First Day at School
This week we were pleased to pilot a new event in the Pre-Prep – ‘First day at School’ – an event aimed at our Nursery 2 parents as we begin the transition process for these children and their families to join us in Reception in September 2022. It was a good opportunity to invite parents into the Reception classroom and to share the vision, pedagogy and passion that we at ECS, hold for early years education.
In preparing for this I found myself reflecting on my memories of starting my own school journey back in the 1960s – I recall my first teacher’s name and her kindness (Mrs Davies – I wonder how many of you also remember your first ever teacher?) I recall having the important job of handing out the rulers and being so zealous in my role that I fell and ended up being sent home with an injury (I still bear the scar of being ‘ruler monitor’). I recall my painting apron, made from an old shirt of my father’s, being displayed in the school hall as an example to all parents – a proud moment for me but more so, and especially with the passing of time, for my mother, whose thriftiness and ability with a needle and thread must have secretly pleased her immensely too. I remember learning to read with the Ladybird ‘Peter and Jane’ series, taking home sight words in a tobacco tin, drinking warm milk out of bottles, and laying our heads on our desks for a brief rest after lunch (now there’s a thought…!). How times have changed, but these memories and more stay with us for ever, often buried deep in our subconscious, sometimes taking us by surprise as they are awakened by a smell, a piece of fabric, a book, an illustration, a song or a rhyme, an old photo…
It led me to think how important it is that, here at ECS, we are creating the right memories with and for our pupils. Having an opportunity to meet with the parents of our youngest learners was a timely reminder of how important the Reception year is and how crucial it is in laying the foundations for all future learning.
Our Early years pupils are at the very start of their ECS Journey and it is known as the ‘Foundation Stage’ for very good reason as this is where we lay the foundation stones, the bedrock on which we build. It is where children develop their communication and language skills, where they learn to understand and manage their feelings, their interactions with one another and those who care for them, where they begin to develop a strong sense of self and learn how to take care of their own health and wellbeing through our PHSE curriculum. It is where they develop their physical skills both through being physically active but also where their fine motor skills are honed too; manipulating tools such as scissors and cutlery and eventually where they develop the physical skills needed for writing. They are learning the importance of our Golden Rules and to adopt and embed our ECS habits which will equip them for life – and it all starts at the age of three and four, enabled and empowered by our skilled team of early years staff. In the EYFS framework these three areas, Communication and language, Personal, Social and Emotional development and Physical development are known as the Prime areas of learning – they are the most important of all and everything else builds upon these solid foundations.
At the heart of all we do is of course the children. We strive to know them very well, to understand their interests, to know their families, their likes and dislikes. It is so important that children are ‘hooked’ into their learning and the best way for this to happen and for learning to be deep, meaningful and memorable is when they follow their own interests and fascinations. Letting children lead their learning takes us, as early years practitioners, on the journey with them – whether it be a fascination with trains, fairy tales, unicorns or ‘ghost-busters’ – we are poised, ready to interact rather than interfere (sometimes a fine line!) to listen, to ask the right questions and to develop deeper thinking.
We instil that learning is not a race to be run but a Journey to be savoured and enjoyed with lots of resting places along the way, to gaze, to embed and to reflect. We give children time to develop their play, to extend their ideas and to lose themselves in the moment. It is important that learning is uninterrupted, that children are given time to soak-up learning. When you enter a Reception classroom you will see models, crafts, mark-making and small world scenes with little notices beside them that read ‘Please leave’ or ‘Learning in progress’, an indicator that they are not done yet, that there is more to discover, more to build, more storylines to be developed and they will return to it and continue at a later time.
Welcoming our Nursery families into our classrooms this week gave us an opportunity to share how the children learn through an enabling environment – a learning space that encourages and enables independent learners, a learning environment that encourages perseverance and grows resilient learners, a learning environment where children are given a freedom to learn, to explore and to discover, a learning environment where children have a sense of belonging, ownership and responsibility too (though no ‘ruler monitors’ in Frogs class!)
The ECS Early Years’ experience recognises that each child is unique; we meet them at their own stages of learning and development and we challenge them to reach above and beyond as we prepare and equip them for their next steps. We strive to set the children on a pathway and give them the very best start to a life-long love of learning. What a privilege it is for us all to set these little learners on their Learning journey at ECS.
Mrs Liz Bowles
Head of Pre-Prep, Reception Class Teacher