Willow Class is where our Foundation Stage (Reception and Nursery) children are educated and nurtured. The school admits children from the term after their third birthday, and children remain in Willow Class until they enter the main school in Year 1 (the September after they turn 5). The class is purpose built and has recently been completely refurbished both inside and outside. If you are in employment, please note that we are able to accept childcare vouchers (ie from employer tax-break schemes) as payment for extra nursery sessions. Contact the office for more details if you would like to pay using this method.
We are very proud of our early years’ provision, and regularly welcome visitors to look at what we do. Click here to read an article from Nursery World featuring Willow Class.
Teaching and Learning
At Dr South’s School we deliver a curriculum based on the framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage. This describes the seven areas of learning and development which “must be implemented through planned, purposeful play”. The framework also states that “Practitioners must respond to each child’s emerging needs and interests, guiding their development through warm, positive interaction.” We have a fantastic team of adults who put this into practice every day. In addition, the framework describes “three characteristics of effective teaching and learning … playing and exploring … active learning… and creating and thinking critically.” These describe exactly the approach we take to learning in our Foundation Stage at Dr South’s Primary School.
Our aim is to provide an exciting and stimulating environment where each child’s needs are provided for, helping them to achieve their full potential – intellectually, physically, emotionally, morally, spiritually, aesthetically and socially – and to develop a positive attitude to learning. We can best achieve these aims in a child-centred environment with opportunities for first-hand experiences and purposeful play supported by trained, experienced and caring adults.
The Foundation Unit has a workshop style environment indoors and outside. This means that in all areas, the resources are available and accessible to the children at all times, but nothing is set out. We encourage the children to be independent; the children are in control of their learning. The principle is that resources are accessible to the children and they are varied, open-ended and high quality. This gives children the opportunity to select resources to support their chosen activity. If an area or a resource is not engaging children in purposeful play, then we remove it or change it.
All children will be given the opportunity to play outside for most of the day whatever the weather. Throughout the year children play, make friends, develop and learn. They have great fun, exploring and creating, indoors and outside. They gain independence and confidence and their natural curiosity is encouraged at all times.
Additional information about the Early Years is available on the Foundation Years website.
Role of the Key Person
Children thrive from a base of loving and secure relationships. This is normally provided by a child’s parents but it can also be provided by a key person. A key person is a named member of staff for responsibilities for helping children in the group feel safe and cared for. When children reach this stage of their educational journey most children have developed a strong attachment to a parent and are more able to cope with shared attention from a few adults in the setting. We therefore say that the teacher will be the key worker for all the children, supported by other members of the staff. If a child or parent forms a trusting working relationship with a particular member of the staff team, then they can always chat to them. Support staff help update records and make observations. However, it is ultimately the teacher’s responsibility to maintain the paperwork and to take ownership of the class and progress of all the children.
Our planning is based around children’s interests, and we maintain high levels of engagement through ‘in the moment’ planning.
What is in the moment planning?
Planning in the moment is all about seizing the moment for children to progress. Based on what the children are already deeply involved in, this way of planning relies on skilled practitioners using quality interactions to draw out the children’s knowledge and build on it there and then. This means that the practitioner needs the skills to be able to see the ‘teachable moment’ from the child’s perspective and be skilled enough to know when to intervene and when to stand back and observe.
Planning in the moment is all about capturing the moment of engagement and running with it to make sure the children progress. We work this way because research has shown that high-level involvement and learning occurs in child-initiated activity.
The document Learning, Playing and Interacting, Good practice in the Early Years Foundation Stage states “it is in the moment of curiosity, puzzlement, effort or interest – the ‘teachable moment’ – that the skillful adult makes a difference.” (DCSF, 2009).
A teachable moment should make the child feel valued, important, interesting, capable, and able to learn as well as gaining knowledge, skills, attitude and understanding therefore making progress in one or several areas of the Early Years Framework.
The Early Years Framework (2014) states that “Practitioners must consider the individual needs, interests, and stage of development of each child in their care, and must use this information to plan a challenging and enjoyable experience for each child in all of the areas of learning and development.”
Planning in the moment fully allows this to happen and encourages the children to pursue their own interests.
It also means that the learning environment, both the indoors and outside, constantly needs to be reviewed and adapted to ensure there remains challenge and variety. In this way, children’s levels of involvement remain deep. Involvement refers to be being intensely engaged in activities and is believed to be a necessary condition for deep level learning and development.
This way of working means that all written planning is retrospective. Each practitioner records what they have done to help the children progress each day in either the spontaneous planning record sheet or on the iPad application Tapestry. When planning this way time is used at the end of each session to give the children an opportunity to talk about what they have learnt and in most cases the teacher can use this as a whole class teaching opportunity or to consolidate knowledge. Phonics is still taught using weekly plans.
All observations made of the children must be based on quality interactions between children or between children and practitioners. They must include any teaching that has taken place or progress that a child or group of children have made. All practitioners are responsible for highlighting progress in observations.
At the end of each week information from Tapestry and from spontaneous planning forms are collated and a record is made of which areas of learning the child has had observations made against. Any gaps are filled the following week.
Observations made on Tapestry are available for parents to view. Parents are encouraged to comment on observations made in school and add observations of their own from home.