We know how important the first year of school is for you and your child. To help parents of new pupils, any member of the Reception team or the headteacher is able to provide a detailed description of Early Years provision.
The Reception class at Sacred Heart is a learning environment which aims at all times to be happy (because we know that happy children are responsive, receptive and enthusiastic to learning) and challenging (because we know children are capable and keen to learn, and enjoy the challenge and the achievements that come with it).
Through planned, purposeful play, children are able to discover, practise and refine their skills in literacy and mathematics as well as find out about themselves and their environment. In a broad and balanced way, our provision ensures coverage of the seven areas of learning (see below) and responds to the needs and interests of all our children. At all times, we consider characteristics of effective learning which promote positive attitudes to learning, an enthusiasm for knowledge and the confidence to become successful learners.
We follow the principles set out in:
- Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage: setting the standards for learning, development and care for children from birth to five (Department for Education, March 2014)
- Early Years Foundation Stage Profile Handbook (Standards and Testing Agency, updated annually)
- Development Matters in the Early Years Foundation Stage (Early Education, 2012)
- Early Years Outcomes: a non-statutory guide for practitioners and inspectors to help inform understanding of child development through the early years (Department for Education, September, 2013)
Supporting your child: Home and school working together
We’re keen to work as closely as possible with you all the way through your child’s time at primary school, and perhaps Reception is the most important time to get this right. Like other teachers, Reception staff are available to speak with you at the start and end of the day. There’s usually a chance to have a quick word with one of the Reception team when you drop you child off in the morning, or collect them in the evening. When you’re in, you’re welcome to have a look through your child’s books, too.
The Reception team are keen to hear from you about experience with your child – times when they do something that especially surprise or impress you. Use our emailing service and assessment tool to keep in touch with school. As well as a great way to celebrate your child’s development, knowing about the these moments will mean staff can make sure they encourage your child to practise or apply the skills they’ve shown.
Sharing information about what your child enjoys and is interested in is important. The Reception team take on board the interests of the class and plan future topics around them.
Don’t forget to come to our Monday night reading club lasting around half an hour. They’re a great way to share a story and pick up new books from our library. Soon we will be introducing opportunities during the school year to observe phonics being taught – do come along to get ideas about how to support your child in this important aspect of reading and writing.
See the Transition section below for how we work with you to secure a positive start to your child’s primary school years.
Supporting your child: Characteristics of effective learning
We place a good deal of importance on the characteristics of effective learning:
- playing and exploring – children investigate and experience things, and ‘have a go’ (you can support your child by, for example, making sure they encouraging them to try out new experiences and asking open-ended questions that might stimulate their curiosity);
- active learning – children concentrate and keep on trying if they encounter difficulties, and enjoy achievements (allow your child to play independently – avoid leading your child’s play, and don’t let them engage for too long in passive activities like watching TV); and
- creating and thinking critically – children have and develop their own ideas, make links between ideas, and develop strategies for doing things (when your child is playing, provide some challenges and allow them to be inventive – try leaving fewer toys for them but add a few unknown objects for them to use… don’t forget how much fun a cardboard box can be!).
Our assessment data for older children shows that those children who demonstrate strong characteristics of effective learning are more likely to enjoy and achieve at a higher level as they get older. Support your child to develop these characteristics just as much as you support the academic side of things. It might help you get an idea of how you can support your child to develop good ‘learning behaviour’. Talk with Mrs Edwards or Mr Robertshaw for more ideas.
Supporting your child: Expectations for learning
There are seven areas which form the basis of the curriculum. These areas are made up of prime areas and specific areas (listed below). Each area of learning has a set of related expectations for typical development through the Early Years. Most children will start Reception being secure in the knowledge, understanding and abilities within the 30-50 month phase and beginning to demonstrate the knowledge, understanding and abilities within the 40-60 month phase. By the end of Reception, most children will have reached the Early Learning Goals (ELGs) at the expected level. Some might still have knowledge skills and understanding which is emerging whilst others may be exceeding these Early Learning Goals in some areas. (The terms ‘expected’, ‘emerging’ and ‘exceeding’ are how we communicate your child’s level of development at the end of the Reception year.)
The prime areas are:
- Personal, social and emotional development (making relationships; self-confidence and self-awareness; managing feelings and behaviour)
- Communication and language (listening and attention; understanding; speaking)
- Physical development (moving and handling; health and self-care)
The specific areas are:
- Literacy (reading; writing)
- Mathematics (numbers; shape, space and measures)
- Understanding the world (people and communities; the world; technology)
- Expressive arts and design (exploring and using media and materials, being imaginative)
Transition: Starting and leaving Reception
Change can be difficult. We want to make sure the transition into our Reception class and then the transition to Year 1 and beyond is as smooth and comfortable as possible.
Once your child is offered a place in our Reception, the series of transition events take place.
- A welcome meeting in June is a chance to learn more about expectations, routines and stages of transition; at this meeting, parents are able to meet key members of the school staff including the Reception team. Of course, your child is welcome to attend so they are involved in the move to ‘big school’ from the outset.
- Two taster sessions take place in the Summer term: these last for half days and give you the chance to meet the staff and support your child’s transition. We recommend you leave your child with the school team for the 2 hour session.
- Reception staff will visit nursery settings if a new child has some specific social, emotional or learning needs. This will allow staff to see the child in an environment which is familiar to them, and to talk with nursery staff about any issues. Similarly, we invite nursery staff to visit us at Sacred Heart during a taster session if there is a large group of children from one setting.
- A ‘staggered start’ during the first week in September means that pupils join the class in two halves. This means that each child can be welcomed and have the chance to settle in before the whole class are in the setting.
- We then begin what’s called ‘on-entry assessment’ where we observe and talk with your child about what they can do and what they like to do. This information means the Reception teacher can plan for the year ahead, making sure she and all the Reception team meet the needs and interests of your child as much as possible, providing just enough support and challenge for each pupil to enjoy and achieve.
Do try to attend the learning workshops we hold in September for parents / carers to learn more about how you can support your child at home, especially in the areas of phonics and number.
Moving to Year 1 is perhaps a less significant change for children, and that’s because we’re a happy place to learn where we all know each other. Throughout the year Reception children will have some lessons taught by the Year 1 and Year 2 teacher as part of our themed approach. In the Summer Term the children spend two full days with their new teacher in their new class which means they are fully prepared for their new class in September.
To support you, we have a class assembly, followed by coffee and biscuits, in the first three weeks of the new term. This gives you a chance to see your child classroom and get to know the class teacher a little better.
Early Years concepts
There are different areas in the Reception classroom (both indoors and the outside). These are known as the ‘areas of provision’: different places set up in different ways. These might vary from time to time, but typically include areas for role-play, reading, writing, maths, sand, creative development, technology… come and have a look! Each area has lots of resources which allow children to learn independently or with an adult to support. Look out for all the different learning challenges in the areas, too – these are prompts for specific learning which could take place.
We believe effective learning in the Early Years is the result of a balance between:
- adult-led learning: this is led and managed by the adult and is typically planned to meet the specific learning needs of the child(ren)
- adult-guided learning: this is where adults might support a child by guiding them (for example, by questioning and prompting, or by providing specific resources in an area of the classroom) and the child(ren) can independently practise or explore
- child-initiated learning: this is when the child chooses where to go and what to do in the learning environment – it might look like play, but a lot of incidental learning can happen
Research shows that the best outcomes for children’s learning occur where most of the activity within a child’s day is a mixture of child-initiated play (actively supported by adults) and focused learning (with adults guiding the learning through playful, rich experiential activities). As the Reception year progresses, and the children become more mature and ready for Year 1, the balance will gradually shift to more adult-led and adult-guided learning.
A key aspect of the Early Years Foundation Stage is to move the learning from what children already know to what children want to know and what children need to know (and there’s often an overlap between the two). Staff in Reception find out what children want to know – what interests them, sparks their natural curiosity, engages them to be effective learners – by making lots of observations of the children and having discussions with children and parents to inform the direction of learning. This will usually influence future topics in the class. What children need to know also derives from observations but staff make sure they use Early Years and Key Stage 1 curriculum documents to make sure we are aware of expectations so children are challenged appropriately.