Early Years Foundation Stage

In the Early Years at Nelson Primary School our children are excited and motivated to learn through rich and challenging activities, opportunities to take risks, and first-hand experiences in a stimulating and well-resourced environment.

We have high expectations for all of our children and recognise that children have different starting points to their learning. We spend time getting to know the children well through observing how they interact with adults, with each other and with the environment and the exciting resources provided. Knowing that children who feel safe, secure, valued and cared for will thrive, every child’s wellbeing is at the heart of what we do. At Nelson, children are well cared for by nurturing adults who get to know the children through high quality interactions. We plan in response to the children’s stage of development and interests and aim for children to be well-rounded individuals who are independent, resilient and confident in their relationships with others and ready for their future learning.
Parents as Partners

We recognise that parents are the first educators in their children’s lives and place great importance on their contributions and insights into their children’s learning and development. We work closely with them to support children’s transition into the setting, enabling us to carefully consider each individual’s needs. Throughout the year, we use parent’s insights to add to our knowledge of each child and regularly share information with parents both formally, at parent’s evenings and in reports and informally at pick up and drop off time.

Our parents are encouraged to be actively involved in their children’s learning in school and are able to share learning experiences through ‘stay and play’ sessions in Nursery, contributing to learning journeys and volunteering. We also look forward to parents sharing their child’s ‘WOW’ moments with us, which recognise children’s achievements outside of school.

What is it like in Early Years on a day to day basis?

Our children learn through a balance of adult-led and child-led experiences and opportunities, feeling proud that their new learning is celebrated and their achievements are valued. They care for and make positive relationships with each other and their familiar adults and have time to focus on their own ideas. Children enjoy coming to school and are eager to learn.
The Learning Environment

Our learning environment continually changes to support our curriculum and provision for the children, offering them opportunities to follow their own interests through selecting their own resources, making their own decisions and enabling them to become deeply involved in their own ideas and play.
The environment ignites children’s imaginations through opportunities for building and digging in the sand pits, cooking in mud kitchens, going shopping in a mini village or exploring a pirate ship. We provide open-ended resources which can be anything the children want them to be, stimulating their own ideas and developing their creativity and language.

Resources such as wooden blocks offer opportunities for learning in a variety of ways, from imaginative play to maths. A cardboard box can be a car one day and a house the next. Large construction blocks may be an obstacle course one day, be used with the tyres to make a fire engine the next day and be a house for the Three Little Pigs another day. These resources, coupled with time and adult interaction, provide an opportunity for collaboration, enriching children’s learning.

Climbing equipment offers opportunities to develop children’s physical strength, balance and co-ordination, while also encouraging social interaction with others, such as supporting a friend to balance on a beam. The environment both indoors and outside facilitates child-initiated play and provides children with carefully planned opportunities which allow them to explore, create and learn through exciting, stimulating, interactive and accessible resources.

Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum 2021

At Nelson Primary School, our curriculum is based on ‘The Early Years Foundation Stage Statutory Framework’ (EYFS). Within this framework there are four guiding principles that shape our practice. These are:

  • Every child is a unique child, who is constantly learning and can be resilient, capable, confident and self-assured
  • Children learn to be strong and independent through positive relationships
  • Children learn and develop well in enabling environments with teaching and support from adults, who respond to their individual interests and needs and help them to build their learning over time. Children benefit from a strong partnership between practitioners and parents and/or carers.
  • Children develop and learn at different rates. The framework covers the education and care of all children in early years provision, including children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)
There are seven areas of learning and development. All areas of learning and development are important and inter-connected.
Prime Areas

There are three prime areas of learning which ignite children’s interests and curiosity and provide the foundation for the ‘specific areas’ of learning. These are:

  • communication and language
  • personal, social, and emotional development.
  • physical development.

At Nelson, we give lots of opportunities for children to learn and develop their skills in these areas as they are the building blocks for all other learning.

The educational programmes set out the opportunities, experiences and learning that children should have during their time in the foundation stage in each area of learning.

Communication and Language

Language is the foundation of children’s thinking and learning and underpins all other learning. We spend a lot of time having conversations with children, commenting on what they are doing and adding new words to their vocabulary. Children enjoy listening to and ‘playing out’ daily stories, rhymes and songs and have opportunities to use new words in their play.
Personal, Social and Emotional Development

Children’s personal, social and emotional development is important in helping children to make sense of their world, their experiences and all the people they meet. At Nelson we develop strong, warm and supportive relationships with the children to help them to understand how they feel and to begin to understand how others feel. Learning to manage their emotions, feel positive about themselves, have confidence in their abilities and to wait for their needs to be met are all crucial to their wellbeing and learning. Looking after their bodies, developing personal independence and learning to co-operate and make friends are all important life skills which will help children to achieve what they set out to do.
Physical Development

Physical activity is vital for children’s all-round development, helping them to live happy, healthy and active lives. Each day children have lots of experiences and opportunities to develop their core strength, co-ordination, balance, stability and their awareness of where their body is in space. Children play indoors and outdoors, playing games, climbing and balancing and exploring the environment. A healthy body leads to social and emotional wellbeing. Children need to develop their fine motor skills to support their later writing which we develop through supporting children to learn to use scissors, mark making equipment, completing puzzles and squeezing and rolling playdough, for example.
Specific Areas

There are four specific areas of learning. These are:

  • literacy
  • mathematics
  • understanding the world
  • expressive arts and design.

These areas build on communication and language, personal, social and emotional development and physical development.


The aim is for children to develop a life-long love of reading. Children need to learn to understand language first through talking with adults about the world around them and the books, rhymes and songs they share, which happens every day at Nelson. Later, the children learn to read and write words using their phonic skills and instant recognition of words, opening up a new world of stories and information books that they can start to read for themselves.

Children need to become confident mathematicians who feel positive about their abilities in maths, can look for patterns and make connections, ‘have a go’ and talk to adults and their friends about what they notice. Children are encouraged to see making ‘mistakes’ as part of learning. Through using practical resources to support understanding, we aim to support children to learn to count confidently and develop a deep understanding of numbers to 10. They will learn to use mathematical vocabulary and will learn about shape, space and measures.
Understanding the World

Through real experiences, stories, rhymes and poems we will support children to make sense of their physical world and their community, finding out about different families, occupations and cultures. Children will find out about different places and people, how to look after our planet and how we can use technology in our world.

At Nelson children are regularly exposed to new experiences which help create ‘awe and wonder’. Each year we welcome ‘living eggs’ and caterpillars into the classroom to support the children’s understanding of lifecycles. We regularly visit our ‘outdoor classroom’ and engage in minibeast hunts, gardening and a variety of outdoor experiences. The children love the sensory experience of handling large and small animals when the farm comes to visit each year.
Expressive Arts and Design

Children explore and play with different media and materials which supports their imagination and creativity. This area of learning encompasses role play, dance, music, singing, construction, story making, painting, drawing and the use of a wide range of materials for children to ‘create’ using their imaginations. At Nelson children often use ‘loose parts’ in their play. These can be corks, pine cones, bamboo pieces and a range of other materials that children can ‘place’ to create an arrangement or use in their role play and small world, imaginative games. Children have opportunities to see others perform and to perform themselves. They are encouraged to join in with daily singing and dancing, they have access to musical instruments and a stage area where they can perform. All of these experiences and freely accessed resources encourage self-expression.
Characteristics of effective teaching and learning

Threading through our EYFS curriculum are the ‘characteristics of effective teaching and learning’ which helps us to think about how individual children learn as well as planning what they learn. This enables us to adjust our teaching and our environments to support children’s development. These ‘characteristics’ are:

  • playing and exploring – children investigate and experience things, and ‘have a go’
  • active learning – children concentrate and keep on trying if they encounter difficulties, and enjoy achievements
  • creating and thinking critically – children have and develop their own ideas, make links between ideas, and develop strategies for doing things.
Our curriculum is ambitious and sequenced to ensure that children make progress towards the seventeen Early Learning Goals at the end of Reception.

All seven areas of learning are used to plan children’s learning. The professionals teaching and supporting your child at Nelson will make sure that experiences and opportunities are suited to your child’s unique needs. The curriculum is designed to be flexible so that staff can follow your child’s unique needs and interests.

Children in the EYFS learn by playing and exploring, being active, and through creative and critical thinking which takes place both indoors and outside. It is very important that children develop social skills, such as turn-taking, sharing, independence and organisational skills, which help them to focus on their learning, both independent and collaborative.
All children are born ready, able and eager to learn. They want to interact with other people, and with the world around them, seeking out experiences. Development is not an automatic process. It depends on each unique child having opportunities to interact with adults who know how to help them learn more through showing, demonstrating, explaining and modelling and through providing the right resources and enabling environments.

Phonics teaching and learning are a key part of the Foundation Stage and help to develop early reading and writing skills. Phonics is taught in an explicit and systematic way to help children to learn phonic skills rapidly, revisiting and practising skills to make sure that learning is secure.

Our curriculum is delivered through cross-curricular topics. In both Nursery and Reception, a range of learning opportunities are available to children such as role-play, practical games, creative experiences, reading, writing and maths both indoors and outside.

Children work and play independently, with a strong emphasis on choice and being able to sustain concentration on projects, as well as joining a variety of teaching assistant and teacher-led activities.

Assessment at the end of Reception

Assessment plays an important part in helping parents, carers and early years staff to recognise children’s progress, understand their needs, and to plan learning opportunities and support. Assessment at Nelson is ongoing, often ‘in the moment’ so that we are able to respond to children’s needs and next steps immediately to move children on in their learning. It involves the team observing children to understand what they know and can do and how they learn, and to then shape learning experiences for each child reflecting those observations through our day to day knowledge of the children. Parents have an important role to play in sharing with us what their children know and can do outside of school.

Each child’s level of development is assessed against the early learning goals. Children will be assessed as:

  • meeting ‘expected’ levels
  • not yet reaching expected levels (emerging).

At the end of the year, parents will receive a written report of their child’s progress and their attainment against the ‘early learning goals’. Reception teachers will share information about each child with Year 1 teachers to ensure a strong and smooth transition into Year 1.