Learning at The Orion begins when children are aged 2, 3, and 4 years-old. Our youngest pupils develop a love of learning through inspiring topics and engaging daily experiences. Every day is filled with joy, play, adventure, talk, and stories. We aim to connect with the child’s world – by creating a sense of magic and emotional connection - and keep things fun. Our teaching and learning is organised to make a developmental difference to each child and ensure that they know more and remember more. The focus is on core skills: personal, social and emotional development; communication and language; creativity; early literacy; maths and problem solving; physical development and self-care. Our ‘Curricular Goals’ form the basis of our broad and balanced curriculum, widen children’s skills and knowledge and ensure all children and are in a strong position prior to embarking on the National Curriculum in Year One. The Goals help children know what they are good at and allow them to feel confident about themselves.
Our Curricular Goals are designed with the particular strengths and needs of our community in mind – they are meaningful to children and their families. Developing communication and language and a love of reading are key to our Goals. The Goals fully incorporate the Educational Programmes and Guiding Principles of the Early Years Foundation Stage and provide an overview of many of the different things we would like children to experience, learn and be able to do. Each Curricular Goal considers ‘milestones’ - end of year expectations for each phase of the Early Years, and ‘small steps’ - the coming-together of skills needed to achieve these milestones. This maps out a clear and sequential learning journey that is easily understood by children, parents and staff. The Goals are ambitious and we offer scaffolding and extra support to help every child access the curriculum and to ensure they make progress through it.
Children are supported achieve our Curricular Goals in 5 ways:
All aspects of our curriculum follow a progress model:
Regular cycles of learning linked to ‘Let’s Explore’, ‘I Wonder’ and ‘Adventure Island’ topics.
•Key texts (books, rhymes and songs) identified for each topic.
Systematic programmes for teaching reading, maths and expressive art.
Teaching and learning based on children’s interests.
Key features of our provision:
There is a balance between adult-initiated experiences and child-initiated experiences and this reflected in the organisation of the day: there are periods of sustained uninterrupted play to encourage in-depth exploration; as well as structured sessions where children come together to be guided by an adult.
Priority is given to setting aside the necessary time for children and adults to be together and become fully engaged in cooperative learning. Higher adult/child ratios (fewer children per adult) and smaller group sizes support positive child outcomes.
Although our Curricular Goals, literacy and maths programmes act as a clear road map for children’s learning, we understand the importance of balancing a spontaneous approach to planning with a long-term view of what children need to learn. Planning for short-term learning is a cyclical process that is informed by on-going observation, reflection, discussion and interpretation. We call this our ‘Talk about today, Talk about tomorrow’ planning and this happens on a daily basis. Throughout the school day, staff are skilful in spotting teachable moments and choosing specific activities and strategies that promote curriculum learning. Staff are ‘intentional’ – always purposeful, with a goal in mind and a plan for accomplishing it.
We recognise that every child will not make the same progress through the Curricular Goals and some children will need a higher level of additional support than others. Staff are supported - through training and mentoring – to ensure that ‘The Power Bank’ is embedded in their everyday practice. The Power Bank is both a list of the key inclusive strategies that work for our children and a description of the out-of-the-class interventions that commonly occur across Early Years phases.
Learning takes place both indoors and outside. Every learning space has a purpose and it is clear why each space is arranged as it is. Outdoor provision is a crucial part of the curriculum and it receives equal weighting in terms of planning and resourcing.
Learning each day is framed to children as a ‘Play Project’.
All children make strong progress from their starting points and their progression through the Curricular Goals ensure they are well prepared for the next stage in their learning. They feel safe and secure and are motivated to learn, as demonstrated by consistently high levels of well-being and involvement. Children speak enthusiastically about their learning and demonstrate that they remember and know more. Learning - whether as part of our topics or initiated by children’s own interests – allows children to make rapid progress and many achieve the early learning goals (in line with national expectations). Children start Year 1 with ease – resilient, able and settled for a more formal classroom context.
Children’s communication and language and literacy skills are significantly improved. They develop their vocabulary and understanding of language, and can express themselves and their thoughts in more fluent and cohesive sentences. Children enter Year 1 having grasped early reading skills and use their knowledge of phonics to read accurately and with increasing speed and fluency.
For those children not working at expected levels, precise assessment provides a clear picture of children’s strengths and difficulties; barriers to learning; and the support that is needed to help them progress through the curriculum.
Our relationships with parents and carers are very effective with many commenting positively about their child’s progress and the support they receive from staff. The ‘Together’ programme has impact – parents are engaged within the school community and are aware of how they can best support their child’s development and learning at home.