Exceptional Education at the Heart of the Community

Resources

Our Learning Environment 

The space within our academy and the environment is considered the third teacher and is really important to us and core to our provision and philosophy. Children thrive when the setting is organised and managed by the adults but led by the children. They learn and develop in our stimulating environment that has been thoughtfully planned, a dynamic space which holds the presence of the children who live and play within it.

It is an environment filled with natural light, order and beauty. Open spaces free from clutter, where every material is considered for its purpose, every corner is ever-evolving to encourage children to delve deeper and deeper into their interests.

The areas are clear, stocked and tidy at the start of the day:- the tables and carpet areas are free of equipment but the resources are available next to these areas, often shadowed so that children know where to replace items used.

This allows the children to be in control of their learning. They are able to select the area in which to play, the resources to use in that area and what to do with them. It is crucial to have appropriate areas with varied, high quality, open-ended resources. It is also vital that the areas are well stocked, tidy, clearly labelled (with picture and word) or shadowed and arranged to allow optimum access. We constantly review and reflect on the environment to see which areas are proving productive and which need altering.

Shadowing resources helps children to be independent when tidying up. In addition, we also add other resources in boxes which can be changed to meet emerging interests. For example, these sea life mammals were added next to the water area after a visit to the zoo.

The resources (as well as the areas) are assessed and reviewed constantly with changes made as necessary.

We combine the creative area next to the ‘writing’ area. Young children combine their different types of mark-making – they make a card and write a message; they draw a picture and write a story; they create a robot and add labelled controls. In many cases, they need creative equipment and writing implements – we therefore store them close to each other, as well as providing mark-making equipment in all areas.

Children experience maths in all areas of the indoor classroom and we ensure that there is equipment (including numicon) to facilitate this. Because the children select and access resources themselves, they know where they are from and they know where to put them back when they have finished using them or at the end of the session.

We review our provision in terms of levels of involvement. If an area or a resource is not engaging children in purposeful play, then we remove it or change it. Areas that deliver the highest levels of involvement are the role play areas, creative area, small blocks, sand, water, playdough and small world equipment (including cars and dinosaurs). With regard to role play, we ensure that there is always a “home corner” (either indoors or outside) as this is what is familiar to the children – this is where they can practise being the adults that they know (and in doing so, develop the vital life skill of empathy).

We ensure that our book areas are as inviting as possible. We have sofas, cushions, puppets and props to make the experience engaging. We also have books in numerous areas of the in indoor classroom – craft books in the creative area, cookery books in the role play, construction and reference books in the small world area.

We believe that all children have the right to experience and enjoy the essential and special nature of being outdoors.  Children thrive and their minds and bodies develop best when they have access to stimulating outdoor environments for learning through play and real experiences.

Outdoor Learning

Our approach to outdoor learning  considers experiences rather than equipment places children at the centre of the provision being made.

We believe that all children have the right to experience and enjoy the essential and special nature of being outdoors. Children thrive and their minds and bodies develop best when they have access to stimulating outdoor environments for learning through play and real experiences.

Our outdoor areas are designed to support all areas of the children’s development. For example, the sand area is large and is surrounded by shelving and baskets stocked with resources. The resources available are traditional sand toys, as well as natural shells, sticks, stones, etc. and cooking utensils, plates, cups, cutlery etc. to support a variety of play ideas. A water supply is essential, this allows for cooking, chemistry, cement mixing, moat filling or alchemy!

Our outdoor provision also provides many opportunities for reading, writing, mathematical thinking and problem solving.

There are also lots of opportunities for risk and building upper body strength – rope bridge, rope swing, PE equipment for the children to set up, ‘A’ Frame, large wooden structures to climb, and woodwork with adult-sized hammers and saws.  The crucial induction period ensures that the children know how to use equipment and are encouraged to think about the risks themselves.

In the EYFS classes, the children choose where to go and what to do. They initiate their own learning and adults join them and support them in their pursuits. In order to support genuine choice we have a workshop style environment setup in classes. In all areas, the resources are available and accessible to the children at all times, but nothing is set out.

Our spaces encourage collaboration, communication and exploration. It respects children as capable by providing them with authentic materials such as the woodwork bench and associated tools.

Collaboration and cooperation are intentional in our approach to education. The entire system is designed to be connected and in relationship. Nothing is left to sit in isolation. Everything is alive and connected. Children, teachers and families join together to continually improve the system that supports our community.

As mentioned, an enabling environment is critical. When the children arrive, nothing is set out but everything is available and accessible. The doors to the outside are open in all weathers from the start of the day and from day one, the children are supported to explore the environment to see what is available, to select the resources they would like, to use them appropriately and to tidy the area when they have finished.

Tidy up time is very short – most areas have been tidied during the session. Because the children have got the resources out themselves, they know where to return them to. The induction period is always critical – even more so when the children have so much autonomy and choice. A staggered start and part time attendance in the first few weeks can ensure that the routines and expectations are established efficiently. Ground rules are essential when so much freedom is given – all the children need to feel safe. Clear and consistent expectations are key. For example, indoors the children will walk and use quieter voices – running and shouting can be done outside.

 

A centre of excellence within and outside the Trust

(Monitoring and Standards Review)