Our EYFS Curriculum Intent
At St. Thomas, we are passionate about providing our children with strong foundations for a lifetime of learning, that is rooted in a firm belief that every child should achieve their full potential in the image of God, and with a commitment to ensuring we develop the whole child. Like the parable of the wise man (Matthew 7:24–27), who built his house upon a rock, we aim for our children to not only be resilient and exuberant learners, but we also intend to provide them with the foundations to be courageous advocates of Christianity.
Our Early Years Curriculum is carefully considered to provide our children with the foundations of our whole school Lighthouse Curriculum. Before we can teach respect, peace, friendship, thankfulness, compassion and responsibility, we must first support our young children to become self-aware, to develop social interactions, to develop independent thinking and to develop an understanding of their family and their culture, as well as the school and wider community and the world around them.
We value the experiences that each child brings with them prior to joining our St. Thomas’s school family. We believe that children’s interests develop over time, in the context of their relationships with the people, places and experiences they encounter in their daily lives. Each child bring with them a ‘fund of knowledge.’ We aim to expand this throughout their time in our Early Years, by fostering strong connections with families, to build upon what children already know and can do, as well as providing a carefully-sequenced curriculum approach that is rich in experiences and in which they can make links in their learning.
Teaching in the early years will provide a stimulating and nurturing environment, that seeks to invoke awe and wonder, as well as the opportunity to develop the skills to play and explore, to be an active leaner and think critically.
As a result of our Early Years curriculum we strive for our children to:
- Be autonomous within our setting, so that they may learn self-sufficiency and display high levels of engagement.
- Be confident in their learning, so they may take considered risks and develop resilience.
- Have a positive self-image, so they may be confident to approach all tasks with confidence.
- Learn about friendship and how to be a good friend.
- Learn about the needs of others.
- Be aware of different emotions and how to talk about their feelings and those of others.
- Be effective communicators and to use communication as a powerful tool to share ideas and how to solve problems.
- Develop their concentration skills, so they may focus their attention to a task.
- Understand how to keep healthy and how their choices affect their health and well-being.
- Develop key life skills.
- Develop a love of reading and stories.
- Have a strong foundation of phonics and to be successful readers and writers.
- Mark make/write with confidence and purpose.
- Have a strong foundation of early maths.
- Be given experiences that enrich their knowledge and learning.
- Be intrinsically motivated in order to promote their aspirations and to in being a member of our school community.
- Have an understanding and respect for other people’s faiths and beliefs and the difference it makes to their lives, deepening their understanding of the world and their own experience within it.
- Leave EYFS, equipped with the physical skills, learning dispositions and knowledge, as well as the social, emotional, spiritual understanding to access the National Curriculum with a respect for their own religion, beliefs and morals, as well as those of others.
- Be ready to develop a deeper understanding of our core values of respect, peace, friendship, thankfulness, compassion and responsibility.
Our implementation ensures full coverage of the Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum. Our curriculum intent drives the rationale for our approach, our environment, our resource choices and our curriculum coverage.
“We value space, to create a handsome environment and its potential to inspire social, effective and cognitive learning. The space is an aquarium that mirrors the ideas and values of the people who live in it.” (Loris Malaguzzi)
We are passionate about providing our children with an environment that enables them to be immersed in learning. We are inspired by Reggio approach, in that we believe that the environment acts as a third teacher. Our environment is clearly thought-out to provide calming, communication-friendly spaces, where children can develop their concentration skills and focus on task. Staff work to develop thinking skills, to extend vocabulary and to support sustained shared thinking.
We offer a balance between open-ended resources that provoke critical thinking and imagination, as well as cosy nooks that inspire awe and wonder and an eagerness to explore. The organisation of resources is purposeful, so that our children may develop the characteristics of effective learning, which are essential for lifelong learning and the intrinsic motivation that we nurture in our children. All staff are trained to a high level and are experienced EYFS practitioners. Staff are committed to CPD and have an Elklan qualified teacher, as well as staff members who are completing the NPQEYs course.
“Our rich and varied cultural heritage has a profound power to help build our nation.” (Nelson Mandella)
At St. Thomas’ Primary School, we are proud of the rich and varied experiences we offer our children, so that they can have a greater awareness of their own heritage, the community in which they live and an understanding of the cultures of other communities in our country and around the world. We have carefully woven the threads of awareness and understanding of life in modern Britain through our Early Years Long Term Plan.
Building on the wider school lighthouse curriculum, we have designed our own, bespoke approach: ‘Looking In And Around’, ‘Looking Out And Beyond’ and ‘Looking Far And Wide’. This is based upon research of child development of how children perceive themselves as an individual and the age at which they develop an understanding of self-awareness. Our children begin the school year by learning about themselves as an individual and as part of a group. They will learn about their own community and culture and will be able to identify themselves as part of a family, as part of a school family and Church community. Staff spend time finding out about our families and this is shared with children and parents, so that we can each appreciate the various contributions made by our families to society. By giving children the opportunity to develop a strong sense of self, we are then able to support children in learning about the wider community: by learning about different parts of the UK, different cultures and ways of life. Indeed, they are then looking beyond their immediate family and community. They are, 'looking out and beyond'. By the summer term, the children have acquired a good understanding of different ways of life, different professions, different customs and culture and they finish the year by 'looking far and wide' – learning about the different geographical elements of a country that is not in the United Kingdom. Children then have strong foundations of culture capital, as they enter Key Stage One.
In the Early Years, we continue to be research-led, so that we can adopt approaches that continue to support and challenge our children. We use data to highlights gaps and to support children who are not working within the expectations for their age.
We make careful observational assessments of children in their independent play and this contributes to their personal learning journey which tracks individual progression through Development Matters statements. We deliver high quality learning opportunities indoors and outdoors. Our knowledge of the children’s interests and needs is the basis for our planning. Enrichment activities such as our Five Be experiences, trips and visitors are also planned to enrich learning and to ensure high levels of engagement and enjoyment within our Early Years provision.
Planning for interests and prior knowledge
Our curriculum is planned to allow time and space for children to build on prior learning experiences. Adults are open to following the children's interests, ensuring that play is carefully scaffolded and activities are matched to children's needs. Tapestry is used by parents and staff to communicate children's key learning. Staff can gain insight into children’s learning out of school, so that we can then provide resources and learning experiences that enrich a child’s skills and knowledge, taking into account prior knowledge and experiences. Children have ownership in their learning and become skilled in disseminating their own knowledge and experiences with their peers.
Language and Literacy Development
Children learn about phonics during the Autumn term, when they take part in Phase One phonic activities. From the Summer Term in Nursery and into Key Stage 1, we follow a systematic phonics scheme (Read Write Inc programme) to teach phonics and reading.
Key vocabulary is well-planned and is shared with parents for each topic. During weekly meetings, staff collaborate to plan relevant and ambitious vocabulary, which is displayed within each classroom and is used by all staff during play, ensuring a consistent approach in the teaching of key vocabulary. Elklan approaches are used to develop and extend children's acquisition of language.
Maths is incorporated into our continuous provision and practitioners have a good understanding of early maths. Maths coverage in nursery is carefully mapped out to support children to develop their understanding of the number system, of comparison and cardinality, as well as patterns, measures and spatial reasoning. This is build on throughout Reception, when children are introduced to the whole-school Maths approach, using 'Maths No problem' as well as daily maths activities and opportunity to develop mathematical skills in Continuous Provision.
As part of our St Thomas’ Beacons of Light Curriculum, each child is supported to develop key life skills. In our Early Years, children are taught how to brush their teeth correctly and about the importance of good oral health. They are also taught how to use the toilet and wash their hands effectively, how to dress and undress, how to use cutlery, as well as taking the first steps in learning how to swim. These life skills are progressive across our school and are complimented by our 'Five Be Experiences,' which include a visit from owls, visits to our church, a ferry ride across the river Mersey, as well as a trip to Manchester runway centre and caring for our school chickens: children are immersed in a wide range of expereinces.
Early Years Impact
As a result of a progressive, well-sequenced and purposeful Early Years curriculum, the children in the Foundation Stage of St. Thomas CE Primary have a strong understanding of themselves as an individual and as part of their own family. They also have a good awareness of themselves a member of the school and wider community, as well as an understanding of the wider world. They are well equipped for Year One: they have positive learning dispositions and they are ready to develop our Lighthouse Curriculum.
Children will be committed to be the very best they will think creatively when solving a range of problems and tackling different situations. Children have the knowledge, skills and concepts needed to be successful in their future learning journey and be school ready. All children, particularly the most disadvantaged and those with special educational needs/disabilities gain the knowledge and cultural capital they need to succeed in life.
We monitor the impact of our curriculum through:
- The use of ECCERS and SSTEW audits, so that we can continually evaluate and improve or environment, our interactions and our curriculum to meet the needs of each cohort. Weekly staff meetings to plan as a team, in response to individual children’s needs, as well as opportunities to develop professional expertise.
- Close observations of independent play in all areas of learning leading to identification of individual next steps.
- Subject Leadership: The Early Years lead routinely monitors the effectiveness of the curriculum through deep dives, pupil voice exercises, work scrutiny and teaching and learning observations.
- Pupil Progress Meetings take place termly with our Senior Leadership Team, to ensure that no child is left behind.