At Swallowdale we aim to provide education and experiences that set the children up for their journey of learning throughout their school life. We work to the standards set out by the DfE in the Statutory Framework for Early Years Foundation Stage.
Every child deserves the best possible start in life and the support that enables them to fulfil their potential. Children develop quickly in the early years and a child’s experiences between birth and five have a major impact on their future life chances. A secure, safe and happy childhood is important in its own right. Good parenting and high quality early learning together provide the foundation children what they need to make the most of their abilities and talents as they grow up. (EYFS Statutory Framework, DfE, July 2020)
Our entire ethos is designed to be nurturing and supportive to develop the skills and confidence of the children who choose to start their journey with us. We strongly believe that:
· Every child is a unique child, who is constantly learning and can be resilient, capable, confident and self-assured;
· Children learn to be strong and independent through positive relationships;
· Children learn and develop well in enabling environments with teaching and support from adults, who respond to their individual interests and needs and help them to build their learning over time. Children benefit from a strong partnership between practitioners and parents and/or carers;
· Children develop and learn at different rates. All children, including those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are supported to develop their own skills in line with the school policy.
At Swallowdale we fully embrace these principles and base our practice upon them. We respect that each unique child brings their own past experiences and prior learning with them and we do our best to build upon these foundations as the children grow into skilled learners. We do this by creating a nurturing, supportive environment within the Foundation Stage Base. All children are respected and given a voice, needs are identified and support is given where appropriate. We build close relationships with parents and provide support and guidance as they work with their child at home to develop the skills they learn at school.
Transition to School
A positive start to each child’s Swallowdale journey is vital. We aim to gather information about each child from their families and pre-school settings before they begin. This enables us to identify strengths and interests and highlight any potential barriers so that staff are prepared to best support children as they transition in. As well as sending out information and data-gathering packs we will aim to:
· Contact nurseries and pre-schools for a formal handover of information;
· Conduct a Parent’s Information Evening at school;
· Meet children, alongside their parents, during a home visit.
Children will make a ‘staggered’ start to school. This will typically involve morning sessions, followed by morning sessions with lunch, before the children join us full time. Details of exact dates will be communicated well in advance of the start of the Autumn Term. This staggered start allows the children to become familiar with different aspects of the school day slowly and leads to a more settled beginning. All children will also be invited to a ‘stay and play’ session, alongside their parents, in the summer term before they start school.
The Foundation Stage Base
At Swallowdale we operate in an ‘open plan’ base. We have two indoor classrooms which create a shared space. Class One and Class Two each have their own carpet area and interactive whiteboard where discrete lessons take place, but the children are free to access both classrooms during ‘free flow’. Each class has a full-time teacher who leads the majority of sessions. The teachers are supported full time by two teaching assistants and a nursery nurse.
We also have an outdoor classroom attached to the base, with canvas sides and a roof to provide shelter. The children are able to move between the indoor and outdoor classrooms freely, in all weather, and access different activities in each. We are very lucky in that we also have a fantastic playground provision including a builder’s hut and supplies, a climbing frame, a sandpit, a discovery trail and a mud kitchen which the children can access at chosen times.
Teaching by Topic
We operate a Topic-Based Curriculum within the Foundation Stage. Each half term has an over-arching theme, and each week has a sub-topic that links to it. This sub topic provides the framework for our daily communication and language activities and also influences the learning opportunities that children can access during their free-flow time.
We strive to make our topics meaningful and relevant to the children. Our topic choices change and develop in response to the needs and interests of the cohort and as we consider an engaging curriculum to be paramount to our provision.
The Learning Day
Each day will typically include a mixture of discrete lessons and free flow activities.
Free-flow, or ‘Continuous Provision’, is the time each day when the children can develop their own learning through play. No play time is wasted time – the children are always learning, and developing their skills, in a supportive environment. We aim to provide structured activities, linked to the curriculum and identified areas of need, which allow the children to practise and reinforce their skills. By theming these activities so that they link with our topics we aim to better engage the children and encourage their interests.
Discrete lessons will usually be taught to the whole class and will include:
· Phonics, following the RML scheme, in line with school policy.
· Maths, based on the mastery principle.
· Communication and Language sessions to develop speaking and listening skills.
· PE, covering a range of early skills and following the Get Set 4 PE scheme in line with the rest of the school.
· PSHE, developing our interpersonal skills. We follow a scheme of work called Jigsaw, in line with the rest of the school.
As stated previously, at Swallowdale we think that getting parents engaged with their children’s education is essential. To this end we will support parents to:
· Engage with transition arrangements into school to give their children the best possible start;
· View and comment on learning journey observations via Tapesty;
· Support their children at home through reading regularly, practising high-frequency words and completing home learning tasks set on SeeSaw.
We will also provide regular engagement opportunities within school, with parents invited in to share their children’s learning. These may take the form of:
· Reading cafes;
· Board-game sessions;
· Family Learning activities;
· Christmas and Harvest concerts.
Practitioners will always endeavour to engage with parents whenever there is a need, and parents can always approach school with a concern. This can be through face to face meetings or via email. Our aim is to create positive working relationships, with school and home working together to create the best possible start to evert child’s school experience.