Written by: Ruth Steggles – Head of Pre Prep, Framlingham College Prep School
The Early Years here at Framlingham College Prep School is the vital first phase of a child’s education and the experiences they have in these years can influence the rest of their learning journey. Young children’s brains are designed to explore and discover the world around them. When early years teachers talk about children learning through play, they really mean that when children are playing they are exploring, discovering, learning how things work, learning to communicate and using their growing knowledge about the world around them to continue to learn, grow and develop. Every experience a child has is an opportunity to gain further understanding about the world and their place in it. Children who feel safe, secure and nurtured in these early years will be able to relax and become absorbed in their exploration and play, helping feed their curiosity, encourage their independence and develop their communication with others involved in the activity.
Experienced early years teachers ensure they plan a balance of activities that are adult initiated and child led. When the adult is taking the lead in the learning it is known as adult initiated, this learning may involve helping the children learn a new skill, new vocabulary, a new way of applying existing knowledge or exploring a new resource. Learning occurs in the brain when the adult helps a child to make a new link or enables them to cross the gap between what they currently can do and what they want to do, as we learn in this way, new neural pathways develop and the brain grows. Child initiated learning is when a child leads the learning; this could be applying the skill taught by an adult during an activity of their choice, using the new resources to create something of their own design or applying their new knowledge and skills. This form of learning helps children consolidate what they know. When children are initiating learning, adults will join in but the child chooses how to explore and create, rather than the adult deciding. It is often in this way that the adult can understand how much a child knows and what they might want or need to know next.
Planning the right learning opportunities is of great importance if children are to have fun while they learn. For a child to become a confident reader and writer in school they need to have had plenty of opportunity to share stories, books and songs and to have the opportunity to make up their own stories in their play. Exploring how to build with bricks, making sand castles, pouring water down pipes and moving cars along a track all help develop the mathematical skills needed later for solving problems. Using the binoculars and magnifying glasses to closely examine shells, bugs and snowflakes to spot similarities and differences develops the skills needed for budding scientists.
Our focus in the Nursery is to help children grow as individuals and we understand that children develop at different rates needing different experiences so we carefully plan a wide range of learning opportunities to suit all the individuals within the nursery. A child attending our Early Years will have the opportunity to play in the sand, build dens and make daisy chains. They will paint pictures and create models using boxes and puppets out of socks. Stories will be told and songs will be sung to help children understand the joys of imagination. We will explore the woodland, turning over logs to find the slugs and watching the birds before going on a bear hunt or looking for the fairies. Everything we do, is aimed at supporting children to become confident, curious, happy learners who are ready for the next phase of their learning journey, the Reception Class.
Our new building will allow both Nursery and Reception children here at Framlingham College Prep School to join together in exploring the Early Years Curriculum. Being able to have both separate and shared spaces means children can develop at their own pace and can work and explore concepts such as phonics and numbers with children of the same ability level. The building will allow us the space to truly give early years children the opportunity to maximise their progress. The older ones will inspire younger children and working with younger children will help older ones consolidate their learning.