Learning and teaching in the Early Years Foundation stage (EYFS)
The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) sets the statutory standards that all early years providers must meet. It aims to provide
- Quality and consistency in all early years settings
- A secure foundation that will allow all children good progress through school and life
- Partnerships between different practitioners
- Partnerships between parents or carers and practitioners
- Equality of opportunity for all children
The EYFS is a framework for children’s development from birth to the end of the Reception year of primary school. At Whitehall Park School, in partnership with parents and carers, we utilise the recommendations within the EYFS framework in order to create effective, safe yet exciting provision that enables our children to begin the process of becoming active learners for life.
The EYFS is a very important stage in your child’s life as it helps them prepare for their future learning and successes. From when your child is born up until the age of five, their early years experience should be happy, active, exciting, fun and secure; and support their development, care and learning needs. The early years are critical in children’s development. Children develop rapidly during this time – physically, intellectually, emotionally and socially. The EYFS Framework explains how and what your child will be learning to support their healthy development.
At Whitehall Park School we provide children in our Reception classes with a broad, balanced, purposeful curriculum in order for them to flourish and succeed. We strongly believe that every child is an individual, and that it is the child’s individual needs, preferred learning styles and interests that enable us to plan a relevant, stimulating, exciting curriculum.
At Whitehall Park, we focus our learning experiences with EYFS on the following core beliefs:-
- Learning is a partnership between children, families and school. At Whitehall Park School we actively encourage involvement to promote shared understanding and experience between home and school.
- Every child is unique and special. Therefore, observation, assessment and evaluation of children’s needs, ability and preferences are key as this enables teachers to plan precisely, enabling each child to make accelerated progress in all aspects of their learning and development.
- High expectations sit at the core of all we believe. Through precision assessment, planning and teaching every child will excel.
We incorporate the following principles into our good practice:
- Teaching and learning opportunities should recognise that Early Years is a distinctive phase of education requiring specialist teaching to a developmentally appropriate curriculum.
- Exploration gives children the opportunity to learn about themselves and the world they live in. Children learn by doing, rather than being told. Active learning is a fundamental principle that underpins the curriculum throughout the primary school.
- Children learn most effectively through active participation within a familiar context; in a safe secure stimulating environment; where they are motivated and interested and where they feel confident in themselves and their own abilities. The environment and learning tools we provide, both indoors and out, will enable children to learn, flourish, grow and so fulfil their potential.
- Children need to be encouraged to be independent and autonomous in their learning, to think in a positive way about themselves so that they feel respected as individuals, whose cultures and language are valued.
- All adults are positive role models; giving confidence and offering choices, aware of when to support learning and when to teach, in ensuring quality learning experiences for all children.
- Children need time and space to produce learning of quality and depth. Appropriate planning, evaluation, resourcing, organisation and management enables them to have this time and space.
- Children grow and develop at different rates. We need to identify and promote children’s individual abilities and strengths, offering children opportunities and challenges to experiment and succeed.
- Children do not separate their learning into subject areas but learn from everything that happens to them. The thematic curriculum takes account of the uniqueness of each child and focuses on celebrating what they can do and plans for further development.
How we teach in EYFS:
The EYFS curriculum needs to be planned to meet the needs of individual pupils, building on and valuing previous experiences that include those of the home culture and community, ensuring equal access to all aspects of the curriculum for all children.
There are seven areas of learning and development that make up our educational programmes in the early years. All areas of learning and development are important and inter-connected. Three areas are particularly crucial for igniting children’s curiosity and enthusiasm for learning and for building their capacity to learn, form relationships and thrive.
These three areas, the prime areas, are:
- communication and language
- physical development
- personal, social and emotional development
We also support children in four specific areas, through which the three prime areas are strengthened and applied.
The specific areas are:
- understanding the world
- expressive arts and design
Our educational opportunities for children involve activities and experiences for children in all areas of the curriculum to ensure they have the breadth and balance of learning and can make links and so sense of the world around them:-
- Communication and language development provides children with a range of opportunities to experience a rich language environment; to develop their confidence and skills in expressing themselves; and to speak and listen in a range of situations.
- Physical development involves providing opportunities for young children to be active and interactive; and to develop their co-ordination, control, and movement. Children must also be helped to understand the importance of physical activity, and to make healthy choices in relation to food.
- Personal, social and emotional development involves helping children to develop a positive sense of themselves, and others; to form positive relationships and develop respect for others; to develop social skills and learn how to manage their feelings; to understand appropriate behaviour in groups; and to have confidence in their own abilities.
- Literacy development involves encouraging children to link sounds and letters and to begin to read and write. Children must be given access to a wide range of reading materials (ditties, books, poems, and other written materials) to ignite their interest and instil in them a joy of reading. Writing stems from speaking and listening opportunities and from experiences that children have had with texts and visual literacy. Children will begin to write and express their ideas through narrative and non-fiction writing.
- Mathematics provides children with opportunities to develop, improve and link their skills in counting, understanding and using numbers. Children will use concrete and pictorial representation, as well as numerical equations to learn how to undertake simple addition and subtraction calculations in a wide range of contexts. Children will learn how to describe and categorise shapes and will begin to understand key aspects related to spaces and measures.
- Understanding the world is a key aspect of the curriculum and offers one of the main drivers for our themed curriculum. This area helps children to make sense of their physical world and their community through opportunities to explore, observe and find out about people, places, technology and the environment.
- Expressive arts and design enables children to explore and play with a wide range of media and materials, as well as providing opportunities and encouragement for sharing their thoughts, ideas and feelings through a variety of activities in art, music, movement, dance, role-play, and design and technology.
The importance of different learning vehicles:
At Whitehall Park School we employ a range of different teaching techniques that enable children to experience all aspects of the prime and core areas of learning. We believe that there should be a balance between child-initiated and adult-led learning; this ensures that there are opportunities for both purposeful learning and the discrete teaching and application of skills, as well as opportunities for children to explore, create and play. We acknowledge the central role of child-initiated learning in the education of the young child and we ensure that provision for learning through play forms part of our daily experiences. For specific aspects of learning, we believe that adult-led activities, small group work, paired learning and whole class learning offers children the opportunity to develop and enhance their understanding, knowledge and skills.
The Learning Environment
At Whitehall Park School we recognise the importance of providing a stimulating, interesting, welcoming, safe and challenging learning environment. All rooms are organised and resourced to provide learning opportunities in the seven areas of learning in the EYFS curriculum. Children are taught how to access the equipment in each area of provision independently from the moment they are able, to enable them to follow their own ideas and interests.
At Whitehall Park School the EYFS classrooms is organised to allow children to explore and learn securely and safely. Each class creates opportunities where the children can be active or be quiet and rest. The classroom provides a wide range of different learning areas:
- Reading corner – books, audio texts, print, comics, magazines available
- Mark making/graphics area/Writing area
- Art and craft workshop
- Sand/water/exploratory play areas
- Music/movement areas
- Dramatic play – role play areas/home-corner
- Construction and technological play area
- Discovery area – key focus on understanding the world
- Maths/number areas
- Cosy area
- Snack area
- Reflection and calm areas
These areas enable children to learn in a mixture of adult and child initiated activities. We aim to teach our children to find and use equipment and resources independently. All areas and equipment will be labelled with print and icons to match. We plan activities and resources for the children to access indoors that help the children to develop in all areas of learning.
At Whitehall Park Primary, we believe in the importance of outdoor learning opportunities. The EYFS department has its own enclosed outdoor learning area, as well as outdoor play spaces and gardens. Being outdoors offers the children different opportunities to explore, use their senses and be physically active and exuberant. Children have access to the outdoors for most of the day. Practitioners outdoors will be observing, participating and extending in children’s learning and providing some adult-led activities.
The outdoor provision includes opportunities for:
- All areas of learning as provided indoors
- Cycling-wheeled toys
- Climbing/balancing/jumping equipment
- Large scale sand and water play
- Dramatic play
- Large block play
- Reading (including environmental print)
- Problem Solving and Numeracy
Assessment for Learning is at the heart of all we do at Whitehall Park Primary school. This means that assessment takes place all the time. The everyday process of teaching and learning necessitates ongoing assessment for learning, as teachers check on the children’s skills, knowledge and understanding throughout sessions. All classes in the EYFS follow the observe, assess and plan cycle: daily, weekly and half-termly.
Every child has an individual Profile Book which includes observations and information from both staff and parents that record the child’s journey and progress through the foundation stage.
Profile Books contain:
- Long Observations
- Short Observations
- Pieces of learning and photographs of learning – all with captions and explanations
- Comments from children and families
- Termly reviews, assessments and next steps
The important role of all adults:
We recognise the importance of the role that all early years educators play in the care and education of our youngest children. These roles include:
- Building relationships. Getting to know all of our children and families
- Key working small groups of children
- Observing children to identify their wellbeing and involvement, their needs, strengths, schemas and interests
- Planning for next steps in learning
- Supporting and extending child-initiated activities
- Engaging children in focused activity
- Maintaining and developing a stimulating, welcoming safe and challenging learning environment
- Working as a team to ensure that all children reach their full potential