Early Years Curriculum

Foxes logo

Foxes logo

Children in Foundation Stage follow a curriculum which builds on the activities they have experienced in pre-school or nursery. There are 3 prime areas of learning – communication and language, physical development and personal, social and emotional development. These are supplemented by 4 specific areas of learning – literacy, mathematics, understanding the world and expressive arts and design. Within these areas are 17 Early Learning Goals against which a child’s development is assessed. Progress is recorded carefully throughout the year in the form of an online individual learning journey and a ‘special book’.

All children start school full time in September after a short induction into school. Activities are planned using the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum – a national curriculum

Squirrels logo

Squirrels logo

especially for early years / reception children. It is extremely flexible catering for all needs and abilities. The children’s confidence and independence are encouraged and developed by the staff. Children are given the opportunity to communicate their thoughts and ideas in a variety of settings. Concepts and skills are taught through planned play and practical activities using a variety of tools, materials and media.

Three Characteristics of Effective Learning

Playing and Exploring – do they investigate and experience things, and ‘have a go’?
Learning Actively – do they concentrate and keep on trying if they encounter difficulties, and enjoy achievements?
Creating and Thinking Critically – do they have and develop their own ideas, make links between ideas, and develop strategies for doing things?

Baseline assessment

All children are assessed on entry to school. This does not include any tests or tasks, instead it relies on Early Years staff making judgements on the children’s attainment. We do this by observing and interacting with the children, talking to parents and meeting with staff at their previous pre-school or nursery. The assessment is only done when children are ready, within the first 6 weeks of starting school. Children are assessed on how they learn, their language and communication, physical skills, personal, social and emotional skills and their literacy and maths skills. Children remain in class and follow their normal routine – the assessments will be completed through their everyday activities and play.

How we teach

We teach Foundation Stage children on their own, in groups or as a whole class. They may be directed to specific activities, or encouraged to ‘plan’, which is where they choose from a range of activities and provision in the classroom or outside in our garden. At this stage children primarily learn through play and by exploring and investigating the world, they can start to make sense of their experiences. Promoting independence is a key part of our curriculum and we work hard to develop this in all our children.


Mud kitchen

Our mud kitchen in the Foundation Stage garden.

We have a fantastic and well equipped Foundation Stage garden for our children to play in. There is lots of space for children to ride bikes and scooters and we have plenty of materials for them to engage in construction, puzzles, physical challenges and role play. We also access the Junior School field adjacent to our garden for our forest school activities.


This crucial life skill begins in Foundation Stage. We encourage children to delight in the wonder of books as we gradually introduce them to our reading system. We meet with parents in the first term to explain how we teach reading and phonics. All children go home with a class book and a picture book in their book bags, for them to enjoy reading with their families each night. Guided reading in groups begins when Foundation Stage children are ready.

Prime Areas

Communication and language

Listening and attention: children listen attentively in a range of situations. They listen to stories, accurately anticipating key events and respond to what they hear with relevant comments, questions or actions. They give their attention to what others say and respond appropriately, while engaged in another activity.
Understanding: children follow instructions involving several ideas or actions. They answer ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions about their experiences and in response to stories or events.
Speaking: children express themselves effectively, showing awareness of listeners’ needs. They use past, present and future forms accurately when talking about events that have happened or are to happen in the future. They develop their own narratives and explanations by connecting ideas or events.

Physical development

Moving and handling: children show good control and co-ordination in large and small movements. They move confidently in a range of ways, safely negotiating space. They handle equipment and tools effectively, including pencils for writing.
Health and self-care: children know the importance for good health of physical exercise, and a healthy diet, and talk about ways to keep healthy and safe. They manage their own basic hygiene and personal needs successfully, including dressing and going to the toilet independently.

Personal, social and emotional development

Self-confidence and self-awareness: children are confident to try new activities, and say why they like some activities more than others. They are confident to speak in a familiar group, will talk about their ideas, and will choose the resources they need for their chosen activities. They say when they do or don’t need help.
Managing feelings and behaviour: children talk about how they and others show feelings, talk about their own and others’ behaviour, and its consequences, and know that some behaviour is unacceptable. They work as part of a group or class, and understand and follow the rules. They adjust their behaviour to different situations, and take changes of routine in their stride.
Making relationships: children play co-operatively, taking turns with others. They take account of one another’s ideas about how to organise their activity. They show sensitivity to others’ needs and feelings, and form positive relationships with adults and other children.

Specific Areas


Reading: children read and understand simple sentences. They use phonic knowledge to decode regular words and read them aloud accurately. They also read some common irregular words. They demonstrate understanding when talking with others about what they have read.
Writing: children use their phonic knowledge to write words in ways which match their spoken sounds. They also write some irregular common words. They write simple sentences which can be read by themselves and others. Some words are spelt correctly and others are phonetically plausible.


Numbers: children count reliably with numbers from 1 to 20, place them in order and say which number is one more or one less than a given number. Using quantities and objects, they add and subtract two single-digit numbers and count on or back to find the answer. They solve problems, including doubling, halving and sharing.
Shape, space and measures: children use everyday language to talk about size, weight, capacity, position, distance, time and money to compare quantities and objects and to solve problems. They recognise, create and describe patterns. They explore characteristics of everyday objects and shapes and use mathematical language to describe them.

Understanding the world

People and communities: children talk about past and present events in their own lives and in the lives of family members. They know that other children don’t always enjoy the same things, and are sensitive to this. They know about similarities and differences between themselves and others, and among families, communities and traditions.
The world: children know about similarities and differences in relation to places, objects, materials and living things. They talk about the features of their own immediate environment and how environments might vary from one another. They make observations of animals and plants and explain why some things occur, and talk about changes.
Technology: children recognise that a range of technology is used in places such as homes and schools. They select and use technology for particular purposes.

Expressive arts and design

Exploring and using media and materials: children sing songs, make music and dance, and experiment with ways of changing them. They safely use and explore a variety of materials, tools and techniques, experimenting with colour, design, texture, form and function.
Being imaginative: children use what they have learnt about media and materials in original ways, thinking about uses and purposes. They represent their own ideas, thoughts and feelings through design and technology, art, music, dance, role-play and stories.

We put the individual child at the centre of everything that we do!
We understand that play based learning is the key to successful, happy, confident and resilient learners of the future.

With a system of focus children, a workshop style environment and records kept on spontaneous planning sheets and learning journeys, the children are learning effectively all the time!!

Inputs (or when adults teach key concepts in small or larger groups) happen a number of times throughout the day e.g. maths usually happens for 15/20 minutes straight after lunch and phonics happens in the morning after ‘Funky Fingers’. The majority of this work is practical, hands-on and is not written down. Others areas of the curriculum are also taught through direct input by an adult at various points each week. We forward plan our Inputs based on children’s needs and interests. We do not have focus groups we have focus children.

Focus Children: 3 or 4 are chosen as focus children per week, 3 times per year. They each have personalised next steps for that week. These are created by adults the week before, either from previous summative assessment, incidental observations from the previous weeks or our own knowledge of the children. Pupil Premium children will have extra weeks as focus child and therefore many more adult interactions. This will challenge, target and support their individual needs.

Any interactions that staff have with other children are added to Tapestry or recorded as ‘WOW’ moments and put on the learning wall. Group activities are recorded on the ‘spontaneous planning’ sheet. This is kept in the class and shows 3 things; what did the adult see, what did the adult teach the child or group, what was the outcome? These are the crucial moments when teaching takes place. They can range from encouraging a child to zip up their own coat or showing a group how to use the timer on the iPad to record their game. These are not planned activities. Here we can see what areas of the curriculum have been covered. These are the interactions that happen all day long in our Early Years.

Parents and carers are sent a letter the week before their child is the focus for the following week. It asks if they have any concerns or worries. It also asks if there is anything of significance going on at home e.g. birthdays, new pets etc. Staff will use this information during the child’s focus week to help individualise their learning. At the beginning of their focus week children share their focus sheets and ‘Tapestry’ photos with an adult. Parents are asked to come into school the following week to discuss their learning and development and next steps. They also have the opportunity to look at their child’s special book.

We believe our environment is the third teacher. We do not put out table-top activities. Adults encourage children to choose what they’d like to do, indoors and out. Children have long sustained time to play. Adults model how to respect, play with and look after our resources. The principle is that resources are accessible to the children and they are varied, open-ended and high quality. This gives children the opportunity to select resources to support their chosen activity. These are available to play with at all times. ‘Tidy up police’ check on peers at the end of each session. While resources are changed periodically (possibly after they’ve been introduced to a focus child or small group) our environment is kept ‘clutter’ free – enabling good tidying and respect for these resources.
After we have completed our summative assessment staff analyse the data and make changes to the overall environment. Staff know that they are showing children how to learn, rather than what to learn.

Adults support early writing through ‘Story Scribing.’ Once or twice a week children’s stories are shared with the class. Each class has a ‘toy’, the children take it in turns to take home and record in a book their time with it. We also have dedicated ‘story time/ super sentences’ sessions where adults and children work together to develop children’s literacy skills.

Sometimes provocations or invitations to play are added to an area e.g. if the area is not being used that much or to challenge and further children’s knowledge and experiences when an adult is not around.

During the week staff look on the planning board at the next steps for each of the focus children and tailor their interactions accordingly. They challenge and question where appropriate at the level that is right for that child. Adults move the child’s learning forward there and then – ‘in the moment planning.’ We believe all adults are teachers and every interaction is an opportunity for a ‘teachable moment.’ They use the words and guidance set out in OFSTED’s definition of teaching in the Early Years as a touch point for their verbal and written interactions. Some of these observations are collated on Tapestry towards the end of the week in order that parents can share in their child’s learning.

Please check our useful links page for even more information.

The StoryBots app is full of great animated videos for Foundation Stage children - about letters, numbers, days and months, space, dinosaurs, healthy food and much more. The children love the videos which are funny, clever and educational!

Mr Thorne does Phonics - including the children's favourite, Geraldine the Giraffe!

Phonic Alien Adventure app

Phonic Alien Adventure for the iPad - Phonic Alien Adventure uses fun and engaging graphics to help children develop their phonic awareness. The game is set on the spaceship of a friendly alien species called the Zeeboes. The player must help to identify the object at the end of the conveyor belt by scrolling through the missing phonemes (sounds). If they select the correct phoneme and complete the word correctly then the object will be beamed up into the hatch. The game has 5 levels that gradually increase in difficulty with longer words and more missing phonemes.

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