'Children who begin their education in a learning environment that is vibrant, purposeful, challenging and supportive stand the best chance of developing into confident and successful learners.'
(Planning For Learning in the Foundation Stage, QCA 2001)
And from the new EYFS Framework became statutory from 1st September 2012;
'...a child's experiences between birth and age 5 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 need to make the most of their abilities and talents as they grow up.'
Personal & Social Skills AND emotional well-being
The children at Riverbanks are introduced to playing and working in groups of various sizes, and helped to develop a strong sense of self-esteem. We encourage them to help one another and to listen to each other, and there are times when 2 to rising 5 year olds all play and work together. The adults in the environment are also expected to model positive relationships to the children.
Communication and Language AND Literacy
We place a major emphasis on encouraging individuals to speak to the group, and on listening to one another's verbal contributions.
As part of their early reading experiences, we use 'phonic', 'look and say' and 'real books' as well as the 'shared reading experience'. We also use the widely acclaimed, multi-sensory approach to teaching all the sounds in our alphabet called 'Jolly Phonics'. Each session, the children are involved in a story and literacy time.
The photograph to the right shows one of our pupils going through his little sound book with his literacy key teacher.
Once a term, we offer a free Speech and Language Screening Service by a qualified therapist to help identify any particular difficulties in a child's language development. This is just one of the "extras" Riverbanks offers its families.
Learning About their World
Children develop practical skills for life, for example, polishing their shoes and pouring liquids, and learn how to become more independent in the school environment. We have focus days on traditions and special days from many countries and faiths e.g. Divali, American Independence Day, St Patrick's day, Chinese New Year, Christmas, Harvest. We also introduce the children to the concept of "giving to others" who are less fortunate than themselves, through Harvest assemblies and fundraising events for charity. We are currently helping to buy bricks for a school in Uganda.
This is what we call non-verbal communication.
Physical development at our stage of the education process is all about improving coordination, control, manipulation skills and movement. We regularly provide indoor and outdoor equipment and activities and select the language we use carefully, when inviting the children to move their bodies.(eg; prepositions, movement verbs) The children have lots of opportunities to practise balancing on our beams.
Expressive Arts and Design
Creativity in a child enables them to make connections between one learning area and another. This curriculum area includes art and craft obviously, but also activities such as percussion instruments, moving to music or spoken language, drama and of course offering time for the children to become engaged in imaginary play, with or without props.
Children at this stage NEED opportunities to explore numbers, shapes, space and measuring independently through meaningful, practical experiences which they can initiate and develop themselves.
At Riverbanks, we allow TIME every day for our pupils to become engaged in such opportunities. Adults observe the children and then extend the children's thinking by raising open-ended questions and helping the children to evaluate their findings. Equally, we may use specific Montessori apparatus and Ten Town resources to help teach numbers and basic concepts such as size, shape and colour. Consider this thought from Jane Healy who wrote 'Your Child's Growing Brain' -
'Trying to speed learning over unfinished neuron systems might be akin to racing a limousine over a narrow path in the woods. You can do it, but neither the car nor the path ends up in very good shape! Moreover, the pressure that surrounds such learning situations may leave permanent emotional debris.'
Maths is all around us and we take every opportunity to help the children use and understand mathematical concepts. For example, at register times discussing days of the week, when giving out one sharpened pencil to each child at the table, using our fingers in singing number rhymes and creating an area for the bikes using 10 large traffic cones.