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Mr Owen

Subject Leader


Intent: Why do we teach what we teach?

At St Michael’s Church School, we place immense value on the development of children, as individuals, and providing them with the skills, knowledge and understanding they need to prepare them for the challenges in Key Stage One and beyond. Our aim in Reception is to build strong foundations rooted in personal growth, as well as moral and spiritual development, so that ultimately, our pupils can be successful and go on to be happy, curious life-long learners who develop into active members of society.  

Our curriculum is therefore built around our pupils’ needs so that they can gain the knowledge, skills and understanding they require for success. They can only do that if we embed the right habits for learning through the Characteristics of Effective Teaching and Learning: Play and Exploration, Active Learning and Creative and Critical Thinking. 

Many of our pupils arrive below national expectations for their age and a high proportion come from disadvantaged backgrounds and have complex needs. We have to teach them how to listen, speak and meet the high expectations for behaviour by being kind, caring and working together. As such, we prioritise personal, social and emotional development and communication and language in our first term in school. Our enabling environment, coupled with skillful adult interactions, support the children as they begin to link learning to their play and exploration. We invest substantial time and energy into helping pupils to establish and reflect on their own goals by aiming high and developing a love of reading, writing and number.  This is delivered through a holistic curriculum which maximises opportunities for meaningful cross-curricular links and learning experiences as well as promoting the ‘unique child’ by offering periods of play and sustained thinking - following children’s interests and ideas.  We value imagination and creativity and seek to create a sense of enjoyment and fascination in learning through a vibrant continuous indoor and outdoor provision, alongside trips and visits. Our investment in specialist teachers for music, RE, and PE mean that children continually receive high quality teaching. 


.Implementation: How do we teach what we teach?

Pupils learn through a balance of child-initiated and adult-directed activities.  The timetable is carefully structured so that children have rigorous directed teaching in English, Maths and Phonics everyday with weekly circle time sessions to focus on PSED.  These sessions are followed by group work where children work with a member of staff to develop their targets.  This focused group time means the teacher can systematically check for understanding, identify and respond to misconceptions quickly and provide real-time verbal feedback which results in a strong impact on the acquisition of new learning.   

Children are provided with plenty of time to engage in ‘exploration’ throughout the variety of experiences carefully planned to engage and challenge them in the provision. The curriculum is planned for the inside and outside classrooms and equal importance is given to learning in both areas. The curriculum is planned in a cross-curricular way to enable all aspects of the children’s development, including understanding the world and expressive art and design, as well as to promote sustained thinking and active learning. Planning is led by the phase leader every week.  During these sessions, the teaching team plan to ensure children benefit from meaningful learning across all areas of the curriculum, providing opportunities for communication, sustained shared thinking and physical challenge to build on and develop existing skills.

Rich learning opportunities are carefully crafted to broaden experiences, and deliver awe and wonderment. Exploratory learning, thinking creatively and problem-solving opportunities are woven into all areas of learning. We deliver new vocabulary and concepts through shared reading to excite and engage all learners; this includes staff modelling and asking high quality pre-planned questions. Our curriculum promotes and supports children’s emotional security and development of their character therefore, enabling children to take risks in a safe and secure environment. Children are encouraged to be active and to develop physically including giving clear messages to children why it is important to eat, drink and exercise as well as to be kind to others.

Reading is at the heart of our curriculum. 

Children follow the rigorous, and highly successful, Little Wandle Letter and Sounds program with fidelity, so that they meet good outcomes for reading resulting in a high percentage of our children passing the Year One Phonics Screening.

In line with the rest of St Michael’s Church School, Reception children follow a book-based curriculum. This curriculum has been rigorously planned, with multiple high-quality texts chosen to create an integrated approach and drive the teaching and learning throughout the school year. In Reception, our themes are based on foundational ideas coming from the EYFS curriculum: from “how to friendships grow?” as part of PSED, to “People who help us?” as our first topic. Throughout this journey, children are constantly experiencing deep meaningful texts, that aim to broaden their horizons and develop of life long love of reading.

We follow the Maths Mastery approach in Reception with an emphasis on studying key skills of Number, Calculation and Shape so that pupils develop deep understanding and the acquisition of mathematical language.  Pupils learn through games and tasks using concrete manipulatives which are then rehearsed and applied to their own learning during busy learning times. Our pupils begin to develop these key skills during daily maths activities where they explore sorting, quantities, shape, number and counting awareness.  These early mathematical experiences are carefully designed to help pupils remember the content they have been taught and to support them with integrating their new knowledge across the breadth of their experiences and into larger concepts. 

Our inclusive approach means that our children learn together. To support our children with different learning styles, we have developed a range of additional intervention and support to help them reach their full potential. We also work to provide opportunities to develop and deepen understanding for those children who are doing very well. This includes, for example, Sunshine room; our specialist provision for some of our most vulnerable children or additional ‘pre-teach’ or ‘catch-up’ sessions in Maths, fine motor skills and PSED.  Staff are trained to effectively deliver ‘keep-up sessions’ to support Phonics, and also we use ‘pinny time’ - a quick, on the spot intervention focused on sight words, blending and number retention with target individuals. The characteristics of effective learning are viewed as an integral part of all areas of learning and are reflected in our observations of children. 

Our regular monitoring of teaching and learning includes coaching and feedback from the phase leader as well as subject specialists, to ensure teachers develop a good subject knowledge and are effectively supported.  We tailor our staff training to be Early Years specific and are focused on moderating outcomes across the phase so that every member of our team feels confident in making accurate judgements about where individual pupils are and their next steps for learning.  


Impact: How do we know what pupils have learnt and how well they have learnt it?

Our curriculum must meet the needs of our children, including our disadvantaged pupils and those with SEND, so we spend time looking at and evaluating how children are learning.  This is achieved through talking to children, looking at their work, observing their learning experiences and analysing data and progress by year group, class, groups and individuals. Every member of staff uses ongoing observational assessment to identify children’s starting points and help to plan experiences which ensure progress. This information is tracked and logged which enables us to measure our starting points throughout the year.   We use this information on a weekly basis to plan learning experiences and next steps so that knowledge and skills are built cumulatively.   During each assessment window, three times a year, teachers update the progress children have made which allows us to assess the impact of teaching and evaluate whether it has been enough. Evidence of children’s learning includes: observations, work samples, photographs and child voice.


Our curriculum and its delivery ensure that children make good progress. Children in our early years, on average, arrive with much lower starting points than national.  During their time in Reception, children make rapid progress so that we meet the national expectation for GLD at the end of the year.  Pupils also make good progress toward their age-related expectations before transitioning into Year One.  We believe our high standards are due to the enriched play-based exploration alongside the rigour of assessment and high quality teaching the children have as they move through the year; a rich diet of balanced learning experiences is undoubtedly the best way to develop happy, curious children. 

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