Welcome to our Early Years
Intent: why do we teach what we teach?
At St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School, we place great value on the development of children’s emotional intelligence. We provide them with life skills such as resilience and empathy in order for them to be well prepared for the challenges they may face in Key Stage One and beyond. Our aim in the EYFS is to build strong foundations in communication and language as well as a life-long love of learning so that ultimately our children will experience success in university, be contributing members of society and be happy and curious learners.
Our curriculum is therefore designed to be highly literate and rich in language skills where they develop a love of reading. This ensures that the children in our care have a strong cultural capital to gain the knowledge, skills and understanding required for success. By embedding the Characteristics of Effective Learning, the children are passionate, creative and critical thinkers in all that they do.
Throughout our EYFS unit, we provide ample opportunities for children to develop their speaking and listening skills as well as setting high expectations for behaviour so that children are able to build strong relationships with their peers and adults they work with. We actively support their curious nature and allow children to explore the world around them through play in Nursery. Our enabling environment allows for warm, knowledgeable interactions that encourages children to make mistakes and explore further options. As they move into reception, we set high expectations on their reading, writing and maths goals ensuring that they meet end of year outcomes and are well prepared for Year 1. Our curriculum is a built around story-telling and encourages the children to make cross-curricular connections in order for their learning to be embedded and extended in their play. We value children’s enthusiasm and creativity and set out to make their learning experience the best that it can be through high quality teaching across the indoor and outdoor environments.
Implementation: how do we teach what we teach?
Pupils learn through a balance of child-initiated and adult-directed activities. The timetable is carefully structured so that children have directed one-to-one and small group teaching in English, maths and phonics every day. These sessions are followed by activities that are organised to support the children’s learning through play. The children work in pairs, groups or one-to-one with an adult that encourages them to explore their new knowledge. This play allows our staff to check their understanding and address any misconceptions. This results in a strong impact on the acquisition of new learning.
Children are provided with plenty of time to engage in ‘exploration’ throughout the variety of experiences carefully planned to engage and challenge them in the continuous provision. The curriculum is planned for the inside and outside classrooms and equal importance is given to learning in both areas. The curriculum is planned in a cross-curricular way to enable all aspects of the children’s development including understanding the world and expressive art and design as well as to promote sustained thinking and active learning.
Reading and story-telling is at the heart of our curriculum. Children follow a well-developed and rigorous phonics program so that they meet good outcomes for reading at the end of Early Years. Alongside our phonics teaching, we develop the children’s understanding of characters and stories so that they are able to discuss emotions and events. Through this, children are able to compare stories and make connections as well as develop a strong bank of vocabulary. They are able to use this knowledge and understanding which helps them become creative writers.
We follow the Little Big Mats approach across all Early Years with an emphasis on studying key skills of number, calculation and shape so that pupils develop deep understanding and the acquisition of mathematical language. Pupils learn through games and tasks using objects and materials which are then rehearsed and applied to their own learning during exploration. Nursery pupils begin to develop these key skills by exploring through play and sorting, quantities, shape, number and counting awareness. These early mathematical experiences are carefully designed to help pupils remember the content they have been taught and to support them with integrating their new knowledge across the breadth of their experiences and into larger concepts.
We are fortunate to be a small school community which allows for greater adult interactions with the children. Because of this, we are able to provide on the spot and regular interventions throughout the day in order to best support the needs of our children. Our staff are well trained and extremely knowledgeable about Early Years which ensures that they are able to provide the best interventions and support necessary for all children’s individual needs.
Impact: how do we know what pupils have learnt and how well they have learnt it?
Our curriculum needs to meet the needs of our children, including our disadvantaged pupils and those with SEND, so we spend time looking at and evaluating how children are learning. This is achieved through talking to children, looking at their work, observing their learning experiences and analysing data and progress by year group, class, groups and individuals. Our Early Years staff are trained in the new Early Years Curriculum and use ongoing observational assessment to identify children’s starting points and plan experiences which ensure progress. Our team use Tapestry to record observations against the framework and record the data using FFT to compare against national expectations. We use this information to plan learning experiences and next steps so that skills are being built upon and progress is being made. We collect weekly observations and formerly assess the children three times a year in order to update progress. Evidence is gathered through observations, work samples, videos and photographs which are collated in their online journals on Tapestry.
Our curriculum and its delivery ensure that children make good progress. During their time in our EYFS, children make good progress so that we meet the national expectation for GLD at the end of the year. Pupils also make good progress toward their age-related expectations before transitioning into Year One. We believe our high standards are due to the enriched play-based exploration alongside the rigour of assessment and teaching the children have as they move through the early years – a rich diet of balanced learning experiences is undoubtedly the best way to develop happy, curious children.
We follow the phases of Letters and Sounds, however we adapt this to ensure that we have a systematic, synthetic phonics program in place. Our pupils use phased phonics readers to support the early development of reading skills. Due to recent government changes our experienced staff are preparing the documentation for validation.
Here are a list of prayers we need to know by the end of the first year of school. Please help us pray...
Our termly class letter for parents.
We have addressed points from Ofsted regarding phonics and children's reading. Please click on this link for the action plan.
Our termly topic web to keep you up to date on what your children are learning.
In the outdoors is where we learn best - check out how impressive our wild area is on our school grounds!
Check out our seriously impressive maths skills! Can you identify how many areas of learning are covered here? (PS subitising is an exceptional skill that helps us store number in our long term memory)
Look at how great we are at reading our words. Sometimes we read them by sight and sometimes we have to decode them. We play games and practice reading books!
During the January to March lockdown, some children were still learning in school. Here is what they were up to!
Below is the story of Angela's Airplane by Robert Munsch. Story time takes place over video or live sessions with Ms MacLennan every day at 1pm.
Under the current government guidelines, many of our children are learning at home. We have done all we can to incorporate our topic at home. Please take a peek at some of the learning that the children have been doing at home. See pictures and videos of their learning further down the page.
Here is information concerning the Early Years Curriculum (and ways in which parents can be involved and provide support)
The phonics program at St Joseph’s follows the phases from the Letters and Sounds publication from 2007 however we have adapted the planning to suit the needs of our pupils in order to ensure a Systematic Synthetic Phonics progression program is in place. The planning was put together based on the principle that Letters and Sounds was used as a handbook and the phases were clear progression for staff, children and parents.
While phonics is essential to the process of reading, at St Joseph’s, we feel that it is as essential to nurture a love of reading in order to ensure early development and understanding of language. Because of this, teachers read high quality and challenging texts to their classes and children are encouraged to take similar quality texts home.
Recently the Department for Education have requested that all SSP programs go through a validation process to ensure adequate planning and progression within phonics and below we have explained how we have met these requirements.
Please click on the link below to read further about what we have put into place in line with government advice.
Below are the first 45 High Frequency Words a child must know. Your child must be able to read these words by sight as well as being able to spell them correctly.