Our Early Years Foundation Stage
At Barlow, we pride ourselves on offering a child-centred, play-based EYFS curriculum that is innovative, exciting and challenging. We strongly believe that young children learn best when they initiate their own learning, so we allow our children to define their own day, self-selecting resources, steering our topics and themes and building strong relationships with the teachers in the setting in the process. The evidence suggests that all this leads to life-long learners who are independent, inquisitive and eager to make steps forward.
We offer an engaging and stimulating environment, both inside and outside, which is designed to enable our children to learn creatively and actively. Instead of following a pre-defined ‘topic,’ we follow the children’s interests and build our teaching skilfully around them. The result is children who make accelerated progress throughout the EYFS and step confidently into Key Stage 1, ready to tackle the National Curriculum.
The EYFS is made up of 7 different areas of learning. The first three are named the ‘Prime Areas’:
- Communication & Language
- Physical Development
- Personal, Social & Emotional Development
National research and our own experience shows that children have to make progress in these Prime areas before they can comfortably operate and learn within the other four areas. For example, a child first has to develop their communication and language before they can read and write; and a child cannot sit down at a table and work on complex Maths calculations with a partner before they have first learned how to interact maturely with their contemporaries.
Then there are four further ‘Specific areas’ of learning:
- Understanding the World
- Expressive Art & Design
Our staff use ‘in the moment’ planning and assessment to steer the children through these specific areas within the classroom environment.
The EYFS emphasises strong communication between parents and practitioners in order to build an accurate picture of a child’s developments throughout their early years. To this end, we use the excellent ‘Tapestry’ online journal, which enables parents to log in and see their child’s significant steps in school and also allows parents and carers to upload any progression witnessed at home, in order that teachers can form an all-round assessment of where the child sits within the EYFS.
How we teach Phonics
At our school, we deliver a high quality phonics programme from the Reception year through to Key Stage One, following the government-approved Letters and Sounds programme (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/letters-and-sounds). Phonics is taught in discrete daily sessions in order to ensure that the children acquire secure word recognition skills and become fluent readers by the end of Key Stage One.
We follow the Letters and Sounds scheme, Phases 1-6, which ensures that each child makes the necessary progress in their reading and writing before Key Stage 2. The children learn to hear, read and write the sounds each day in class and then progress to read by blending sounds to create words, leading to writing words by segmenting and saying the sounds. To support this further, the school offers adult workshops each year to support parents to embed their child’s phonics knowledge further at home.
Once the children can read and blend all Phase 2,3,4 and 5 sounds into words, they then apply their phonic knowledge to read ditties, questions, sentences, story books and a range of other texts. The children also apply their phonic knowledge to write simple sentences containing words with new and already learnt sounds on whiteboards within Phonics sessions and in their writing books during English lessons.
We combine discrete teaching of phonics with guided reading (small groups), shared reading (whole class) and class story time. Teachers regularly read to the children too, so the children get to know and love all sorts of stories, poetry and information books. We have a team of willing parent and grandparent volunteers who visit our school weekly and listen to our children read. This helps to extend children’s vocabulary and comprehension, as well as supporting their writing.