'The goal of early childhood education should be to activate the child’s own natural desire to learn.' Maria Montessori
Our Early Years at St Catherine’s is defined by the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum which sets out the seven areas of learning and guides what children should be able to do by the end of the Early Years Foundation Stage. The ‘characteristics of learning’ inform our planning to support the children in:
- Playing and exploring – where children investigate and experience things, and ‘have a go’;
- Active learning – where children concentrate and keep on trying if they encounter difficulties, and enjoy achievements;
- Creating and thinking critically – where children have and develop their own ideas, make links between ideas, and develop strategies for doing things.
Learning through play and a child-initiated approach guides our teaching. We prioritise the Prime Areas of learning to ensure that our children have the social, emotional, physical and language skills to access learning successfully. Our inside and outdoor learning environments which are based on a broad and rich curriculum, and the responsive intervention from early years adults, promote learning opportunities that develop, enhance and challenge the children. We believe that every child is unique so we ensure that we follow the children’s interests and use regular formative assessment to adapt learning opportunities to help the children develop as learners. We want our children in the Early Years to feel safe to take risks and to develop resilience. We aim to develop their skills and knowledge to become independent learners prepared for the next step in their education journey.
The Early Years at St Catherine's
We are very lucky to have attractive and spacious indoor and outdoor learning environments for our Early Years children to access. We have a wealth of age appropriate resources, designed to fascinate, challenge, support and embed the learning of the children in all areas of the Early Years curriculum through a play based approach. The curriculum provides children with the opportunity to explore, investigate and consolidate their learning and the adults support the children by observing, facilitating and moving children on with their individual next steps. We adapt the curriculum to the children’s particular interests to ensure that children feel motivated and inspired in their learning. The teachers and teaching assistants are committed to supporting the children in the Early Years move forward as learners, by ensuring that their ‘social and emotional’ needs are supported, just as much as their ‘academic’ needs. We are fortunate to have one teacher and two teaching assistants, as at St Catherine’s the needs of our Early Years children are given priority to ensure that they have the best start in their time with us.
Working with Parents
We actively support ‘home-school’ links. We provide fortnightly Early Years newsletters to celebrate the children’s achievements and to help parents to feel fully informed about our learning and activities. We believe that the Early Years is a partnership with parents so we use an online learning platform called ‘Tapestry’ to share photos of children’s learning successes in school. We encourage parents to post photos of the children’s achievements at home to build up an holistic picture of the child. We invite parents into school for ‘Chatterbooks’** sessions to share stories with the children. We also invite parents to enjoy ‘Phonics Fun’** sessions to learn phonics together. Alongside two parents evenings over the course of the year, we also invite parents into a ‘6 weeks in’ meeting to inform parents about the Early Years at St Catherine’s and how they can support their child.
** when COVID restrictions allow for this to occur
We believe in ensuring that the children have the best transition from their pre-school settings into our school. Before the children start with us in September we visit Nurseries, Pre-schools, Childminders etc. to meet the children and talk to their key-workers. We also invite the children in for ‘Stay and Play’ sessions to allow them to explore the learning environments and to meet the teachers and teaching assistants. Additionally, we have a meeting with parents to discuss school arrangements and to give information. We invite parents and children in to meet with the teacher to ensure that questions can be asked and parents can feel fully supported in their child’s start at our school. All of these arrangements make sure that we are ready to meet any needs so that the children can have the best start to school.