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Early Years at St Clare’s Catholic Primary School

‘Every child deserves the best possible start in life and the support that enables them to fulfil their potential. Children develop quickly in the early years and a child’s experiences between birth and age five have a major impact on their future life chances. A secure, safe and happy childhood is important in its own right. Good parenting and high-quality early learning together provide the foundation children need to make the most of their abilities and talents as they grow up.’

(Statutory framework for the early years foundation stage. 2021)

Early childhood is the foundation on which children build the rest of their lives. 


At St Clare’s Catholic Primary School, we value enormously the importance that the EYFS plays in laying secure foundations for future learning and development. We also believe that early childhood is valid in itself as a part of life. Therefore, it is important to view the EYFS as preparation for life and not simply preparation for the next stage of education.


The aims of the Early Foundation Stage at St Clare’s Catholic Primary School are:

  • To provide children with access to a broad and balanced high-quality curriculum in line with the Early Years Foundation Guidance;
  • To recognise that the Foundation Stage is critical in a child’s physical, intellectual, emotional and social development;
  • To support children to make a planned confident transition from home to school;
  • To plan learning experiences that meet the individual needs and interests of the children through a balanced provision of adult led and child initiated opportunities;
  • To provide high quality and consistent teaching and learning opportunities so that every child can become competent and confident learners and enable them to reach their full potential;
  • To work closely with parents and other care providers in an atmosphere of mutual respect.


Early Years Foundation Stage

Early Years education focuses on seven areas of learning – these are equally important and inter-connected. However, three areas known as the prime areas are seen as particularly important for igniting curiosity and enthusiasm for learning, and for building children’s capacity to learn, form relationships and thrive. 

The prime areas of learning are:
CL         Communication and Language
PD         Physical Development
PSED    Personal Social and Emotional development

The specific areas of learning are:
L        Literacy
M       Mathematics
EAD   Expressive Arts and Design
UW    Understanding the World

There are four key principles that underpin our practice in EYFS at St Clare’s Catholic Primary School 

  • A Unique Child – We recognise that all children are different. We identify and celebrate their strengths and support their areas for development. 
  • Positive Relationships  Our pupils interact well with each other and with the adults in the school. We encourage parents to be involved with their child’s education.
  • Enabling Environments  Our indoor and outdoor areas encourage exploration, investigation and independent learning. Our displays and resources are well maintained and reflect current learning.
  • Learning and Developmen Learning is playful, practical and purposeful and builds upon prior attainment. Our children enjoy coming to school.


Planning is carried out by teaching staff who hold meetings to ensure consistency and progression across Nursery and Reception. Staff plan activities and experiences for the children that enable them to develop and learn effectively. During these sessions, the teachers reflect on four questions: “What do our focus children need to learn? What are they curious about? What embedded learning have we observed in this area? What can be changed to exploit the learning and interests of the children/individuals in this area?” With this approach, we ensure that the children have agency over their environment and that the provision leads to depth of learning across the curriculum. To do this, practitioners working with the youngest children are expected to focus strongly on the three prime areas. Staff also consider the individual needs, interests, and development stage of each child in their care and use this information to plan challenging and enjoyable experiences. Where a child may have a special educational need or disability, staff consider whether specialist support is required, linking with relevant services from other agencies, where appropriate. In planning and guiding children’s activities, practitioners reflect on the different ways that children learn and include these in their practice.

Characteristics of Effective Learning

Our curriculum provides the cultural capital we know our pupils need so that they can gain the knowledge, skills and understanding they require for success. They can only do that if we embed the right habits for learning through the Characteristics of Effective Teaching and Learning – Play and Exploration, Active Learning and Creative and Critical Thinking –  therefore we ensure that our environment and delivery of the curriculum incorporates the three characteristics of effective teaching and learning:

Playing and exploring – children will have opportunities to investigate and experience things, and ‘have a go’. 

“Children’s play reflects their wide ranging and varied interests and preoccupations. In their play children learn at their highest level. Play with peers is important for children’s development.”

(Early Years Foundation Stage, Department for Children,  Schools and Families, 2007)

Through play, our children explore and develop learning experiences, which help them make sense of the world. They practise and build up ideas, learn how to control themselves and understand the need for rules. They have the opportunity to think creatively alongside other children as well as on their own. They communicate with others as they investigate and solve problems.

Active learning – children will have time and space to concentrate and keep on trying if they encounter difficulties and enjoy their achievements.

“Children learn best through physical and mental challenges. Active learning involves other people, objects, ideas and events that engage and involve children for sustained periods.”

(Early Years Foundation Stage, Department for Children,  Schools and Families, 2007)

Active learning occurs when children are motivated and interested. Children need some independence and control over their learning. As children develop their confidence, they learn to make decisions. It provides children with a sense of satisfaction as they take ownership of their learning.

Creating and thinking critically – we encourage and support children to have and develop their own ideas, make links between ideas, and develop strategies for doing things.

“When children have opportunities to play with ideas in different situations and with a variety of resources, they discover connections and come to new and better understandings and ways of doing things. Adult support in this process enhances their ability to think critically and ask questions.”

(Early Years Foundation Stage, Department for Children,  Schools and Families, 2007)

Children should be given the opportunity to be creative through all areas of learning. Adults can support children’s thinking and help them make connections by showing interest, offering encouragement, clarifying ideas and asking open ended questions.

Enabling Environments

The environment supports children to be fully engaged in purposeful play of their own choices and interests. The outdoor and indoor environments allow for learning in all areas of development. The indoor environment is the ideal place for children to be calm (and we enforce this requirement firmly and consistently), engaging in activities which require small equipment and working with resources not appropriate for outdoors.

Across EYFS in all areas, the resources are available and accessible to the children at all times. The areas are clear, stocked and tidy at the start of the day: the tables and carpet areas are free of equipment however the resources are close by and available. We believe this allows children to be in control of their own learning. They are able to select the area in which to play, the resources to use in that area and what to do with them. Obviously, their choices are limited by the areas and resources available so it is therefore crucial to have engaging, high-quality, open ended resources. It is also a requirement to have areas that are well-stocked, tidy, clearly labelled (with picture/word or shadows) and arranged to allow optimum access. Shadowing and photographing resources support our children to be independent when tidying up. The environment is constantly reviewed and reflected upon to see which areas are proving to be productive and which need altering. We also review our provision in terms of levels of involvement. If an area or a resource is not engaging children in purposeful play, we remove it or change it.


Implementation – How do we teach what we teach?

Babies and young children are experiencing and learning in the here and now, not storing up their questions until tomorrow or next week. It is in that moment of curiosity, puzzlement, effort or interest – the ‘teachable moment’ – that the skilful adult makes a difference. By using this cycle on a moment by moment basis, the adult will always be alert to individual children (observation), always thinking about what it tells us about the child’s thinking (assessment), and always ready to respond by using appropriate strategies at the right moment to support children’s well-being and learning (planning for the next moment).

(Department for Children, Schools and Families, 2009:22-23)


We aim to offer an environment that enables child-initiated play in order to capture the moment of engagement. 

Reading is at the heart of our curriculum.  Children follow the rigorous and highly successful Little Wandle program faithfully. Both Nursery and Reception have a big question to answer over the course of the year which is broken down into a question for each half-term unit. The themes are based on opening ideas coming from the EYFS curriculum. From this, we have chosen multiple high-quality texts to create an integrated approach to learning from which pupils can experience the full curriculum. 

We follow the White Rose maths approach in Reception with an emphasis on studying key skills of number, calculation and shape so that pupils develop deep understanding and the acquisition of mathematical language.  Pupils learn number facts through games and tasks using concrete manipulatives which are then rehearsed and applied to their own learning during exploration. Nursery pupils begin to develop these key skills during daily maths meetings where they explore sorting, quantities, shape, number and counting awareness.  These early mathematical experiences are carefully designed to help pupils remember the content they have been taught and to support them with integrating their new knowledge across the breadth of their experiences and into larger concepts. 

Impact: how do we know what pupils have learnt and how well they have learnt it?

Our curriculum needs to meet the needs of our children, including our disadvantaged pupils and those with SEND, so we spend time looking at and evaluating how children are learning. This is achieved through talking to children, looking at their work, observing their learning experiences and analysing data and progress by year group, class, groups and individuals. Every member of staff uses ongoing observational assessment to identify children’s starting points and plan experiences which ensure progress. We use this information on a weekly basis to plan learning experiences and next steps so that knowledge and skills are built cumulatively. Across the academic year, there are ‘checkpoints’ where teachers update the progress children have made onto a tracking system which allows us to assess the impact of teaching and evaluate whether it has been enough.