Early Years Foundation Stage

We provide a high-quality inspirational learning environment both indoors and outdoors.   This, in partnership with experienced, well-trained, caring and committed teaching professionals means that each and every child has the best opportunity to learn, develop and flourish.  Learning through play is at the heart of our curriculum and we carefully balance this with child-initiated activities alongside more focused adult planned experiences. Play is a very important part of all children’s development and we offer a safe and stimulating environment where children can build their skills, knowledge and understanding by having access to a wide range of equipment and materials.  

We know that parents are the biggest influence on children’s lives which is why we place so much importance on working in partnership with you.    We are delighted to work with children and families from a wide range of social, cultural and religious heritages and we believe this is what makes Hirst Wood such an interesting place, therefore, we strongly encourage all prospective parents to come and see us in action … please book a visit and we are confident that you will see how busy children are at nursery, how much they are learning and developing as their knowledge and understanding grows. 

Research evidences strong links between children’s independence, motivation and self-esteem which leads to high levels of involvement and achievement.  The curriculum is about the development of children and everything that your child comes into contact with this is the way in which they actively learn about their world.  Teaching staff observe children regularly to inform their planning and assessments to ensure that each individual child’s needs are met. 

Our observations and planning focus on the areas of Learning & Development as set out in Statutory framework for the early years foundation stage; Setting the standards for learning, development and care for children from birth to five (2021).   There are seven areas of learning and development that must shape educational programmes in early years settings. All areas of learning and development are important and inter-connected.

Three areas are particularly important for building a foundation for igniting children’s curiosity and enthusiasm for learning, forming relationships and thriving. These are the prime areas:

• communication and language

• physical development

• personal, social and emotional development

Communication and language development

The development of children’s spoken language underpins all seven areas of learning and development. Children’s back-and-forth interactions from an early age form the foundations for language and cognitive development. The number and quality of the conversations they have with adults and peers throughout the day in a language-rich environment is crucial. By commenting on what children are interested in or doing, and echoing back what they say with new vocabulary added, practitioners will build children’s language effectively. Reading frequently to children, and engaging them actively in stories, non-fiction, rhymes and poems, and then providing them with extensive opportunities to use and embed new words in a range of contexts, will give children the opportunity to thrive. Through conversation, story-telling and role play, where children share their ideas with support and modelling from their teacher, and sensitive questioning that invites them to elaborate, children become comfortable using a rich range of vocabulary and language structures.

Physical development

Physical activity is vital in children’s all-round development, enabling them to pursue happy, healthy and active lives. Gross and fine motor experiences develop incrementally throughout early childhood, starting with sensory explorations and the development of a child’s strength, co-ordination and positional awareness through tummy time, crawling and play movement with both objects and adults. By creating games and providing opportunities for play both indoors and outdoors, adults can support children to develop their core strength, , balance, spatial awareness, co-ordination and agility. Gross motor skills provide the foundation for developing healthy bodies and social and emotional well-being. Fine motor control and precision helps with hand-eye co-ordination which is later linked to early literacy. Repeated and varied opportunities to explore and play with small world activities, puzzles, arts and crafts and the practise of using small tools, with feedback and support from adults, allow children to develop proficiency, control and confidence.

Personal, social and emotional development

Children’s personal, social and emotional development (PSED) is crucial for children to lead healthy and happy lives, and is fundamental to their cognitive development. Underpinning their personal development are the important attachments that shape their social world. Strong, warm and supportive relationships with adults enable children to learn how to understand their own feelings and those of others. Children should be supported to manage emotions, develop a positive sense of self, set themselves simple goals, have confidence in their own abilities, to persist and wait for what they want and direct attention as necessary. Through adult modelling and guidance, they will learn how to look after their bodies, including healthy eating, and manage personal needs independently. Through supported interaction with other children they learn how to make good friendships, co-operate and resolve conflicts peaceably. These attributes will provide a secure platform from which children can achieve at school and in later life

We also encompass support children in four specific areas, through which the three prime areas are strengthened and applied. The specific areas are:

• literacy

• mathematics

• understanding the world

• expressive arts and design

Literacy development

It is crucial for children to develop a life-long love of reading. Reading consists of two dimensions: language comprehension and word reading. Language comprehension (necessary for both reading and writing) starts from birth. It only develops when adults talk with children about the world around them and the books (stories and non-fiction) they read with them, and enjoy rhymes, poems and songs together. Skilled word reading, taught later, involves both the speedy working out of the pronunciation of unfamiliar printed words (decoding) and the speedy recognition of familiar printed words. Writing involves transcription (spelling and handwriting) and composition (articulating ideas and structuring them in speech, before writing)


Developing a strong grounding in number is essential so that all children develop the necessary building blocks to excel mathematically. Children should be able to count confidently, develop a deep understanding of the numbers to 10, the relationships between them and the patterns within those numbers. By providing frequent and varied opportunities to build and apply this understanding – such as using manipulatives, including small pebbles and tens frames for organising counting – children will develop a secure base of knowledge and vocabulary from which mastery of mathematics is built. In addition, it is important that the curriculum includes rich opportunities for children to develop their spatial reasoning skills across all areas of mathematics including shape, space and measures. It is important that children develop positive attitudes and interests in mathematics, look for patterns and relationships, spot connections, ‘have a go’, talk to adults and peers about what they notice and not be afraid to make mistakes.

Understanding the world

Understanding the world involves guiding children to make sense of their physical world and their community. The frequency and range of children’s personal experiences increases their knowledge and sense of the world around them – from visiting Roberts  Park or Hirst Woods to meeting important members of society such as police officers, nurses and firefighters. In addition, listening to a broad selection of stories, non-fiction, rhymes and poems will foster their understanding of our culturally, socially, technologically and ecologically diverse world. As well as building important knowledge, this extends their familiarity with words that support understanding across domains. Enriching and widening children’s vocabulary will support later reading comprehension.

Expressive arts and design

The development of children’s artistic and cultural awareness supports their imagination and creativity. It is important that children have regular opportunities to engage with the arts, enabling them to explore and play with a wide range of media and materials. The quality and variety of what children see, hear and participate in is crucial for developing their understanding, self-expression, vocabulary and ability to communicate through the arts. The frequency, repetition and depth of their experiences are fundamental to their progress in interpreting and appreciating what they hear, respond to and observe.

Each area of learning in the Early Years Foundation Stage has a number of Early Learning Goals which set out what children should ideally be achieving by the end of reception year in their Primary School.   At Hirst Wood Nursery School children have access to a wide range of activities and experiences that actively encourage their autonomy and decision making.    Children’s spiritual and moral development is a vital part of their whole development and we support this by providing opportunities to promote children’s wonder of the world, by developing natural curiosity about the wider world around them such as the natural environment, their home, their family and communities.   If you would like to know more about the Early Years Foundation Stage, please ask a member of staff in any of the classrooms, or we have a range of literature in the Parents Zone on each area of learning.


The implementation of our curriculum is based on a clear pedagogy which recognises the following key principles:

  • every child is a unique child, who is constantly learning and can be resilient, capable, confident and self-assured
  • children learn to be strong and independent through positive relationships
  • children learn and develop well in enabling environments with teaching and support from adults, who respond to their individual interests and needs and help them to build their learning over time. Children benefit from a strong partnership between practitioners and parents and/or carers.
  • The importance of learning and development. Children develop and learn at different rates. The framework covers the education and care of all children in early years provision, including children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

Understanding and implementation of the Characteristics of Effective Learning

These characteristics explain how young children learn.

Playing and exploring – engagement 

Relevant learning experiences that are engaging and interactive that facilitate challenging and sustained learning. Learning is defined as the progress in one or more of the following areas:

  • Skills – being able to do something, such as a being able to pedal on a trike
  • Knowledge – knowledge such as knowing where the small world resources are kept, or knowing that your heart needs to beat to all the time
  • Concept : development of an understanding: such as some materials can alter their form: water to ice
  • Dispositions – displaying of behaviours that enhances learning such as a willingness to persevere, to ask questions, to have a go.

Active learning – motivation

For learning to flourish children need rich opportunities that promote engagement, challenge, inspiration and fascination, for example working collaboratively to build a bridge across a stream.

Creating and thinking critically – thinking ​

For children’s thinking to flourish, practitioners need to know the child and establish secure relationships. It is once such secure relationships are established that practitioners can tune into children’s thinking. The use of thinking language can facilitate the means for children to reflect on their learning this includes: open ended questions, running commentaries, pondering and repeating children’s language back to them to highlight their thinking.

Extending Children’s Thinking and Learning

We value these strategies to support teaching and learning that are underpinned by our wide knowledge of how young children learn, and our strong and secure relationships.

 Observe to Understand

“Stand aside for a while and leave room for learning, observe carefully what children do, and then if you have understood well, teaching will be different from before” Loris Malaguzzi

Open ended questions to promote thoughtfulness.

  • A commentary of thoughts and actions to model language
  • Ambitious, rich language to inspire children
  • Specific praise so children know what they have done well

The environment as the third educator

  • A Nursery school is a place of possibilities!
  • New experiences in a rich environment to encourage new ways of thinking.
  • Time, permission, open ended resources and a risk-taking culture allow children to explore, expand and extend their knowledge and understanding

Our Intended Outcomes for all children

Learning within a place of possibilities, children will be nurtured.  Their individual interests and talents will be valued and developed.  As a result, children’s well-being will be high. They will have a belief in themselves and their abilities. They will know that they are a successful learner who is an integral part of our community, that they are strong, capable and unique. They will have resilience and the perseverance to keep on trying when things are challenging.   They will have the confidence to try new things, to take risks and be physically active. Children will know how to communicate their ideas, beliefs and feelings, choosing different ways to do this. Some children will choose to dance, others to build or draw or sing. They will have experienced and remembered a wide range of words through stories, rhymes and poems. They will have the skills to make friends and will show kindness to others. They will know how to look after themselves, their friends, their school and the environment. They will know about important mathematical and scientific concepts. They will have an understanding and respect of the world around them and the world beyond. They will have a desire to learn and be ready for their next stage in education.

A guide to the key person approach – what is it?

The key person Approach is one of the vital principals in the Early Years Foundation Stage and now a statutory requirement of the framework.  It is a mutually respective relationship between a member of staff, the individual child and their family.    It provides the child with a sense of security so that they feel confident to explore and form further relationships.   Every child is welcomed, special and valued and the key person approach recognises this.  You should have received notice of who your child’s Key Person is in the New Starters Information Pack.  

What is the role of the key person?

The role of the key person is to know their individual child and to support their sense of identity and individuality.  They need to be aware of their individual child’s and family’s needs preferences and development.  The Key Person is the teacher or Early Years Practitioner.   Parents are offered termly consultations to celebrate how well their child is doing and to discuss their latest assessment data.   There will be notices outside each classroom and also contained in the Newsletter to let parents know the dates and times of available appointments and we would strongly encourage parents to take advantage of this opportunity.    We aim to be as flexible as possible, and will offer early morning, day time and evening appointments to ensure equality of opportunity.

For further information please use the link below; https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/974907/ EYFS_framework_-_March_2021.pdf