The Early Years Foundation Stage
The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) is a comprehensive statutory framework that sets the standards for the learning, development and care of children from birth to five in England.
Every child deserves the best possible start in life and the support to fulfil their potential. A child’s experience in the early years has a major impact on their future life chances. A secure, safe and happy childhood is important in its own right, and it provides the foundation for children to make the most of their talents as they grow. The framework is based on four Themes and Principles. It recognises children as individuals and competent learners:
- A unique child
- Positive relationships
- Enabling environments
- Learning and development
The EYFS is delivered through a well planned, play based approach to learning and development. The activities that are provided for young children will underpin the skills they need to work towards the scale points in the following areas at the end of their reception year at school.
Personal, social and emotional development
Children are provided with experiences and support which will help them to develop a positive sense of themselves and of others; respect for others; social skills; and a disposition to learn.
Communication, language and literacy
Children’s learning and competence in communicating, speaking and listening, being read to and beginning to read and write is supported. We provide opportunities and encouragement to use their skills in a range of situations and for a range of purposes, and support children in developing the confidence and disposition to do so.
Problem solving and reasoning
Children are supported in developing their understanding of problem solving, reasoning and numeracy in a broad range of contexts in which they can explore, enjoy, learn, practise and talk about their developing understanding. Children are provided with opportunities to practise these skills and to gain confidence and competence in their use.
Knowledge and understanding of the world
Children are supported in developing the knowledge, skills and understanding that help them to make sense of the world. Their learning is supported through offering opportunities for them to use a range of tools safely; encounter creatures, people, plants and objects in their natural environments and in real-life situations; undertake practical ‘experiments’; and work with a range of materials.
Children’s creativity is extended by providing activities to develop their curiosity, exploration and play. They are provided with opportunities to explore and share their thoughts, ideas and feelings, for example through a variety of art, music, movement, dance, imaginative and role-play activities, mathematics, and design and technology.
The physical development of young children must be encouraged through the provision of opportunities for them to be active and interactive and to improve their skills of coordination, control, manipulation and movement. Children are supported in using all of their senses to learn about the world around them and to make connections between new information and what they already know. We support children in developing an understanding of the importance of physical activity and making healthy choices in relation to food.
All areas are of equal importance and many activities will cover many of the areas. Each area is divided up into stages of development and practitioners are able to identify resources and learning opportunities for individual children dependent on their developmental needs.
Children are assessed against the scale points. Please refer to Assessment section for more information.
Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2
The purpose of St Bernard’s Primary School is to educate children in an atmosphere of Christian love, within the Catholic tradition. As a Catholic school we are an inclusive school and welcome children from different faiths and backgrounds. We recognise the importance of developing all the abilities of the children. We pride ourselves on being an inclusive school that sets high standards of academic achievement and places great value on the personal development of all of our children.
Aims of the St Bernard’s Primary Curriculum
- To provide a creative and challenging curriculum which promotes a love of learning.
- To enable children to achieve their full potential in all areas of development.
- To teach and practice a moral code based on Gospel values that will prepare all children for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of life in today’s society
As of September 2014 we are ensuring that all curriculum areas are aligned with the expectations of the new curriculum, with a focus on mastering the fundamental concepts, providing deep learning and secure understanding. At St. Bernard’s we aim to create a learning environment that is exciting, challenging, safe and happy. We offer a broad and balanced curriculum enriched with visitors, visits, events and activities to inspire in each child a joy for learning. Our Catholic ethos focuses on our expectation for our children to be honest and respectful, care for others and work hard to develop skills, which will enable them to be good citizens and achieve success now and in the future.
The children follow a broad and balanced curriculum in accordance with the National Curriculum 2014, to look at a copy, click here.
As a voluntary aided Catholic School, the Catholic religious ethos is to be found across the whole curriculum and not just within the Religious Education programme. The children’s faith is enriched through contact with the faith and prayer of the staff and the Christian atmosphere of the school.
Children are helped to understand their world and their lives in the light of their faith. The school supports, extends and clarifies what the children learn and experience at home and in church.
Daily worship and Religious Education are seen as having an important influence in promoting the Christian attitudes and values we hope children will apply through their lives.
The Religious Education we provide is in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic faith. We teach the "God Matters” programme. This scheme is the curriculum strategy for Religious Education in Catholic Primary Schools in the Diocese of Clifton.
“God Matters” programme of study:
- Term 1 - Creation, Prayers, Saints and Feasts
- Term 2 - Prayers, Saints and Feasts, Advent
- Term 3 - Christmas, Revelation
- Term 4 - Lent, Holy Week
- Term 5 - Easter, Pentecost and Mission
- Term 6 - Pentecost and Mission, Sacraments
There is a daily act of worship for all children that is suited to their age and stage of personal, social and religious development. Children are involved as much as possible in leading school worship.
The parish priest, Father Cosmas, helps the children to appreciate and participate in the liturgy of the Church. During the school term, the children take part in the celebration of the Mass either in church or school. The major Christian festivals are celebrated with special services in which pupils participate. Parents are very welcome to join us on these occasions. When the children are in Year 3, with parish support, they prepare for the sacraments of Reconciliation and First Holy Communion.
Parents have a statutory right to withdraw their children from Religious Education and worship. It is not expected that parents seeking a place in a Catholic School would wish to exercise this option. In many instances it would be very difficult to identify a specifically "Religious" element in a topic or theme as Catholic philosophy underpins so much of our everyday work. Any parents considering withdrawing their children from this area of the curriculum should put their request in writing to the Head teacher. They are very strongly urged to discuss the matter with the Head teacher in advance of any such decision.
However this is just a part of what we offer. We believe our faith influences everything that happens within the school, our work, our play and our relationships with each other and the wider community. We follow the example that Jesus gave us so that we can keep Jesus at the centre of all that we do. “Following the footsteps of Jesus, we celebrate and learn together.”
Mastery Approach to Teaching and Learning
The mastery-learning model forms the basis of our approach to teaching and learning at St Bernard’s Primary. This means spending greater time going into depth about a subject as opposed to racing through the things that all children ‘should’ know. Previously, racing through content lead to some children having large gaps in their subject knowledge because the concept they had just learnt was either too big or learnt too quickly. As a primary school, it is our duty to ensure that children have an absolutely solid, concrete understanding of subject knowledge and skills taught as well as being emotionally resilient and ready for secondary school.
Now, we have the confidence to take learning at a steadier and deeper pace, ensuring children are not left behind, as well as providing deeper and richer experiences for children who are above the national expectation for their age.
We focus on allowing as many children as possible to achieve what is expected of their age group and not going beyond this. Evidence shows that children need to be able to understand a concept, apply it in a range of situations and then be creative to really understand it. Simply going beyond their age group does not guarantee they understand something at a ‘mastery’ level.
At our school no child will be taught content from the year group above them, they will spend time becoming true masters of content, applying and being creative with new knowledge and skills in multiple ways.
In short, this means working towards:
- Teach less, learn more: less teacher talk and more evidencing learning and progress
- No child left behind*: all children are enabled to keep up every day.
- Space and time to experience and apply, with all children entitled to additional support to ensure they do not fall behind or to go deeper
- Understanding real life applications wherever possible to make learning relevant and not abstract; nothing should be taught without a purpose.
All of this means that you may see a change in the way we teach and assess your child, most notably will be in how we organise your child’s learning and how we report their progress to you.
We will be doing more of this:
- Teaching all children together
- Verbal feedback during lessons,
- Spending longer on one idea,
- Giving children who need it, additional support over shorter, more intense periods, like a day or week.
- Pre-learning – groups of pupils being given a ‘leg up’ by carrying out preliminary learning that will help them to access the contents of the next teaching sequence and prevent them falling behind.
- Top – up sessions – groups of pupils that are in danger of falling behind will have sessions provided by the teacher or a teaching assistant to consolidate new concepts.
And less of this:
- Covering lots of ideas in one week
- Formal, long term interventions out of class
- Separating children into ability groups
This approach is seen as good practice. It is promoted by the government and seen as the best way to deliver the new national curriculum.
NB* We are a fully inclusive school and ensure that all pupils are making progress but are aware that for some pupils with SEND requirements, the amount of effort put in is just as important as the academic standards reached. We consider meaningful ways of measuring all aspects of progress including communication, social skills, physical development, resilience and independence.
English – A Mastery Approach
The English curriculum at St Bernard’s has taken many of the content and principles of ‘Mastery’ in mathematics. We have developed a curriculum which ensures children spend longer being taught the common features and skills in reading and writing in order to have a more coherent English curriculum and therefore be able to develop mastery in English. The curriculum has been adapted using various methods such as: talk for writing, having a strong grammar focus, using high quality novels and books as well as using a range of drama conventions.
The Principles and Features Characterised in Our Curriculum:
- Teachers reinforce an expectation that all pupils are capable of achieving high standards in English.
- The large majority of pupils progress through the curriculum content at the same pace. Differentiation is achieved through additional support and encouraging children’s individual flair and fluency.
- Interventions focus on gaps in knowledge and developing a growth
mind-set in order to ensure all children achieve.
- Teaching is underpinned by using high quality texts and high quality examples from the teacher which focus on skills to be taught. These texts are then analysed in depth with the children in order for them to learn and apply those skills.
- Grammar and punctuation skills are practiced and consolidated until all children have a firm understanding of how to apply them in to their own work.
Reading begins in Foundation Stage through sharing books with simple or no text so that the children can learn how to tell a story using images. Children progress through the reading bands accordingly with each book level introducing new reading and comprehension skills. There is an emphasis on children learning to decode through daily phonics teaching and developing their sight vocabulary for common exception words.
Reading strategies are established through Guided Reading sessions in groups with their class teacher and Guided reading provides an opportunity for the teacher to teach reading in relation to the differentiated needs of the pupil groups and their level of achievement. Children who fail to progress at the expected rate are supported with reading intervention.
- Teachers use precise questioning in class to develop the children’s thinking and explanations, helping children to make literary choices in their writing.
- Children are articulate in explaining and justifying their thinking when answering comprehension questions.
- Children have opportunities and are taught to work both collaboratively and independently.
- Structured high quality opportunities for speaking and listening are used to develop children’s language skills as well as to support writing and reading
Our Curriculum Objectives
In English, our main aim as a school is for all children to develop a love of reading as well as the necessary skills needed in writing for life and also be able to have access to future learning.
English is taught in mixed ability groups for the majority of the time as we believe all children can achieve. In this approach, all children are exposed to some higher-level thinking questions and problem-solving as well as having the opportunity to collaborate and develop a growth mind-set through working with their peers.
Additional intervention is provided for children working below age expectations in reading, along with extension activities and questions for children working at greater depth.
A carefully considered teaching cycle is followed throughout the school. The cycle consists of using high quality texts which are interrogated and deconstructed in order for the children to understand the structure and mechanics of writing. This is followed by shared and modelled writing with the teacher, which helps to nurture the children’s fluency and creativity. The children then apply their skills in independent pieces of writing which are finally edited and improved by the individual child as well as receiving some input from their peers. Throughout the process, the children are taught to read as writers and write as readers.
Maths – A Mastery Approach
The essential idea behind mastery is that all children need a deep understanding of the mathematics they are learning so that:
- future mathematical learning is built on solid foundations which do not need to be re-taught;
- there is no need for separate catch-up programmes due to some children falling behind;
- children who, under other teaching approaches, can often fall a long way behind, are better able to keep up with their peers, so that gaps in attainment are narrowed whilst the attainment of all is raised.
There are generally four ways in which the term mastery in mathematics is used:
- A mastery approach: a set of principles and beliefs. This includes a belief that all pupils are capable of understanding and doing mathematics, given sufficient time. Pupils are neither ‘born with the maths gene’ nor ‘just no good at maths’. With good teaching, appropriate resources, effort and a ‘can do’ attitude all children can achieve in and enjoy mathematics.
- A mastery curriculum: one set of mathematical concepts and big ideas for all. All pupils need access to these concepts and ideas and to the rich connections between them. There is no such thing as ‘special needs mathematics’ or ‘gifted and talented mathematics’. Mathematics is mathematics and the key ideas and building blocks are important for everyone.
- Teaching for mastery: a set of practices that keep the class working together on the same topic, whilst at the same time addressing the need for all pupils to master the curriculum and for some to gain greater depth of proficiency and understanding. Challenge is provided by going deeper.
- Achieving mastery of particular topics and areas of mathematics. Mastery is not just being able to memorise key facts and procedures and answer test questions accurately and quickly.
It involves knowing ‘why’ as well as knowing ‘that’ and knowing ‘how’. It means being able to use one’s knowledge appropriately, flexibly and creatively and to apply it in new and unfamiliar situations.
St Bernard’s School provides extra-curricular activities, such as Music Projects, School Camp, Life Skills at the Create Centre, that also help to broaden the schools provision. Our school curriculum is designed to encourage enquiry, confidence, independence and good communication skills. We pride ourselves on being a friendly and welcoming school, and treasure our family atmosphere.
Here at St Bernard’s, we believe that all children can achieve to the best of their ability. We are committed in supporting children become independent and motivated learners, so that when they leave us they continue to love learning. We have trialled the ‘Growth Mindset’ approach in Year 4 and last year and saw a great improvement in the children’s attitude towards learning.
Click here to download some more information about this.