memorable experiences with their peers and highly trained practitioners, learning becomes joyful and long-lasting.
Our Curriculum is based on 3 interconnecting worlds: my world, the world around me and the world beyond.
Our highly trained staff will use these worlds as a starting point for engaging children in learning across all seven areas of learning as outlined in the Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage
- Communication and language development involves giving children opportunities to experience a rich language environment; to develop their confidence and skills in expressing themselves; and to speak and listen in a range of situations
- Physical development involves providing opportunities for young children to be active and interactive; and to develop their co-ordination, control, and movement. Children must also be helped to understand the importance of physical activity, and to make healthy choices in relation to food
- Personal, social and emotional development involves helping children to develop a positive sense of themselves, and others; to form positive relationships and develop respect for others; to develop social skills and learn how to manage their feelings; to understand appropriate behaviour in groups; and to have confidence in their own abilities
- Literacy development involves encouraging children to link sounds and letters and to begin to read and write. Children must be given access to a wide range of reading materials (books, poems, and other written materials) to ignite their interest
- Mathematics involves providing children with opportunities to develop and improve their skills in counting, understanding and using numbers, calculating simple addition and subtraction problems; and to describe shapes, spaces, and measure
- Understanding the world involves guiding children to make sense of their physical world and their community through opportunities to explore, observe and find out about people, places, technology and the environment
- Expressive arts and design involves enabling children to explore and play with a wide range of media and materials, as well as providing opportunities and encouragement for sharing their thoughts, ideas and feelings through a variety of activities in art, music, movement, dance, role-play, and design and technology
The implementation of our curriculum is based on a clear pedagogy which recognises the following key principles:
- every child is a unique child, who is constantly learning and capable
- children learn to be strong and independent through positive relationships
- children learn and develop well in enabling environments, in which their experiences respond to their individual needs and there is a strong partnership between practitioners and parents and/or carers
- children develop and learn in different ways and at different rates.
(DFE, Statutory Framework the Early Years Foundation stage, 2017)
Understanding and implementation of the Characteristics of Effective Learning
These characteristics explain how young children learn.
Playing and exploring – engagement
Relevant learning experiences that are engaging and interactive that facilitate challenging and sustained learning. Learning is defined as the progress in one or more of the following areas:
- Skills – being able to do something, such as a being able to pedal on a trike
- Knowledge – knowledge such as knowing where the small world resources are kept, or knowing that your heart needs to beat to all the time
- Concept : development of an understanding: such as some materials can alter their form: water to ice
- Dispositions – displaying of behaviours that enhances learning such as a willingness to persevere, to ask questions, to have a go.
Active learning – motivation
For learning to flourish children need rich opportunities that promote engagement, challenge, inspiration and fascination, for example working collaboratively to build a bridge across a stream.
Creating and thinking critically – thinking
For children’s thinking to flourish, practitioners need to know the child and establish secure relationships. It is once such secure relationships are established that practitioners can tune into children’s thinking. The use of thinking language can facilitate the means for children to reflect on their learning this includes: open ended questions, running commentaries, pondering and repeating children’s language back to them to highlight their thinking.
Extending Children’s Thinking and Learning
We value these teaching strategies which are underpinned by a knowledge of child development and warm, trusting relationships.
Observe to Understand
- “Stand aside for a while and leave room for learning, observe carefully what children do, and then if you have understood well, teaching will be different from before” (Loris Malaguzzi)
- Use your words wisely
Open ended questions to promote thoughtfulness.
- A commentary of thoughts and actions to model language
- Ambitious, rich language to inspire children
- Specific praise so children know what they have done well
- “non-interference that is intended to benefit someone or something”
- Allow children to persevere, overcome challenges, develop independence
Model and Guide
- The Zone of Proximal Development (Vygotsky) “What a child can do in co-operation today, they can do alone tomorrow”
The environment as the third educator
- A Nursery school is a place of possibilities!
- New experiences in a rich environment to encourage new ways of thinking.
- Time, permission, open ended resources and a risk-taking culture.
IMPACT of our Teaching and Learning
What Children know and can do?
Children’s’ learning will be closely monitored in close collaboration with parents to ensure that all children are supported to reach significant milestones for their age. (OPAL)
Cultural Capital: The essential skills and knowledge that children need to be successful.
Learning within a place of possibilities, children will be nurtured. Their individual interests and talents will be valued and developed.
As a result, children’s well-being will be high. They will have a belief in themselves and their abilities. They will know that they are loved, that they are strong, capable and unique. They will have resilience and the perseverance to keep on trying when things are challenging.
They will have the confidence to try new things, to take risks and be physically active. Children will know how to communicate their ideas, beliefs and feelings, choosing different ways to do this. Some children will choose to dance, others to build or draw or sing. They will have experienced and remembered a wide range of words through stories, rhymes and poems. They will have the skills to make friends and will show kindness to others. They will know how to look after themselves, their friends, their school and the environment.
They will know about important mathematical and scientific concepts. They will have an understanding and respect of the world around them and the world beyond. They will have a desire to learn and be ready for their next stage in education.
Our Approach to Assessment
As a Federation of Nursery schools, we feel a responsibility to develop a model of effective, meaningful and principled assessment of young children’s learning.
- By effective, we mean a method of assessment that ensures that all children are supported in reaching significant milestones.
- By meaningful, we mean that the observations made inform our everyday practice and curriculum. By gaining an insight into children’s thinking, feeling and needs we can plan our environment and actions to provide future possibilities for learning.
- By principled, we mean that our focus is on observing to understand children. We will not test children or seek unnecessary knowledge. Children are recognised as individuals, not as a percentage in a pie chart.
- We will not spend unnecessary amounts of time writing observations or gathering evidence of children’s learning. We believe that if we are capturing the moment, we cannot be part of the moment. Instead we have structures in place that enable us to regularly discuss each child as a team.
Observation of Play and Learning (OPAL)
Observing children in the early years should not be a chore. We decided to stand up to the increasing demands for ‘paperwork’ and ‘evidence’ with the aim of giving ourselves time. Time to spend interacting and playing with our children, not testing them. We have written three blog posts about how we are making observation and assessment more meaningful for both children and adults.
Let’s bring back the joy of observing children in the Early Years
Part One: OPAL – A different way to look at assessment in the early years.
Part Two: OPAL – How it works in practice
Part Three: OPAL – Thoughts from practitioners
BEYA is working hard to build a culture of collaboration beyond our three schools and Children’s Centre. We believe we have developed a truly wonderful Observation of Play and Learning (OPAL) assessment tool that the Early Years Sector can benefit from and that we would like to share.
For further information please email firstname.lastname@example.org