Learning and Development Requirements
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 crucial for igniting children’s curiosity and enthusiasm for learning, and for building their capacity to learn, form relationships and thrive. These three areas, the prime areas, are:
- communication, and language;
- physical development; and
- personal, social and emotional development
Providers must also support children in four specific areas, through which the three prime areas are strengthened and applied. The specific areas are:
- understanding the world; and
- expressive arts and design.
Activities and Experiences
Educational programmes must involve activities and experiences for children, as follows:
- Communication and language development involves giving children opportunities to experience a rich language environment; to develop their confidence and skills in expressing themselves; and to speak and listen in a range of situations.
- Physical Development involves providing opportunities for young children to be active and interactive; and 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 involves helping children to develop a positive sense of themselves, and others; to form positive relationships and develop respect for others; to develop social skills and learn how to manage their feelings; to understand appropriate behavior in groups; and to have confidence in their own abilities.
- Literacy development involves encouraging children to link sounds and letters and to begin to read and write. Children are given access to a wide range of reading materials (books, poems, and other written materials) to ignite their interest.
- Mathematics 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 describe shapes, spaces, and measures.
- Understanding the world involves guiding children to make sense of their physical world and their community through opportunities to explore, observe and find out about people, places, technology and the environment.
- Expressive arts and design 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.
Assessment plays an important part in helping parents, carers and practitioners to recognise children’s progress, understand their needs, and to plan activities and support. Ongoing assessment is an integral part of the learning and development process. It involves practitioners observing children to understand their level of achievement, interests and learning styles, and to then shape learning experiences for each child reflecting those observations. In their interactions with children, practitioners respond to their own day-to-day observations about children’s progress and observations that parents and carers share.
Progress check at age two
When a child is aged between two and three, practitioners review their progress, and provide parents and/or carers with a short-written summary of their child’s development in the prime areas. This progress check identifies the child’s strengths, and any areas where the child’s progress is less than expected. If there are significant emerging concerns, or an identified special educational need or disability, practitioners develop a targeted plan to support the child’s future learning and development involving other professionals (for example, our Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator) as appropriate. Practitioners discuss with parents and/or carers how the summary of development can be used to support learning at home.
Early Years Practitioners
Early Years Practitioners in our nursery consider the individual needs, interests, and stage of development of each child in their care and use this information to plan a challenging and enjoyable experience for each child in all areas of learning and development.
Each area of learning and development is implemented through planned, purposeful play and through a mix of adult-led and child-initiated activity.
Play is essential for children’s development, building their confidence as they learn to explore, to think about problems, and relate to others. Practitioners respond to each child’s emerging needs and interests, guiding their development through warm, positive interaction.
In planning and guiding children’s activities, practitioners reflect on the different ways that children learn and reflect these in their practice. The three characteristics of effective teaching and learning are:
- Playing and exploring – children investigate and experience things, and ‘have a go’;
- Active learning – children concentrate and keep on trying if they encounter difficulties, and enjoy achievements; and
- Creating and thinking critically – children have and develop their own ideas, make links between ideas, and develop strategies for doing things.
Staff Learning Opportunities
As well as gaining qualifications in early years care and education, the nursery staff takes part in further training to help them to keep up-to-date with thinking about early years care and education.