Sarah Charlton is Head of Early Years at Ark Priory Academy in West London, an early adopter school.
As early adopters of the revised Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework, we have completed our year of implementing the revisions including using the revised Development Matters document, reviewing our curriculum in line with the educational programmes and an assessment of our Reception children’s attainment against the revised Early Learning Goals (ELGs).
For those implementing the revised EYFS for the first time, my advice is to stay grounded in your knowledge and understanding of child development. The new educational programmes and ELGs are revisions and not something completely new. For me, developing a whole school understanding of this was important too and I hope that sharing a small part of our work, will be helpful to other practitioners using them.
Throughout our work, we never lost sight of our EYFS vision. At Ark Priory we recognise that the early years of a child’s life are fundamental in setting the foundations for future academic and personal success. We want our youngest children to emerge showing readiness for the next stage of their education by exemplifying the characteristics of effective teaching and learning (CoETL). Our children are storytellers, explorers, authors, artists, readers, mathematicians, scientists and so much more. They should be curious about the world around them, have a desire to learn, make links between their experiences and their play, manage a range of social situations, make friends and solve problems.
With this vision I worked closely with my headteacher to define what I hoped to achieve. We developed a plan for professional development within our school with the support of the wider Ark Network. My aim was for all staff to develop their pedagogical understanding of early years, the curriculum and the ELGs and to gain insight and knowledge from other schools navigating the early adoption framework.
The staff team included:
- Reception and Nursery Teachers
- Head of School
- Teaching and Learning Lead
- Head of Inclusion
- Teaching Assistants
- Subject Leads who teach across Key Stage One and Two (Mathematics, English, Art, Music, Science, Humanities and Assessment Leads)
- Lunchtime Supervisors.
The key to understanding the revised EYFS came from taking time to read, reflect, and talk with each other. It also involved observing, teaching, playing with our children and working with their families. We met once a week and read through the revised Development Matters, Educational Programmes and ELGs highlighting the elements that resonated with our particular context, children, and curriculum. Understanding the different perspectives of everyone involved was invaluable! Year One (Y1) teachers, for example, stressed how important communication and language skills are, while our Maths Lead reflected the importance of early mathematical concepts such as number bonds. Listening and discussing all these contributions, as well as those from parents, meant that we were able to learn so much from each other.
For us, collaboration was key. So, to guide our discussions, we asked ourselves:
- What does this area of learning educational programme and ELG mean to me in my role?
- What does this look like, in practice, in my environment?
- What is currently working well with our teaching and provision in this area?
- What do we need to develop further to ensure we are providing our children with the best experience in Early Years?
We did not overhaul our curriculum, rather we adapted and edited for the needs of our children as we would any year and ensured that the texts, opportunities, interactions and resources reflected the ambition set out in the new framework. Then as a team we formed anecdotal and written exemplars of what we expected our children to do at different stages of their development so that we could assess and moderate robustly and fairly together.
In order to explain further, here’s a case study of one of our Reception children. Heba’s home lanaguge is Arabic and she joined her older siblings at Ark Priory in September 2020. Heba likes acting out her experiences of the world with her friends and teachers. She thinks critically and perseveres to solve problems including self-evaluating her many creations. Transport was our topic for the term, and we explored how cars have changed from when they were first invented to the present day. We shared the story ‘How I built a car’ by Chris Van Dusen and encouraged our children to use their imagination to create a model and write a description of their own car. During her child-initiated exploration, Heba used our taught sessions as a stimulus and told me that her family have a car and that she enjoyed going to the park for a picnic.
Heba used our outdoor kitchen to create a picnic for her friends. She explored capacity, grouping and sharing as she divided the picnic bowls between her friends and then independently wrote instructions which she read to me and her friends. I was so proud of the way she made links across the curriculum. For me this exemplified her holistic attainment against so many of the revised ELGs from Speaking, Building Relationships, Understanding the World to Mathematics and Writing!
Our year as an early adopter has been a fantastic opportunity for collaboration. A year in which we have learnt from each other as a team, from our experiences together and thereby expanded our collective knowledge of Early Years. I have many happy memories with our children where they engaged with the new curriculum, showcased their attainment of the revised ELGs through playful experiences, role playing stories, exploring in the sandpit, creating together, reading and writing. I look forward to continuing this work throughout 21/22!
Ark Priory is an Outstanding Academy located in West London and is part of the Ark Schools Network. Our Early Years Department is made up of a teacher-led fifty place Nursery for 3 and 4 year olds offering the government funded hours and two, thirty place Reception classes. The early adopter year for the revised EYFS framework took place in academic year 2020/21.