At this young age, Westholme aims to cherish the individual and put in place the foundations of life long learning. We understand just how quickly children develop during their first five years of life and that young children’s potential for learning is unlimited. Westholme knows that a loving and stimulating environment can give young children confidence and enable them to flourish.
Westholme provides effective practice within the Early Years with committed, enthusiastic and reflective practitioners who have a breadth and depth of skills and understanding.
Our Early Years Practitioners are committed, enthusiastic and reflective and understand the individual and diverse ways that children develop and learn. They have extensive knowledge and resources which allow them to support and extend children’s learning and meet all their needs, learning styles and interests.
Planning is based on the Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum. This curriculum progresses through into the Infant School which facilitates a seamless progression throughout the early years. At the end of the reception class, when children are five years old, a profile is completed to show their progress.
As children develop and learn, they take with them what they already know; they continue to practise, refine, use and consolidate their previous development and learning. By the time they reach the end of the Foundation Stage, the majority of children will have achieved the early learning goals in all seven areas and some will have exceeded them.
There are seven areas covered by the early learning goals and educational programmes:
The three prime areas reflect the key skills and capabilities that all children need to develop and learn effectively and to become ‘school ready’. These three areas are particularly crucial for igniting children’s curiosity and enthusiasm for learning and building their capacity to learn, form relationships and thrive. These areas are:
- Personal, Social and Emotional Development
- Physical Development
- Communication and Language
For our very youngest children we focus strongly on the three prime areas, which form the foundation for successful learning in the four specific areas. As children grow more in confidence and ability with the prime areas the balance will shift towards a more equal focus on all prime and specific areas of learning.
Personal, Social and Emotional development involves helping children to develop a positive sense of themselves and others. To develop positive relationships and develop respect for others, to develop social skills and learn how to manage their feelings, to understand appropriate behaviour in groups and to have confidence in their own abilities.
Physical development involves providing opportunities for young children to be active and interactive, to develop their coordination, control and movement. Children must also be helped to understand the importance of physical activity and to make healthy choices in relation to food.
Communication and Language development involves giving children opportunities to experience a rich language environment; to develop their confidence and skills in expressing themselves and to speak and listen in a range of situations.
Through the specific areas we continue to strengthen and apply the prime areas. The specific areas are:
- Understanding the World
- Expressive Arts and Design
Each area of learning and development must be implemented through planned, purposeful play and through a mix of adult led and child-initiated play. Play is essential for children’s development, building their confidence as they learn to explore, to think about problems and relate to others. Children learn by leading their own play and by taking part in play which is guided by adults.
Literacy development involves encouraging children to link sounds and letters and begin to read and write. Children must be given access to a wide range of reading materials, fiction and non fiction texts and poems in order to ignite their interest.
Mathematics involves providing children with opportunities to develop and improve their skills in counting, understanding and using number, calculating and simple addition and subtraction problems, and to be able to describe shapes, space and measures.
Understanding the World involves guiding children to make sense of the physical world and their community through opportunities to explore, observe and find out about people, places, technology and the environment.
Expressive Arts and Design involves enabling children to explore and play with a wide range of media and materials as well as providing opportunities and encouragement for sharing their thoughts, ideas and feelings through a variety of activities in art, music, movement, dance, role-play and design technology.
We recognise each child’s emerging needs and interests, guiding their development through warm, positive interaction. As children grow older and as their development allows, it is expected that the balance will gradually shift towards more activities led by adults, to help children prepare for more formal learning ahead.
Three characteristics of learning
In planning and guiding children’s activities we take into account the different ways in which children learn. There are three characteristics of learning which are:
Playing and Exploring – the engagement of children, being able to find out and explore their environment, playing with what they know and be willing to ‘have a go’
Active Learning – the motivation of children, being involved and concentrating, persisting and keep on trying at a task, and enjoying achieving what they set out to do.
Creating and Thinking Critically – where children are able to think, where they are able to have their own ideas, make links in their play, and choosing for themselves different ways of doing things.
Taken from The Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage – September 2014
This curriculum is further enhanced with carefully planned enrichment sessions which punctuate the week. These sessions link in with an overarching theme, special days and festivals or children’s interests and provide stimulating teaching and learning opportunities for all of the children in early years. Enrichments are led by specialists as well as the practitioners in each room.
SUPERSTARS (PRE-SCHOOL YEAR)
The Superstars setting at Billinge House is an attractively designed suite of themed rooms and facilities all interconnecting and on the same level. These rooms open out onto a private, secure and covered outdoor play area with a low impact wet pour surface and extensive lawned play area.
The children in Superstars follow the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum which is further enhanced with the following enrichments.
Primary School trained teachers teach phonics, maths, PE, swimming and music during term time and our early years practitioners lead drama, creative crafts, cookery, French, yoga and mindfulness, nature detectives and science and investigations. Children can also take part in Ballet with our ballet specialist.
Each room is colour themed and designed to facilitate access to the Foundation Stage curriculum. The children can first observe and then gradually explore and take part in the wider experiences found within our Infant School. This includes visiting the school Learning Zone which houses the library and a suite of touch screen computers, playing outside with the Reception children on the playground, trim trail and Discovery Dell, as well as joining in with assemblies and whole school celebrations such as Harvest. This makes the move from Superstars to Reception a natural and easy transition at the end end of the child’s Pre School year.
We recognise that all children are individual and develop at their own rates; however, we aim to challenge and inspire children to progress across all areas of the curriculum. We carefully plan activities and gradually introduced more structure, over the course of the year, for example, children begin to learn to read through differentiated phonic sessions. This equips the children and supports them to become ‘school ready’ as they move from Superstars to Reception.
The Green Room
Our Green Room is the most spacious area in the Superstars area, providing many opportunities to learn within the Early Years environment and opening onto our outdoor covered classroom.
This play room provides opportunities for the children to have quiet time in our reading garden or spend time in their key worker groups taking part in focussed activities. In here children are also encouraged to develop their imagination and creativity as they access the resources and areas available to them. There are two role play areas; a home corner which allows for children to role play situations familiar to them as well as another role play area where they can make believe and assume roles such as doctor, dentist or even a superhero! A good selection of costumes and accessories add to their experiences. The role play area is designed to stir their curiosity, stimulate their creativity and capture their imagination; an imagination station is also situated in the Green Room to enhance the children’s play. In the music area the children can experiment and explore simple percussion instruments as well as express themselves to music using movement and dance. A large construction area encourages physical development as the children design and build with oversized resources and materials.
The Blue Room
In our Blue Room we help to support each individual child’s ideas, by allowing them to engage in purposeful play and by providing experiences that promote learning and development. Specialist teaching for Music, Phonics and Mathematics takes place in the Blue Room where access to the interactive whiteboard can be used by teachers and children alike. A maths corner promotes the use of numbers, shape and measure in play as well as providing challenges for the children to access continuously. The small world area houses extensive small world resources which children can freely access to enhance their play, create scenarios and retell favourite stories such as ‘We’re going on a Bear Hunt’.
Reading buddies, our cuddly toys, are an addition to the cosy corner in the Blue Room, where children can go for quite reflection, to look at books or share a story basket with their chosen buddy. There is also the option for the children to take a ‘nap’ should they wish to, however this is rarely something that happens in Superstars because the children are so busy!
There is also a small construction area and writing station in the blue room, both of which encourage fine manipulative development. Children are encouraged to write for different purposes and transportable writing boxes allow the children to access writing in all areas in the Superstars setting.
The Red Room
Our Red Room recognises and satisfies a child’s need to investigate, discover and explore through play. Our activities and resources within this learning environment introduce a child’s senses to a vast array of material such as sand, water and paint to name but a few. The malleable area allows the children to explore different materials and textures as well as independently making their own play dough! These experiences facilitate the development of manipulation skills and mark making opportunities which are important steps in their learning, leading to the acquisition of early reading and writing skills. The Superstars’ own kitchen ensures that cookery activities can be safely achieved with constant adult supervision.
The Outdoor Classroom
Our rich and varied learning environment is reflected both inside and out. Accessed through the Green Room, our private, secure and covered play area with a low impact wet pour surface allows the children to have first hand contact with weather, seasons and the natural world all year round. Our children love to put on their waterproofs and wellington boots to explore!
Our Reception bungalow houses two large, bright and stimulating rooms providing a range of diverse experiences for children to explore. An adjoining covered outdoor area and garden with an adventure trail and ship, provides additional physical challenges for our youngsters. Both the indoor and outdoor provision is constantly reviewed and enhanced to reflect children’s interests, current topics and developmentally appropriate resources to stretch and challenge all.
In Reception, learning takes place through a balance of focused teaching and carefully planned and resourced child initiated activities. Essential skills like reading, writing and mathematics are a key focus in preparation for children moving to Year One.
Situated within the grounds of the Infant School, children benefit from the wider school facilities like the ICT suite, hall, playgrounds and school library. These areas become part of each child’s routine, over the course of the year, as the structure of the school day increases.