“Play is the highest expression of human development in childhood, for it alone is the free expression of what is in the soul.” Friedrich Froebel

At St Francis CE School we believe that every child is a gift from God.  In EYFS we celebrate pupils’ uniqueness and strive to help them to ‘gain, attain and grow’ into their very best selves, through play and practical learning experiences.  We strive to equip children with a love of learning and natural curiosity. We strongly believe in first hand learning, valuing the importance of the outdoor environment to develop children’s thinking and problem solving skills.

‘Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.’ Hebrews 12:1&2

At St Francis we work hard to deliver a curriculum in Early Years that responds to the needs and desires of the children in our setting. We find out what the children know and then plan from their needs and desires.

All areas of the EYFS curriculum are followed and planned for to ensure there is a broad, balanced and progressive learning environment and curriculum.  The children will learn new skills, acquire new knowledge and demonstrate understanding through the seven areas in the EYFS curriculum:

  • Personal, Social and Emotional Development,
  • Physical Development,
  • Communication and Language,
  • Literacy,
  • Mathematics,
  • Understanding the World
  • Expressive Arts and Design.

These 7 areas are used to plan children’s learning and activities. Planning for this curriculum is designed to be flexible so that a child’s unique needs and interests are supported.

Early reading and phonics permeates everything we do in EYFS. We have language rich classroom environments ensuring key vocabulary is accessible and appropriate. In Nursery, taught Phonics is Letters and Sounds Phase 1 to prepare children for Reception learning Phase 2 and Phase 3. Children learn phonics daily using Letters and Sounds as a basis for planning and have access to decodable books for shared reading with adults in school and home. They also have access to partially decodable books for enjoyment. We develop a love of reading through reading aloud and sharing stories and rhymes very regularly. We aim for every child to be prepared for the next stage of learning in reading and to begin to develop into confident and fluent readers.

Early maths provision is key to ensure that children are ready for the next steps in learning. To ensure our children are ready for KS1, we replicate the mastery approach taught further up the school. In particular, we focus on deep understanding of numbers to 20 to ensure children are able to manipulate numbers and solve problems within these parameters. Children are given appropriate opportunities to develop their understanding of shape, space and measure concepts and to solve problems

Daily adult guided activities are set up and planned that cover different areas of the EYFS curriculum and allow children to develop their next steps in learning.  Areas of need and next steps are identified for all children to ensure good progress is made.  There are also a range of stimulating and engaging activities which the children can access independently and a variety of opportunities for child-initiated play.  In planning and guiding children’s activities we reflect on the different ways that children learn and reflect these in our practice.

During the day learned concepts are revisited to deepen understanding, children always have access to activities that are related to the days formal learning sessions which adults can “drop in” to support learning and deepen understanding. Access to continuous resource provision enables children to independently take their own learning forward.

We ensure activities support the Characteristics of Effective Learning to ensure learning takes place.

  • Playing and exploring – children investigate and experience things and ‘have a go’;
  • Active learning – children concentrate and keep on trying if they encounter difficulties, and enjoy achievements;
  • Creating and thinking critically – children have and develop their own ideas, make links between ideas, and develop strategies for doing things.

Through professional dialogue between the Early Years staff at St Francis we ensure progression of skills and consistency of experiences.

We endeavour to develop foundations for healthy lifestyle through the Physical Development aspect of the Early Years Curriculum. We give the children the opportunity to spend considerable time during the day to be active, engaging in learning not only inside the classroom but in our outside area. We regularly spend learning time in our school forest area developing children’s love and appreciation of nature, also encouraging the children to engage in risky and challenging play in a managed fashion.

Parental engagement is key to the children’s learning in Early Years and St Francis staff use Digital learning Journals to share learning and key developments with parents. Parents are also able to share key developments from home through the Digital Learning Journals.

When children enter Reception, we have rigorous induction process. The process starts with an in-depth conversation with the child’s current setting, which may include EYFS staff attending the setting to observe the child if this is deemed necessary. The conversation includes finding out about the child’s interests and needs, the child’s experience of phonics at the setting, the child’s developmental stage and what significant experiences the child has had at the setting (e.g. a trip to the zoo).

We have an Induction Evening for parents, followed by 4 settling in sessions in the summer term. Children who are new to the school (ie have not attended St Francis Nursery) will have a home visit from their teacher and another member of the EYFS staff. Home visits are beneficial for children, their parents and staff as children feel more relaxed in their home setting meeting new grown ups for the first time. Parents have an opportunity to discuss anything about their child that they feel will be important for the class teacher to know.

When children start in September they have 2 weeks of settling in which involves attending school for half days to enable children to become familiar with their new school setting and the adults who are with them in a smaller group setting and an opportunity for staff to gain first-hand knowledge of the child’s developmental stage.

We endeavour to provide a broad and holistic approach to develop the ‘whole child’ through the planned use of our outside area and extensive grounds. Children in the EYFS learn by playing and exploring, being active, and through creative and critical thinking which takes place both indoors and outside.  Our outdoor areas are used all year round and in most weather conditions.

Our settings provide a continuous provision of resources for children to develop their own interest through their play with appropriate and measured guidance from the adults in the settings. We also use a system of Next Steps to provide focussed personalised learning for all children in the Prime areas of learning and Literacy and Mathematics.

Staff in the EYFS make regular observations of the children’s learning to ensure their next steps are met. These are collected in each child’s Learning Journey.  We regularly assess where the children are using Development Matters and then ensure our planning, adult interaction and learning environment support children to reach their next steps.

All EYFS staff have access to appropriate CPD. EYFS teachers regularly attend external profile training covering all aspects of the EY Curriculum. They also attend regular agreement trialling and moderation events.

We aim to prepare all Reception children for the next stage of education. We regularly liaise with KS1 colleagues to ensure outcomes for children in Reception are matched to expectations at the beginning of Y1. When children leave Reception they are equipped with the skills and learning attitudes they need to thrive in the next stage of learning.