Our Early Years Curriculum
Our Early Years Curriculum has been developed collaboratively with school leaders alongside experienced Nursery, Reception and Year 1 teachers. All stakeholders have shared their expertise when deciding upon non-negotiables for the previous year group and the appropriate steps that need to be taken to achieve these. Our Mental Health Champion has embedded part of the whole school self-regulation curriculum at an appropriate level into the relevant areas of learning. A member of the School Effectiveness Team for Newcastle has read, discussed and approved the changes made. The Early Years Leader, alongside other staff, have attended, and will continue to attend, a range of CPD events, many of which directly impact curriculum design. The dynamic Early Years and Year 1 team meet regularly to feedback information gained from these sessions. The curriculum is a working document that may be adapted depending on cohort, outcomes of baseline assessments, and any unprecedented events.
Why is the curriculum designed in this way?
The Early Years Curriculum design has been meticulously mapped out by leaders, teaching staff, and support staff, using the known demographics of the school as the foundation. We consider the school’s local context and social disadvantage when planning opportunities to improve cultural capital. Throckley lies within an area that requires improvement in social mobility. We have a higher than average number of Pupil Premium children, meaning that some of our children have very limited experiences outside of the local area. We understand the varied opportunities our children have and recognise the importance of an inclusive curriculum that all children, from all walks of life, can access. The systematic organisation of the curriculum is deliberate and purposeful.
The curriculum is designed to incorporate a mix of different approaches. A mix of free play; supported play; direct teaching; and adult-guided learning will ensure that children are given time to apply their new knowledge and skills in a range of different contexts. Each mini topic will be introduced by a ‘hook’ and will be driven by a purpose. Planning has been reviewed to ensure that all experiences provide the best possible outcomes for children. Our curriculum is ambitious and well-sequenced, and it provides challenge and enjoyment, breadth, progression, and depth.
The curriculum is designed to make sure that children can know more, and remember more. Through careful planning and curriculum progression, key knowledge is revisited regularly, and children are given many opportunities to reflect upon their own learning and to celebrate the achievements they have made. New learning is carefully linked to previous content through the thoughtful planning process, and the adults in the environment receive high-quality training to amplify the opportunities that are presented to children inside and outside of the classroom. Careful questioning used, alongside knowledge of the children and the learning that has taken place, means that clear links can be made towards what has happened already, what is happening now, and where the learning may go next.
Organisation of the timetable is different in the individual phases of Early Years at Throckley Primary School.
Acorns and Rising 3 – ‘enjoying coming to school’
Acorns and Rising 3 sessions are driven by well-chosen, age-appropriate texts which focus on the development of the 3 prime areas, with simple vocabulary that will provide children with key words to enrich their early language development. We strive to ensure that our youngest learners love coming to school, so we ensure that all learning is driven by their interests and is reviewed daily.
Nursery - ‘developing a love of learning’
Nursery is driven by exciting, well-chosen texts which engage young children. Continuous provision is set up to reflect the learning that has already taken place through adult-led sessions, meaning that children know and understand how to use the resources appropriately to support their learning. They are encouraged to revisit prior knowledge and skills through play in the environment. There are also different resources to provoke interest and curiosity. Enhancements are linked, where possible, to the text and will reinforce currently planned learning, alongside carefully planned revisit links. There are always activities in the environment that support skills, such as fine motor control, scissor practice, and developing a love of books. Adult-led activities are sent home to parents via Tapestry, with helpful suggestions for parents and carers to support learning at home, where relevant. Weekly topic Tapestry posts are also sent home, alongside ‘wow’ moments for individual children.
Reception - ‘content before context’
As expectation in the specific areas increase in Reception, we value the importance of teaching the content first, before putting it into context so that children are not subject to cognitive overload. The morning sessions are dedicated to Read Write Inc. delivered with fidelity to teach reading and writing, and NCETM maths to teach the essential maths skills. NCETM is then subsidised with White Rose.
Afternoon learning is driven by a topic (context) and deliberately chosen text, which has been selected to drive learning intentions from Understanding the World and Expressive Arts & Design to fully prepare children to access the foundation subjects once they move into Year 1. Furthermore, the texts have been chosen to ensure appropriate writing opportunities are accessible through the provision (for example, some genres such as Traditional Tales lend themselves more to simple sentence writing, so have been planned into Spring and not Autumn 1)
What are children expected to learn in EYFS and how will we deliver this?
The Early Years Curriculum outcomes have been developed to ensure the end goals match the key learning required for the start of Year 1. The Early Learning Goals are used as a skeleton to the wider curriculum and the rest of the intended learning is developed through input from a range of different sources.
- Pre-requisites for Year 1 from the Ready-to-progress criteria for Mathematics are used to inform the end goal for Reception. These requirements are subsequently tracked back to ensure progressive learning steps are planned to meet this goal, beginning with the Acorns.
- Baseline assessments also contribute towards additional planned focuses to address any on entry gaps in pupils’ knowledge and skills and this will change year on year depending on the specific needs of the cohort.
- Leaders, Early Years, and Year 1 staff unpicked the Year 1 curriculum to determine which substantive knowledge and disciplinary knowledge are most beneficial for children to have in preparation for their next step in learning. These, alongside the Early Learning Goals are then unpicked further to construct a progressive document that ensures Early Years staff focus on key knowledge and knowledge engaged throughout Reception, Nursery, Rising 3, and Acorns.
- Leaders, teachers, and support staff considered what we believe is essential for the children of Throckley Primary School to know in order to increase cultural capital, by providing children with experiences and opportunities to help them progress and achieve success.
- Leaders, teachers, and support staff consider what additional knowledge and skills we want children to know, and these are progressively planned in too.
How the children learn this knowledge is not prescriptive, as the learning stems from the interests of the children. Loose topics are planned around the chosen texts, but these topics can move freely depending on the interests of the children at that time. The curriculum mapping ensures that no learning steps are missed, regardless of the context in which it is taught. High-quality adult interaction, with less time spent observing from a distance, ensures that staff know the children exceptionally well, and they can plan for the next steps effectively.
Deliberately Chosen Texts
The texts that drive the learning in Early Years are all deliberately chosen. These will be subsidised with additional texts as topics emerge and develop. The texts have been chosen due to the purposeful learning opportunities that could arise, specific vocabulary choices, and links to previous learning.
Early Language and Vocabulary; Closing the Vocabulary Gap
When they start school, children from disadvantaged backgrounds are, on average, 4 months behind their peers. We strive to close this gap.
We understand the importance of building children’s vocabulary. Key vocabulary is planned into all areas of the curriculum and is revisited throughout the year. Children expand their understanding of new words through the high-quality and language-rich learning environment.
Speech and language programmes run within Nursery and Reception. Nursery implement ‘Talk Boost’ and Reception implement ‘Fast Track’ to show fidelity to our chosen scheme. This phonics intervention has helped children with some speech and language issues who are not working on specific interventions through SALT. Prompt identification of children and consistent interventions supported by trained staff, mean that children’s language development can improve rapidly. These programmes have already had a positive impact on previous Nursery and Reception cohorts.
Vocabulary teaching has been planned collaboratively to ensure that children are learning key words at the correct time and that the words they learn will ensure they are more than ready to access the next step of their learning journey. Subject leaders and Early Years staff have worked together to look at tier 3 vocabulary that children will learn in Year 1, and have subsequently worked backwards to introduce key vocabulary in Early Years that will mean they are ready to learn the tricky vocabulary in Year 1. Texts used for learning are chosen specifically to enhance tier 2 and tier 3 vocabulary choices.
The transition process is carefully mapped into each academic year to ensure minimal worry for children and their families as they move onto the next chapter of school life. In Summer Term, new staff assigned to the following year group spend informal periods of time with the children, whether this is in class or on the playground, and focus on building a new relationship based on mutual respect. New staff are given access to Tapestry accounts, so that interaction between staff and parents is ignited before schools finish for summer. Children are given opportunities to ask questions, visit new classrooms and learn about any changes they may face as they move into the next class. Parents are given the opportunity to do the same through welcome meetings and visits. Staggered starts in Nursery ensure that new children to the setting are given more adult support to learn the new routines and expectations of the school, and flexible start plans in Reception mean that the experience can be altered based on the level of the child’s Personal, Social and Emotional Development.
Four Guiding Principles
7 Key Features of Effective Practice
- The best for every child – we believe that all children deserve an equal chance of success, therefore each child will be given this opportunity. We work tirelessly to narrow the gaps between children who are from disadvantaged backgrounds and those who are not. Our fully inclusive environment allows staff to identify any children who require additional support, and the extended SEN team ensures that actions are taken swiftly to make sure children receive the support and additional interventions they need.
- High-quality care – our curriculum is driven through experiences. We understand that not all children are given a range of different experiences outside of school and we make this our aim to provide them with as many as possible. The highly experienced and nurturing Early Years team makes the children feel comfortable and confident in their surroundings.
- The curriculum: what we want children to learn – we believe that depth in learning is incredibly important, more so than covering lots of content briefly. We provide an ambitious curriculum and let the children drive the learning through their interests and passions. Robust progressive planning documents make sure that key skills and knowledge are still taught and embedded and that key learning isn’t missed.
- Pedagogy: helping children to learn – children are powerful learners. They can all make progress, and we strive to harness this and guide the children to achieve wonderful things. We teach and interact using a range of different approaches that are reflected upon and changed to meet the needs of the children.
- Assessment: checking what children have learned – assessment is purposeful, useful, and relevant. Observation checkpoints are used to track the 3 prime areas of learning, drawing attention to the early identification of any developmental concerns. Formative assessments are implemented through provision reflection, daily marking, and staff knowledge of the children’s development. Summative assessments are designed to directly identify the needs of the children which in turn will impact the teaching and learning.
- Self-regulation and executive function – our Mental Health Champion has played an active part in the design of the Early Years Curriculum. She has woven strategies, techniques, and themes through the different areas of learning. This works in partnership with the focus on language development and how central it is to self-regulation.
- Partnership with parents – parents are an integral part of the school. We encourage parents and carers to play an active part in their child’s education. Seesaw is used to share learning from home and school. We ask parents and carers to talk positively about learning to their children, to show an interest in their day, and to support them with activities given by the school.
Characteristics and OWLs
The characteristics of effective learning are familiar to children from the moment they join us at Throckley Primary School. Children are inspired and supported to reflect upon their own learning behaviours with the scaffold of staff. We recognise the significance of children leaving our school fully equipped for the wider world, not just academically, but on a personal level too. As a school, it was identified that understanding the characteristics of learning was an invaluable skill that should be transferred and celebrated within the wider school. This has been rolled out in the form of the Throckley OWLs.
The Throckley OWLs (Our Wonderful Learners) encourage positive learning behaviours and support children to develop the skills that we believe are necessary for success in the wider world. Our OWLs have evolved from the action research we have conducted as a school on dialogic talk and self-regulation. At Throckley Primary School, we encourage children to actively plan, monitor, and evaluate their own learning; through a focus on metacognition, children understand their own learning processes with increased confidence and resilience.
It is our duty to support young children and their families with oral health. We have chosen to address this in the following ways:
- ‘Dinosaur Douglas and the Beastly Bugs’, a text promoting oral hygiene will be integrated into the class ‘must reads’ so that children are exposed often to the importance of taking care of their teeth.
- Oral Health will be woven through the curriculum, ensuring that each half term, children are given opportunities to practise this, whether it be through a dentist role play, a ‘smile’ topic, or discrete teaching. Please see the supplementary document.
- Dates are mapped into the school calendar for guidance and support to be offered to parents and carers at regular intervals throughout the school year.
- The school nurse will be visiting the school to conduct an oral health workshop in Summer.
Everything begins with our curriculum drivers. They are woven through all that we do and underpin our shared belief that our role is to support children with the following opportunities:
As children move into Reception, our school drivers form the overarching planning themes. Children can begin to understand the relevance through child-led learning. Rich conversations with children will formulate the mini topics that will support the drivers and will adapt and move with the interests of the children.
Assessment and observation forms an important part of the planning cycle. With this in mind, we have strategically designed the assessment of learning to ensure all data exercises are beneficial to the immediate outcomes of the children. In Acorns, Rising 3 and Nursery, assessment of the 3 prime areas of learning are of the upmost importance. In Acorns, the 2-year-old progress check ensure parents and carers are updated on their child’s progress and any concerns or actions. In Rising 3 and Nursery, termly ‘diaries’ using observation checkpoints as a guide, alongside high quality observations recorded on Seesaw will form a full picture of each child’s learning at this stage in their education. These diaries, backed up by useful assessments such as number recognition and pencil grasp, will be used both in the planning cycle and as part of transition.
In Reception, the focus will shift to the Early Learning Goals and end of year outcomes, and ongoing assessments that will support teachers with the planning cycle.
As Throckley Primary School embarks on a ‘Pupil Book Study’ research project, this will feature as part of the assessment process in the Early Years. The voice of pupils will be heard as they are engaged in conversations and careful questioning from key adults in school to cross-reference their learning. Staff track individual children, in particular the bottom 20% and children with SEND by following the child as a learner, always thinking ‘why this? Why now? Do they have the required understanding of the tasks they are doing? How are they learning from their tasks ns how is this developed? What are their next steps?’
Subject leaders – Experience with their Subject
We value the importance of all subject leaders having an in-depth understanding of how their subject operates within Early Years. Giving all subject leaders time to work within Foundation Stage gives them the opportunity to work alongside staff experienced in this sector and supports leaders to develop their own pedagogy when thinking about how children begin their learning journey. Through pupil voice, metacognition and experience, subject leaders can identify the starting points of our children and the challenges we face; they can then develop their own subject leader documents effectively and with confidence, with a veritable understanding of what a subject looks like and the pedagogy that sits behind it. Subject leaders work alongside the Early Years Leader to then develop key planning and progression documents, creating then embedding a clear link and transition between Early Years and Key Stage One onwards. A focus on key vocabulary means that children are equipped with the language required to be successful in the next stage of their learning.