Welcome to Early Years at Hillbrook
Dear Parents, Carers and Visitors to our school,
A very warm welcome to Early Years at Hillbrook. As Early Years phase leader I feel truly privileged to lead such a wonderful part of the school and to have the opportunity of ensuring that each child in Early Years receives the best possible start to their education irrespective of their background.
As a parent myself and a passionate advocate for Early Years I understand that starting school is a huge step in your child’s life. These are special times and I will work hard, along with my fantastic staff team, to ensure that your child feels safe, happy, valued and that they are excited to come to school because every day is different, full of memorable learning experiences and achievements.
We make the transition into Hillbrook as smooth as possible by providing a welcoming, supportive, caring and stimulating environment where your child is given equal opportunities to develop and learn, in a way and at a pace appropriate to them as individuals.
Our Curriculum Intent and approach to learning
We offer a broad, balanced and ambitious curriculum which is brought to life by exciting, memorable and innovative teaching. Our highly bespoke and inspiring EYFS curriculum is designed to reflect the interests, needs and aspirations of our children and to immerse our children in a language-rich environment. We prioritise high-quality interactions in a variety of playful situations, which build on our children’s individual interests and unique talents.
Our children guide and drive their own learning through a combination of adult-led and child-initiated play. Each topic planned is individually tailored to our cohort, with the aim of ensuring that all children are equipped with the skills needed to be independent, lifelong learners as they move into Key Stage 1.
All topics are carefully resourced and where possible are introduced with a high-quality, diverse storybook or age-appropriate non–fiction text that reflects the interests and experiences of our children.
We enrich our curriculum in a variety of ways such as organising exciting trips into the local area (market visits, Tooting Common, fire station, places of worship, road safety walks and many more). We also organise visits from community figures such as the police, firefighters, and healthcare workers and invite parents in to talk about their jobs. We have had the mobile farm, Teddy Bear Clinic, Circus, theatre companies and authors visit. We have cross-curricular events and topics like ‘Commotion in the Ocean, Around the World, 100 days of school’. In the Spring term we have very special visitors come and stay- they start as small eggs in an incubator before hatching into little fluffy balls… can you guess what they are? When appropriate we link learning to real-life experiences for example in Reception we have the Hillbrook bank where children achieve learning pennies to save or spend at the Hillbrook shop.
We teach children individually, in small groups and as a whole class. Many of our activities are play-based, however, there is also a need for some direct teacher-led activities to ensure all children gain essential knowledge and skills. When appropriate, activities are expertly modelled and priority is given to providing sufficient sustained periods of play with support and resources to allow our children to repeat and practise their taught skill. Our Early Years curriculum builds on the early experiences your child has had with you at home and teaches them the skills and knowledge as set out in the Early Years Foundation Stage framework.
- Communication and language: development involves giving children opportunities to experience a rich language environment, develop their confidence and skills in expressing themselves and to speak and listen in a range of situations.
- Physical development: this involves providing opportunities for young children to be active and interactive. It helps to develop their co-ordination, control and movement. Children must also be helped to understand the importance of physical activity, and to make healthy choices in relation to food.
- Personal, social and emotional development: this involves helping children to develop a positive sense of both themselves and others around them. It helps them to form positive relationships and develop respect for others; to develop social skills and learn how to manage their feelings; to understand appropriate behaviour in groups; and to have confidence in their own abilities.
- Literacy: development involves encouraging children to link sounds and letters, helping them begin to read and write. Children must be given access to a wide range of reading materials (books, poems, and other written materials) to help ignite their interest.
- Mathematics: this involves providing children with opportunities to develop and improve their skills in counting, understanding and using numbers, calculating simple addition and subtraction problems and to help them describe shapes, spaces and measures.
- Understanding the world: this involves guiding children to make sense of their physical world and their community by providing opportunities to explore, observe and find out about people, places, technology and the environment.
- Expressive arts and design: this involves enabling children to explore and play with a wide range of media and materials, as well as providing opportunities and encouragement for sharing their thoughts, ideas and feelings through a variety of activities in art, music, movement, dance, role-play and design and technology.
The Characteristics of Effective Learning underpin our curriculum and your child’s learning. Through an enabling and well-planned environment, we ensure provision of meaningful opportunities for playing and learning, active learning and creating and thinking critically. As your child utilises and develops these characteristics, they become effective and motivated learners who demonstrate high levels of well-being and involvement.
We use Birth to Five Matters as a rich resource to support our knowledge of child development and as a supporting document for our curriculum. We feel that this document reflects our early years vision of embedding quality interactions in a variety of playful situations. It supports our staff to create organic learning opportunities as opposed to being constrained by formal expectations.
Our Early Years classes are situated on the ground floor of London Brick building so children have easy access to a large outdoor space. Our Early Years playground is safe and secure and our Nursery and Reception children have sole use of the area. Our playground space uses natural materials and a blank canvas to inspire the children’s creativity through construction, role play and physical movement. Both the indoor and outdoor areas are considered of equal importance in providing our children with a wide range of opportunities that will engage and excite them and that are age-appropriate and relevant to their needs.
Assessments in Early Years
When children start in Nursery and Reception they will undertake a baseline assessment in order to ascertain stages of development, strengths and needs. Our staff are highly skilled and confident with assessing necessary starting points using the information from the baseline assessments. Staff know their children well and quickly recognise those who will need early intervention due to entering our setting with low starting points. They monitor who is and is not on track regularly, put in timely keep up sessions and tailor future planning and next steps in learning. In Reception children complete the ‘Reception baseline assessment’ which is a national assessment. This is a short task-based assessment that lasts approximately 20 minutes.
Parent Partnership and our Online Learning Journal
Our highly experienced and caring staff work closely with parents and careers so that your child is happy, settled and gains the maximum benefit from all we have to offer. Class teachers and support staff will share any necessary information at the beginning and end of the day and will update you on how your child is getting on at school through termly parent meetings, year group emails and our online learning platform ‘Evidence Me’. Evidence Me records, tracks and shares your child’s learning journey at Hillbrook. Evidence Me also allows a greater degree of communication between home and school, and you can take an active role in contributing to your child’s learning journey by uploading your own observations, simply adding these via the app or website.
I recognise that this is an important time for both you and your child and so I hope you have found this information helpful. A video of our Early Years in action, can be found here. I hope this video will give you a sense of the ethos and life of Early Years at Hillbrook. Our website is only a glimpse of what we feel makes Hillbrook special. The best way for you to appreciate what we can offer your child is to experience our school first hand. I do hope you will come and visit us to meet our children and staff and to experience life at Hillbrook.
Ms Varsha Singh
(Assistant Head, Early Years Phase Leader)