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The Early Years Foundation Stage has seven areas: 3 Prime and 4 Specific.

The Prime areas are: Language and Communication; Personal, Social and Emotional; and Physical. These are the areas we will concentrate on first in a child under 3 years old. For a child of 3 and over, the Specific areas are: Literacy, Maths, Knowledge of the World, Art and Design. If a child is developing significantly in one of these areas prior to 3 years, we will include this in their reports.

For Language development, we follow two sets of guidance. The Every Child A Talker (ECAT) is a national scheme which has been adopted by Leicestershire County Council, and concentrates on building early skills. This means that your child will learn to clap in rhythm, repeat sounds and words, and experiment with sounds prior to any introduction to writing.

When children are showing interest and understanding in “mark making” (making their own representative pre-writing marks), we develop their skills following the DfES guidance for Early Years Settings and Schools, called Letters and Sounds. This extensive guide covers children up to Key Stage 2, progressing through 6 levels. The vast majority of the children in our settings will be working in stage 2 by the time they go to school.

Our staff are trained in delivering this programme, and have the support of our Early Years Teachers, Sam Graveling and Keighley Gardner.

Sam is also a Montessori Qualified Teacher, and trains the staff in using these materials to support their learning. Jo Colvin the Manager at our Leicester Forest East nursery is also a qualified Montessori Teacher, as is Maria Overton at our Anstey Nursery. We have several more staff who have been trained in Montessori practice for specific age ranges. Montessori has a very strong emphasis on learning sounds and letters through phonics, which is mirrored in the Letters and Sounds guide. We use a series of activities and resources which can also be used at home, and we are more than happy to share website addresses, and ideas for use at home either personally or via our Facebook page.

It is vitally important that your child has a good grasp of the foundation levels of this process in order to develop securely at the higher levels. Consequently our focus is on ensuring that your child does not “fast-track” through these essential aspects, missing out important stages, and that your child receives the esteem building recognition of these attainments. However, this does not mean that we will hold back a child who shows a particular interest and skill in this, or any other area.

To quote DfES, “Children should have multi-sensory experiences when developing their mark making, and should not experience more than 20 minutes of formal learning a day”. As professionals we are extremely aware of the damage that can be done by pushing a child into learning, typically into reading and writing before they are ready. Summer-born boys are particularly at risk as they may be the youngest in the class, and boys generally desire more physicality in their learning. This is why we have a word-rich environment surrounding the children, and plenty of opportunities for them to “mark-make” (the first lines and circles which children use to represent letters) not only within their role-play, but also in the environment as a whole. Using sticks to write in mud, chalks on slabs, magnetic letters on boards, is showing the same understanding and skill as using pen and paper, it is also more fun and therefore more likely to be repeated!

We will ensure that children have experiences and support from us at nursery, to enable them to be as independent as possible, and have developed a good level of self-confidence before they start school.

In a Reception class, children are expected to be able to take themselves to the bathroom, dress themselves, sit down at circle time, be able to listen and take part in Registration. They are expected to take turns, and share appropriately.

Their days will be spent learning about language, written and spoken, maths and science, and this will be done using different media as well as pen and paper. Everything we do at nursery is preparing your child for the transition to this bigger, busier environment where they have to be much more self-reliant.

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