Our mission statement for Early Years at St Christopher’s is:
‘The best start for every child’
To provide children with the necessary nurture and environment, and equip them with the skills and knowledge to build a strong foundation for learning and help them to achieve their personal best.
Statement of Intent
In Early Years at St Christopher’s we intend to give every child the best start to their school journey.
How does this work?
Nurture: Our aim is to implement our school mission statement: ‘Love one another’ from the outset of each child’s journey at St Christopher’s. Every child will be valued and nurtured by EY staff with a focus on meaningful interactions and treating each child as an individual with an awareness of their needs and next steps of development. Children will also be taught to love and value one another through adult modelling, RE and PSHE lessons, Circle Times and 1:1 conversation.
Environment: We intend to provide an enabling environment for all children, taking account of their different needs, cultures and languages. Through continuous provision and enhancements, both inside and outdoors, children will be provided with the opportunities to develop in all areas of the Early Years curriculum.
Skills & Knowledge: Our aim is to provide children with a complete curriculum covering all 17 aspects, thereby enabling children to develop the required skills and knowledge in each area to ensure they are ready to transition to Year 1. This includes opportunities to develop the Characteristics of Effective Learning in order to become independent, motivated learners with the ability to think critically and make links between their learning.
A strong foundation for learning: As a result, it is our ambition that through their time in Early Years, children will acquire a strong foundation for learning which can be built on as they progress through the school. This will enable all children to achieve their personal best in Early Years and throughout their time at St Christopher’s.
- Our Early Years provision includes a well-balanced mix of child-initiated and adult-led learning, with a focus on quality interactions to scaffold and further the learning for each child.
- An ambitious curriculum is mapped out at the start of the year following the current EYFS curriculum, ensuring that children have the opportunity to develop detailed knowledge and skills across the 7 areas of learning. Children are motivated by exciting topics which include ‘wow’ starting points, their own ideas and interests, and opportunities to develop learning further outside of school.
- Planning is closely linked to on-going assessment and is sequenced accordingly to build on what children already know and can do. On-going formative assessment is based on informal observations, teacher judgement and parent/child voice alongside formal summative assessment at regular points through the year.
- The YR teacher is very experienced in implementing the Early Years curriculum, particularly in the areas of Phonics and Early Mathematics, and works closely with the Y1 teacher who is also Early Years trained. This is passed on to other staff members through direct training and modelling, resulting in a skilled team. Teaching assistants play an active part in every aspect of the EYFS and their considerable experience enhances the curriculum offer.
- Direct teaching is targeted and adaptive and uses a variety of strategies to engage children and motivate learning including visual aids, active participation, storytelling, ICT, drama, singing and puppets. Questioning and Learning Partner talk are used to actively involve children in their own learning.
- A wide range of books are read to pupils by all staff members, including cultural, ethnic and socially diverse books. New vocabulary is made explicit, explained clearly and modelled by all EY staff.
- The Twinkl scheme is used to deliver Phonics at St Christopher’s. Whole class teaching takes place daily followed by linked phonics-based activities in the general provision. Quality same day intervention is delivered for lower achieving children, including Level 1 activities for the children who need it (mainly those who have not been exposed to systematic phonics at nursery). Regular formative assessment, as well as summative assessment at the end of each Level, checks that all pupils are on track and meeting expectations. If not, extra intervention and/or support is provided.
- Alongside this, Early Reading is closely matched with Phonics teaching. Twinkl Rhino Readers is our main scheme and is used alongside the Twinkl Mini Books (which ensure children are reading the exact phonemes they learn each week) and a ‘reading for pleasure’ book to further encourage enjoyment of reading. Phonics Bug books are sometimes used to plug gaps until the Rhino Readers scheme is extended sufficiently. These books are also closely matched to the phonics teaching so that children are never expected to read phonemes which they do not know.
- PD and handwriting skills are explicitly taught and practised through- a daily program for the whole class designed to develop fine motor skills and the beginnings of a fluent handwriting style with correct letter formation. Small group intervention is also provided for pupils who need extra support. Gross motor skills are taught and practised through PE lessons which follow the whole school Twinkl scheme, as well as use of equipment in our outdoor classroom, the larger school playground and Log Trail. Trips to places such as the local park and Sycamore Adventure also promote physical activity and risk taking.
- The teaching of Early Mathematics focuses on developing a sound understanding of numbers to 10, providing secure foundations to build on in Y1. A wide range of resources are used including Numicon, Base10, ten frames, counting objects and part-part-whole models. Teaching is reinforced through the use of aids such as Ten Town and Number Blocks to help long term memory. Children are encouraged to use the Maths Area which provides layered challenges and resources for child-initiated maths play. Mathematical learning is also incorporated into continuous provision, with enhancements added to consolidate the specific maths learning each week.
- PSED is a significant focus, especially in the first half term. Frequent RE and PSHE lessons, class prayer times and Circle Time sessions encourage children to consider their behaviour, use the language of feelings and develop emotional literacy. The importance of a healthy lifestyle is taught through topic work, PSHE lessons, Circle Time sessions and PE lessons. Children are encouraged to be active and challenge themselves physically in our outdoor area, the Log Trail and the school hall.
- The development of Communication and Language has an increased emphasis in light of the new curriculum, with frequent opportunities for discussion (whole class, small groups and 1:1), daily story sessions, topics and resources that stimulate the development of new vocabulary and excellent modelling by staff and adult helpers. EY staff have recently received training on Co-Play and quality interactions, with a focus on language development. There is a large emphasis on retelling stories, with a ‘focus story’ (bi-weekly in most cases) where pupils are given the opportunity to develop a deep familiarity with the story in order to retell, adapt and build up the skills needed to tell their own stories. In addition, specific ‘words of the week’, linked to topics and areas of learning (e.g. Maths) enable children to learn new vocabulary more effectively.
- Understanding the World is taught through topics such as ‘Celebrating Autumn & Christmas’, ‘Exploring our World’ and ‘Growing & Building’, as well as through the continuous provision and enhanced challenges in the environment. Children are taught the skills and knowledge needed to access Science, History and Geography when they move into Y1, by drawing on their own experiences and what is read in class. They are also given lots of opportunities to use and practise both the skills and the new vocabulary and concepts.
- Expressive Arts and Design is a continuous aspect of the Early Years setting, with play dough, paint and modelling continually available for children to access independently, alongside role-play areas/opportunities inside and out and many resources to encourage children to develop their own imaginative play, modelled and supported by adults. Music is taught explicitly using the whole school Charanga scheme, as well as informally through using instruments, songs and dance inside and out. The bi-weekly ‘focus stories’ allow children to build up the skills to invent, adapt and recount narratives and stories with peers and adults. This area of learning prepares children to access the National Curriculum subjects of Art & Design, Design Technology and Music and fosters an independent creativity and imagination and the willingness to ‘have a go’
- As a Catholic school, RE (Religion) is central to our curriculum. We follow the whole school scheme ‘Learning & Growing as the People of God’ which focuses on the teachings of the Bible and the Catholic faith. Our Religion lessons are taught in a simple and sensitive way that the children will understand and remember, including drama, creative activities, singing, stories and practical experiences whenever possible (e.g. visits to St Christopher’s Church).
- Children are well-prepared for Year 1 due to the opportunities to develop the Characteristics of Effective Learning throughout the year, and particularly the emphasis on independent learning and taking ownership of their own learning.
- Lower achieving children are targeted for extra support throughout the year, particularly in the areas of fine motor skills/writing, maths and speech and language. We work closely with the SEN co-ordinator, parents and outside agencies to support SEND children.
- Good behaviour and a positive attitude to learning is encouraged and guided by the example of adults, simple rules which are regularly reviewed with the children, positive reinforcement and a range of strategies – the ‘rocket’ reward system being particularly effective. Children also enjoy collecting coloured tokens (representing house points) to contribute to the success of their whole school team, thereby contributing to the wider life of the school.
- Effective parent-partnerships have been fostered and are a strong aspect of the EYFS. A weekly Topic Focus provides information regarding supporting learning at home and a Phonics Workshop is run at the start of the year to teach phonics and early reading skills to parents. The YR page on the school website is used as a means of communication and is regularly updated. Photos are displayed on the school Facebook page every week so that parents know what their children are learning at school. There are also regular opportunities for parents to visit the classroom and join in with celebrations, including a ‘Look at our Learning Day’ in the Spring Term.
Our Curriculum Drivers in Early Years
1.Aspirational and resilient
“To bring out the best in ourselves by dreaming big, overcoming challenges and reaching our personal best.”
Our Early Years curriculum will engage, inspire and challenge all pupils to dream big and achieve. They will be equipped with the knowledge and skills to be able to progress and overcome challenges in order to reach their personal best.
2.Wonder and Awe in the world
“To appreciate the wonder and awe of our beautiful world and to understand our roles and responsibilities in making it a better place.”
This driver is at the centre of much of our Early Years curriculum. It will be found within Understanding the World, Expressive Arts & Design and our RE lessons, as children learn about the natural world and the people within it, and produce their own creations. It will also be seen in the stories, poems and non-fiction books we share together, and through our exploration of pattern in Mathematics. Wonder and awe will be inspired through the exploration of colour, design, texture and form, both in the setting and during learning walks and trips. As pupils learn to appreciate the beauty of our world, they will also be inspired to take care of both the natural environment and the people who live in it.
3. Community and culture
“To take pride in our own community at home, at school, locally and nationally while also celebrating and embracing the traditions and cultures of others around the world.”
Children will be encouraged to develop a sense of belonging from the outset of their time in Early Years through our ‘All About Me’ topic, gaining an identity and a strong sense of value and pride in themselves, their families, our school and our country. This will be fostered throughout the year by topic work, PSHE lessons, celebrating personal achievements, receiving awards for things such as our Catholic Virtues, and learning British Values. Children will also learn about people from around the world and will explore various traditions, cultures and time periods through books, discussions, their own experiences, theme days such as ‘Diwali Day’ and ‘Chinese New Year’ and taking part in whole school ‘One World Days’. They will be encouraged to appreciate and evaluate their own work and that of their peers to develop a sense of pride and a respect for others.
4. Healthy bodies, healthy minds
“Learning to make choices that keep our bodies and minds healthy.”
This is an important part of our Personal, Social & Emotional and Physical Development curriculum in Early Years. Children will be taught and encouraged to make healthy choices in regard to personal hygiene, physical activity, food, toothbrushing, ‘screen time’, sleep and road safety.
What is Cultural Capital?
The term ‘cultural capital’ is associated with French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002). He used it to suggest why some children achieve better from an educational perspective than others. Bourdieu defined cultural capital as the various assets that people have including the way they speak, their level of education and their hobbies and interests. It is suggested that the amount of cultural capital you have can determine your academic achievements and success in the wider world.
From an educational perspective, in 2019, Ofsted defined cultural capital as “important to providing children with the essential knowledge they need to be educated citizens, preparing them for their future success”. In schools, this means providing knowledge, skills and a wide array of experiences about culture and the world in the past, present and future.
What does cultural capital look like in Early Years at St Christopher’s?
Cultural capital is demonstrated in the following ways:
- Engaging in inspiring experiences (e.g. trips, opportunities to use the natural environment).
- Forest School.
- Visits from people in the community such as Police Officers, authors and a parent and baby.
- Regular visits to St Christopher’s Catholic Church and Codsall Library.
- Going on walks around the local area (e.g. Autumn walk, Spring walk, walk to look at local buildings).
- Participating in themed days such as Diwali Day, World Book Day and Chinese New Year.
- Increasing awareness of different cultures and values by our ‘One World Day’ school events where pupils get the opportunity to explore the culture and traditions of different continents.
- Taking part in whole school Sports Day at Aldersley Stadium.
What are the expectations of the Early Years Curriculum?
Below is a summary of what the DFE expects pupils to cover by the end of Early Years in each of the 17 aspects. These ELGs (Early Learning Goals) will all be covered within our Early Years curriculum, following a skills progression outlined in our ‘Progression for Learning’ document.
Personal, Social & Emotional Development
- Show an understanding of their own feelings and those of others, and begin to regulate their behaviour accordingly.
- Set and work towards simple goals, being able to wait for what they want and control their immediate impulses when appropriate.
- Give focused attention to what the teacher says, responding appropriately even when engaged in activity, and show an ability to follow instructions involving several ideas or actions.
- Be confident to try new activities and show independence, resilience and perseverance in the face of challenge.
- Explain the reasons for rules, know right from wrong and try to behave accordingly.
- Manage their own basic hygiene and personal needs, including dressing, going to the toilet and understanding the importance of healthy food choices.
- Work and play cooperatively and take turns with others.
- Form positive attachments to adults and friendships with peers.
- Show sensitivity to their own and to others’ needs.
Communication & Language
Listening, Attention & Understanding:
- Listen attentively and respond to what they hear with relevant questions, comments and actions when being read to and during whole class discussions and small group interactions.
- Make comments about what they have heard and ask questions to clarify their understanding.
- Hold conversations when engaged in back-and-forth exchanges with their teacher and peers.
- Participate in small group, class and one-to-one discussions, offering their own ideas, using recently introduced vocabulary.
- Offer explanations for why things might happen, making use of recently introduced vocabulary from stories, non-fiction, rhymes and poems when appropriate.
- Express their ideas and feelings about their experiences using full sentences, including use of past, present and future tenses and making use of conjunctions, with modelling and support from their teacher.
Gross Motor Skills:
- Negotiate space and obstacles safely, with consideration for themselves and others.
- Demonstrate strength, balance and coordination when playing.
- Move energetically, such as running, jumping, dancing, hopping, skipping and climbing.
Fine Motor Skills:
- Hold a pencil effectively in preparation for fluent writing – using the tripod grip in almost all cases.
- Use a range of small tools, including scissors, paintbrushes and cutlery.
- Begin to show accuracy and care when drawing.
- Demonstrate understanding of what has been read to them by retelling stories and narratives using their own words and recently introduced vocabulary.
- Anticipate (where appropriate) key events in stories.
- Use and understand recently introduced vocabulary during discussions about stories, non-fiction, rhymes and poems and during role-play.
- Say a sound for each letter in the alphabet and at least 10 digraphs.
- Read words consistent with their phonic knowledge by sound-blending.
- Read aloud simple sentences and books that are consistent with their phonic knowledge, including some common exception words.
- Write recognisable letters, most of which are correctly formed.
- Spell words by identifying sounds in them and representing the sounds with a letter or letters.
- Write simple phrases and sentences that can be read by others.
- Have a deep understanding of numbers to 10, including the composition of each number.
- Subitise (recognise quantities without counting) up to 5.
- Automatically recall (without reference to rhymes, counting or other aids) number bonds up to 5 (including subtraction facts) and some number bonds to 10, including double facts.
- Verbally count beyond 20, recognising the pattern of the counting system.
- Compare quantities up to 10 in different contexts, recognising when one quantity is greater than, less than or the same as the other quantity.
- Explore and represent patterns within numbers up to 10, including evens and odds, double facts and how quantities can be distributed equally.
Understanding The World
Past & Present:
- Talk about the lives of the people around them and their roles in society.
- Know some similarities and differences between things in the past and now, drawing on their experiences and what has been read in class.
- Understand the past through settings, characters and events encountered in books read in class and storytelling.
People, Culture & Communities:
- Describe their immediate environment using knowledge from observation, discussion, stories, non-fiction texts and maps.
- Know some similarities and differences between different religious and cultural communities in this country, drawing on their experiences and what has been read in class.
- Explain some similarities and differences between life in this country and life in other countries, drawing on knowledge from stories, non-fiction texts and (when appropriate) maps.
The Natural World:
- Explore the natural world around them, making observations and drawing pictures of animals and plants.
- Know some similarities and differences between the natural world around them and contrasting environments, drawing on their experiences and what has been read in class.
- Understand some important processes and changes in the natural world around them, including the seasons and changing states of matter.
Expressive Arts & Design
Creating with Materials:
- Safely use and explore a variety of materials, tools and techniques, experimenting with colour, design, texture, form and function.
- Share their creations, explaining the process they have used.
- Make use of props and materials when role playing characters in narratives and stories.
Being Imaginative & Expressive:
- Invent, adapt and recount narratives and stories with peers and their teacher.
- Sing a range of well-known nursery rhymes and songs.
- Perform songs, rhymes, poems and stories with others, and (when appropriate) try to move in time with music.
Progress that pupils are making in terms of knowing more, remembering more and being able to do more.
Sources of evidence will include:
- Formative assessment data – informal assessment carried out by all staff throughout the week, mainly through child observation and communicated through discussion and – in some cases and only if deemed necessary – on paper.
- Summative assessment data – formal assessment beginning with the Baseline at the start of the year and then carried out at regular intervals, usually once per term.
- Evidence of good practice: Learning Journey wall, displays, photos, exercise books in some subjects.
- Learning walk by Early Years Lead each term.
- Pupil conversations/interviews (what have they remembered about the content, skills and vocabulary they have studied).
- Lesson observations / book scrutinies.