Inspired by the work in Huddersfield which encourages children to investigate, sort, organise and, of course, play in a stimulating and structured environment, the Early Years classes have invested in new equipment, resources and training to put the philosophy in to practice. A visit to these stunning classes will show how children have responded to and benefit from these initiatives.
The Curriculum guidance for the foundation stage states that…
To be effective…. An early years curriculum should be carefully planned and requires a creative and challenging environment with resources that inspire children and encourage them to initiate their own learning.
The Early Excellence approach places the environment as being of central importance for learning.
A quality environment is one that is attractive, well organised and carefully structured to support independent play. Its organisation promotes active, hands-on learning, fostering independence and co-operation.
The first stage of adopting the Early Excellence philosophy was to divide the classrooms into small, discreet areas of learning. Each area has permanent, ongoing provision of resources that the children access freely. These resources are carefully selected to allow children to develop at their own pace, whilst also providing extension activities for the more able child.
The areas of learning are enhanced by adding extra resources as identified on the medium term plan for each half term. For example, adding shells to the sand area, or swimsuits and postcards in then role-play area for a ‘holidays’ topic.
Enhanced provision is changed regularly to provide a broad, balanced and stimulating curriculum. Children are encouraged to become independent, active learners; even tidying up becomes a sorting and classifying activity.
We were a little sceptical initially as to whether the environment would ‘work’ and not become chaotic or unmanageable. However, without doubt, after the children became familiar with our expectations and understood the classroom ground-rules, we found it truly does work!
Feedback from teachers in years 1 and 2 has been extremely positive. Reports about children being more independent learners, with wider vocabularies, who are increasingly more creative and imaginative are being fed back. Achievements in investigating work in science are also showing significant improvements.
Elements of Early Excellence philosophy are now evident throughout the school and are working just as effectively. Also, feedback from parents has been complimentary and supportive.