At St Teresa’s Pre-school, we are committed to meeting the standards that school and childcare providers must meet for the learning, development and care of children from birth to 5, as outlined in the Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). The framework:
- sets the standards that all early years providers must meet to ensure that children learn and develop well
- ensures children are kept healthy and safe
- ensures that children have the knowledge and skills they need to start school.
On this page, there is more information about how the EYFS enables practitioners to ensure that children can progress in all areas of learning and development and how the environment and our daily practice ensure that all children make good progress.
In the early years of a child’s life, when the brain is developing rapidly, children are finding out about themselves as learners and thinkers. They discover the importance of communicating their ideas and listening to the ideas of others. They learn to work together, to take risks and to test their ideas, without fear of being wrong. Our high quality pre-school experience, supported by knowledgeable adults, will prepare the children for all future learning; helping then to develop persistence, resilience, curiosity and self-belief. Above all, they learn to love learning!
In their play, children pretend, explore, investigate and try things out. Through play children can begin to make sense of the world, adding their new knowledge, skills and understanding to what they already know. Applying their learning independently in ways that capture their interest leads to a deeper level of thinking and a greater understanding. At St Teresa’s Pre-School, adults observe and interact with the children as they play, so that we understand their fascinations and can teach them the skills they need to take their learning further.
On this page, we’ll introduce you to the theory of our approach, including:
In The Pre-School Day, you can learn about how we put this into practice.
To learn more about how to support your child’s learning at home, we recommend the Foundation Years: What to expect, when?.
Children learn from everything they see, hear and do. Recent advances in neuroscience tell us that the time before a child’s fifth birthday is a period of rapid brain development when pathways in the brain are being formed more quickly than at any other time in their life. The more these pathways are used, the stronger they become. In other words, experiences in the early years of life shape your child’s brain. Many of these key experiences are provided by you at home. At St Teresa’s Pre-School, we create an environment that builds on your good work, knowing that a child who is interested and engaged is learning the skills that they will use throughout their life.
The emotional environment
Underpinning all learning is the child’s need to feel safe and secure. Children are less able to learn if they are anxious or uncertain. Our staff are trained to build strong relationships with the children, encouraging them to share their ideas and opinions and helping them to feel confident and valued. We support children to work collaboratively, to build friendships, to solve problems and to test their ideas, without worrying about making mistakes.
The language-rich environment
Language unlocks children’s thinking – they use words to explain, to question, to make connections and to communicate their feelings. As the children explore and investigate at Pre-School, our staff make time to talk to them about what they are doing, modelling use of vocabulary, grammar and conversation skills in contexts that are relevant and meaningful. This approach also enables us to extend their language learning further, adding new vocabulary and explaining concepts in more detail, impacting on all aspects of their learning. For example, children who are using balance scales quickly learn mathematical and scientific language that enables them to explain why the scales have or have not balanced. A wide vocabulary leads to later success in reading too – it is far easier to decode a familiar word.
The physical environment
Young children need to move – it supports the development of their physical skills and enables them to take an active part in their own learning. Concrete experiences are essential if children are to develop the skills they need for later abstract thought, for example measuring plants as they grow will lead them to have a real understanding of concepts including tall, taller, short and shorter. Our outdoor and indoor learning environments have been created with this in mind. Resources are accessible, interesting and real and, once taught how to use and take care of them, children explore and investigate using their brains and their bodies!
We work with the children to develop rules and boundaries that enable everyone to learn together. The children are encouraged to think about how their behaviour impacts on others and how they can contribute to creating an effective learning environment. We have a positive approach to behaviour management, using labelled praise to reward positive behaviour, in line with our School Behaviour Policy. We also support children to take responsibility for their own behaviour by understanding that the choices that they make have consequences and that making good choices feels great!
Our leaflet, ‘Promoting positive behaviour in young children’ provides strategies for supporting your child to make good choices at home.
The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Framework
The EYFS framework is the statutory document that provides adults with a structure through which they can monitor children’s progress and ensure that any gaps in a child’s learning are addressed. The framework comprises seven areas of learning and the important characteristics that ensure that children develop positive attitudes to learning.
The seven areas of learning are divided into seventeen strands, which build the knowledge, skills and understanding needed to achieve the Early Learning Goals at the end of the EYFS. The seven areas are grouped into prime areas which have to be secure first and the specific areas that build on the prime areas, once the children are developmentally ready. The characteristics of effective learning focus on how a children learn, supporting them to develop an active, can do approach to each challenge that they face.
The prime areas of learning
The three prime areas ignite children’s curiosity and enthusiasm for learning and build their capacity to learn, form relationships and thrive:
Personal, social and emotional development
Children learn to interact with other children and adults. They learn to take turns and share fairly, to play together, to wait for a turn as they play and in conversation and they begin to understand how to resolve conflicts, with reducing support. Their self-confidence develops, enabling them to speak confidently to others, to talk about life at home, to ask for help when they need it and to recognise their own strengths. They learn to tolerate delay and to understand the needs of others. They can recognise and talk about their feelings and they learn to be kind and gentle to their friends. Changes in routine become easier as they learn to adapt their behaviour to different events and social situations. With support, they begin to understand the rules and boundaries and to work within them with increasing independence.
Communication and language
Children learn to listen to others, 1-1 or in small groups. As they mature, they become able to listen to and recall stories and to anticipate what might happen next. In time, they are able to follow stories without pictures or props. They enjoy rhyming games and join in with repeated refrains. Gradually, they become able to focus their attention and to listen to others, even if they are busy! As their skills develop, they learn to concentrate and sit quietly during appropriate activity. Children learn meanings of words including prepositions and this, combined with their developing understanding of how objects are used, enables them to follow instructions that involve two part sequences. They begin to understand humour.
Children become skilful speakers, using talk to connect ideas, to explain and to question. They recall events in the correct order and they use tenses, and intonation together with their growing vocabulary to express their thoughts, and ideas and later to introduce a storyline in their play. As they mature, their language use becomes more complex; they are more aware of their listener and more able to stick to a theme, connecting their thoughts and ideas.
Children learn to move with increasing control, adjusting speed and negotiating obstacles. They climb, balance, jump, run, skip etc. developing physical strength, including their core strength. They learn to control a ball by bouncing, kicking, patting and throwing, so building their hand eye-co-ordination and tracking skills. They develop their fine motor control, firstly by using large arm movements, later refining these movements as they learn to use and control tools, including scissors and pencils. As these physical skills develop they begin to draw anticlockwise circles, gradually learning to form recognisable letter shapes, some of which are correctly formed.
Children become increasingly independent in their self-care skills, learning to use the toilet and follow hygiene practices as well as getting dressed with increasing independence. They understand the importance of food, drink, exercise and sleep in maintaining good health and they know which foods are healthy and which should be regarded and an occasional treat. Children learn about how to keep themselves safe and how to take appropriate safety measures when using tools and equipment.
The specific areas of learning
Through the four specific areas, the prime areas are strengthened and applied:
Children develop curiosity about print in books and in the environment. They learn about story structure and talk about settings, characters and events, suggesting ways that a story might end. They listen to stories and rhymes in groups with increasing attention and recall. They know that print carries meaning and they use books carefully. They are interested in rhyme, rhythm and alliteration and as their skills develop they become able to hear and say the sounds in words, blend sounds to make simple words and segment the sounds in simple words. They learn to link sounds to letters and once all of these skills are securely in place, they become able to read simple words.
Once children know that print carries meaning, they begin to understand the difference between writing and drawing. At this time, they will give meaning to the marks that they make, showing this understanding, for example this is a picture of Daddy or I have written a shopping list. As their developing physical skills and their understanding of sounds, letters and words combine with their knowledge of books, they become able to apply this knowledge, using identifiable letters to represent some sounds correctly as they begin writing.
Children learn to recite numbers, to count objects and actions with increasing accuracy and to recognise some numerals, sometimes correctly matching them to quantity. Understanding number involves frequent practising of these skills in different contexts. Knowing one more or one less than a given number enables children to begin to make simple calculations. Knowing that a quantity stays the same even when rearranged, understanding that the last number counted is the total number in a group and being able to look at an arrangement of objects and know how many items are there, without counting are just some of the skills that children need to learn in order to really understand number.
Children also learn about the properties of 2d and 3d shapes, learning their names and considering their possible uses. They learn to use mathematical language as they compare weight, height, capacity and length. They learn to order and sequence familiar events and begin to use language relating to time or money.
Understanding the world
Children are interested and talk about their own lives and those of family and friends. They are interested in different ways of life and occupations. They enjoy joining in with family customs and routines. They understand that they are unique and can talk similarities and differences relating to family and friends.
As their understanding of growth, decay and changes over time develops, so they learn to show care and concern for living things, the natural world and the environment. They can talk about things that they have observed, especially in the natural world and they ask questions about where they live and the world around them. They look closely at similarities, differences pattern and change.
Children use technology with increasing independence. They know how to operate simple technological equipment. They know that information can be retrieved from a computer and they learn to complete a simple program on a computer.
Expressive arts and design
Children sing songs, dance and explore rhythm and movement in response to music. They investigate how sounds, colours and textures can be changed. They use a range of construction materials to construct, learning skills in joining, balancing and later planning to achieve their desired effect and adapting their work where necessary. They learn to select and use the appropriate tools and techniques for their chosen task.
As well as learning to express their ideas through music and dance, children engage in imaginative role play and play with small world toys. They start to explore their first hand experiences in their play and then begin to introduce storylines and narratives, together with ideas taken from their experiences of books and stories. They engage with other children exploring similar themes and they use available props to support their imaginative play.
The Characteristics of Effective Learning (CoEL)
During these important early years when pathways in the brain are made and strengthened, it is important to focus on how children approach their learning as well as on what they are learning. Determination, resilience, motivation, reflection and independent thinking are features of most job descriptions – part of the essential toolkit for survival in the 21st century but also aspects of children’s learning that have been affected by our busy lives and the many dangers faced by children today. However, children are active learners with a real need to play, explore and think for themselves. At St Teresa’s Pre-School, we support children to fulfil this need and to develop the characteristics that enable them to become effective, lifelong learners.
Playing and exploring: engagement
“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” Benjamin Franklin
Finding out and exploring: we provide endless opportunities for children to explore through their senses; indoor in the sensory tray, cookery, sand and water play and outdoors in the mud kitchen, the digging patch, the herb pot and of course through exploring the changing seasons and the weather. We also use open ended resources and teach children about possibilities – if they need something that we don’t have we encourage them to make their own or to try a different way. Our staff model curiosity as they play alongside the children: ‘I wonder what would happen if…’ and ‘I don’t know…what do you think?’ This approach supports the children to be curious and test their ideas.
Playing with what they know: children pretend that objects are things from their experience, a wooden block becomes a mobile phone or a book doubles up as a laptop. A child’s view of the world can be quite different to an adult perspective so we let the children lead the play, based on their own experiences so that their pretending is something that they know and understand. Because the children share these experiences, they learn from each other and before long their play brings in themes from the wider world including books, films, holidays and celebrations.
“The more risks you allow children to take, the better they learn to take care of themselves.” Roald Dahl
Being willing to have a go: children bring their own ideas to their play and they quickly develop the confidence to voice them. They naturally seek challenge, perhaps by making their own props or by finding a different way to put their ideas into action. Staff are always available to help and advise but not to interfere. When the children find something difficult we provide support that encourages them to have a go and keep trying, stepping in when they are becoming frustrated or defeated. Our children learn to take measured risks because they know that in most cases, if it goes wrong, they can learn from the experience and have another try.
Active learning: motivation
Being involved and concentrating: the headlines constantly bring our attention to the fact that children today seem less able to concentrate but at St Teresa’s Pre-School, we know that when children are truly interested and engaged, concentration comes naturally. This is why we take our lead from the children, finding their interests and fascinations and responding by providing opportunities where they can become really involved in their learning. This is empowering for them. The support that we give reinforces and extends their learning and helps them to see themselves as learners.
“The goal of early childhood education should be to activate the child’s own natural desire to learn.” Maria Montessori
Keeping on trying: When children are involved in their own learning, they set themselves challenges and because the motivation comes from within, they become determined to achieve their own aim. They quickly learn that more effort or a different approach might be needed and with support, they begin to understand that even if it goes wrong, they can bounce back and succeed. Persistence and resilience are important skills for now and for the future.
Enjoying achieving what they set out to do: we all know how good it feels to be praised for something, perhaps gaining others’ approval in the form of a ‘well done’ or a tangible reward that reflects our achievement. However, there can be no greater reward than knowing that we have tried hard, done our best, improved on our past performance and achieved what we set out to do. The feelings that come from achieving your own goals, from overcoming barriers and solving problems and from feeling proud of yourself can be hugely motivating – children at St Teresa’s are encouraged to develop this attitude to all aspects of their learning.
Creating and thinking critically
Having their own ideas: once children realise that learning is an active process, they start to have their own ideas, looking for and finding ways to solve problems and for new ways to do things. This type of possibility thinking in young children is nurtured and encouraged at St Teresa’s because it takes children’s learning to new heights – they never cease to amaze us!
Making links: as children learn make sense of the world, they draw on past experiences, making links in their learning and noticing patterns. They learn to use this growing understanding to make predictions when faced with new situations and to test their ideas in different contexts. This builds their knowledge about grouping, sequences and cause and effect and equips them to learn more.
“Are we forming children who are only capable of learning what is already known? Or should we try to develop creative and innovative minds, capable of discovery from the preschool age on, throughout life?” Jean Piaget
Choosing ways to do things: knowledge is power and children who develop their higher level thinking skills are able to make choices, develop strategies to identify when they need to try a different approach and review what they have done, identifying what they might do to become even better next time.
In a world where technology is changing our lives at a rapid pace, we are planning for an unknown future. Critical and creative thinking skills help us to adapt to new situations and as well as making life more interesting, they may well be key skills for the workforce of the future.
The Child’s Key Person
“Each child must be assigned a key person. Their role is to help ensure that every child’s care is tailored to meet their individual needs to help the child become familiar with the setting, offer a settled relationship for the child and build a relationship with their parents.”
The Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage 2017
Children learn best when they feel safe and secure. From the start of their time at St Teresa’s, all children join one of the smaller groups of Dolphins, Starfish or Turtles. These groups provide opportunities for the children to develop a really close bond with their group leader/key person and for the key person to know and understand the child really well and ensure that planned activities at school are challenging, interesting and support the child’s progress. Each group comprises children of different ages and interests, supporting children to learn from their peers as well as from adults.
Some group activities will be led by your child’s key person, especially at the start of term when we are teaching the children routines and expectations for behaviour. Snack times may also be with your child’s group and key person and this provides rich opportunities to share news and discuss healthy living. Once the bond between the children and their key person is created, we expect that children will be able to work with any adult and will simply ‘check in’ with their key person when they need to.
Because we are a small setting, we all get to know the children really well and are happy to talk to you about your child – your key person is there to make sure that we give you the time and support that you need. Your key person can be your first point of contact should you have any concerns about your child or any news that you would like to share. She can also support you by sharing news about learning at school.
In the event of your child’s key person being absent from school, the class teacher or another permanent member of staff will take key person responsibility to ensure that your child’s needs are met and he/she can continue to make progress.
Special Educational Needs and Disabilities – High Aspirations
All children are entitled to an education that enables them to achieve the best possible educational, and other, outcomes and become confident young children, with a growing ability to communicate their own views and to make the transition into compulsory education.
There are many factors that can impact on children’s progress and learning; some can be temporary, for example, a cold might reduce hearing for a while or a house move might leave a child feeling anxious. We often notice that children’s capacity to learn is reduced around 5th November when fireworks have disturbed their sleep. Other factors may have an impact over time and may need a little extra support; we make sure that all children receive the help that they need at the time that they need it so that every child can make progress and achieve their potential.
At St Teresa’s, ongoing assessment by our experienced staff enables us to monitor children’s progress and identify any gaps that may become barriers to their learning. A regular ‘summative’ assessment, in which progress over time is also monitored, gives a more detailed overview of any emerging difficulties. In some cases, St Teresa’s staff can work in partnership with parents to provide the right level of additional support so that the children can overcome these barriers.
When this is not enough, we work in partnership with parents and other professionals to ensure that we can access the expertise that we need to support the child. This is the graduated approach to supporting children with SEN and disabilities and ensures that there is no delay in making any necessary special educational provision. Delay can give rise to later learning difficulty and can have a negative effect on a child’s self-esteem, causing frustration in learning and potential behaviour difficulties. When gaps in learning are identified early and acted on quickly, there is a positive impact on future progress and outcomes for children and this helps the child to be better prepared for adult life.