The Early Years
Children begin their education at Church Lench First School in their reception year under the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum. This curriculum is split into seventeen strands to cover all aspects of the children's learning, well being and development. Each strand is then split into further sections.
We welcome children to Church Lench First School from a variety of different preschools and nurseries. Due to our location, we receive most of our children from ‘The Lenches Preschool’. We work closely with preschools and nurseries to enable a smooth transition from their setting to ours. Preschool children are invited to visit school up to six times (more if required) during the summer term before they start in September. We invite children at different times of the day so that they can experience school routines. Staff from ‘The Lenches Preschool’ and school staff meet regularly at this time to discuss the children’s needs, interests and abilities.
Progress through the Early Years Foundation Stage
On entry to Church Lench First School, we observe the children closely and ask them to complete some play-based tasks to gain an understanding of the level that they are working at and their personalised next steps. We observe children in all 17 areas of the Early Years curriculum during tasks, play based learning, group work and through chosen activities to allow us to follow the children's progress throughout the academic year. By the end of the year, we are able to collect data to show whether children have achieved a ‘Good Level of Development’ (GLD) across their foundation year, which has to be reported by the school. GLD is given when children have reached the ‘expected’ level by the end of the year in 12 of the 17 ELGs.
Achieving GLD is a good indicator that your child is ‘on track’ with their learning and has built up their knowledge and skills ready to take on the National Curriculum through Key Stage 1. For those children who did not achieve ‘GLD’ at the end of their reception year, they will be supported through the autumn term (and further if necessary) of Year 1 to ensure that they have met the goals that were missed. We are very fortunate that, due to having a mixed Year R/1 class, the class teacher has great knowledge of the children when they enter Year 1 and can quickly fill in gaps in learning to move the children forward.
As the children begin their journey through our phonics curriculum, reading books are given to match the current sounds that the children are learning. We are using 'The Oxford Reading Tree' reading scheme which has books that follow our phonics scheme right up to the end of Year 1. This scheme enables children to explore texts at an appropriate phonics level and includes text types such as stories, traditional tales, non-fiction and information books to name but a few. As children progress with their reading during their time at Church Lench First School, they will then move onto the coloured band system until their reading skills enable them to access carefully chosen free-readers.
At the beginning of Reception, children will bring home books with no words to enable them to tell their own story from the pictures or from their own imagination. They will then move onto books with words as they learn to segment and blend words. We highly value reading at school and believe that parents/carers should play a very active role in supporting their children’s learning. Our school expectation is that children should read at least four times a week at home but find the children who make the most progress and who enjoy their learning the most are those that read more than that. In Reception, we listen to the children read three times a week as we value spending this quality time sharing a book with a child one-on-one and believe that this time makes a big impact on their early reading skills. We also share stories each day read by an adult so that children can enjoy books with their friends as well as access vocabulary and story lines that are beyond their current reading ability.
We teach phonics four times a week to aid the children with the early skills in reading and writing. Most children enter school ready to learn ‘Phase 2’ phonics (the letter sounds for single letters in the alphabet) and are taught the skills or segmenting, blending and decoding words using the 'Floppy's phonics' scheme that is matched to our reading books. They are also taught to recognise high frequency and ‘tricky’ words. As the children become more secure in their knowledge and skills, they are able to begin reading words and then writing them. Through the course of their reception year, children are exposed to reading and writing daily through teacher led activities, group work or independent choice activities. They move through ‘Phase 3’ (diagraphs/trigraphs such as ‘ch’, ‘ai’ and ‘igh’) and onto ‘Phase 4’ (segmenting and blending longer words). Some children, when they first start school, need a little more support with their understanding of phonics. These children may need to work on listening to sounds and speaking activities before they start to learn letter sounds.
The Play Plan
Staff at Church Lench First School plan lessons and learning experiences around a central topic or theme. These themes change each half term. We aim to develop the whole child by planning play activities in a variety of areas such as: role play, fine motor, gross motor, play-doh area, craft area, construction and the dance stage, amongst others. Each week, the children are asked for their input into what they would like to enhance their learning and then their feedback is woven into the play plan for the following week. Staff also monitor areas of strength or difficulties and facilitate play/learning opportunities for these areas. For example, we have a different fine motor activity each day to strengthen children's hand muscles and hand/eye coordination as we noticed that this was lower than average on entry to school.
Each day, the children have phonics, English (which includes: reading, writing speaking/listening and drama) and maths. In the afternoon sessions the children enjoy a range of topic lessons on themes such as: pirates, real life superheroes, seaside holidays or the Queen. We also have two PE lessons a week (gymnastics, dance or games), RE, music and PHSE. We attend collective worship each day including celebration assemblies on a Friday and ‘Open the Book’ stories at church. Alongside adult led activities/learning the children are able to choose through ‘free-flow’ time what they would like to do, whether inside the classroom or outside in our enclosed outdoor area. We are lucky to have many different areas of our classroom and outdoor provision including a mud kitchen, undercover teaching area, an outdoor stage, a craft area, role play (the theme varies depending on topic but can include vets, doctors, shops, the home corner or science lab) and construction corner. A lot of our areas have resources that children can freely choose and access as they would like.