The safeguarding of children’s right to play is at the core of our Early Years approach and reflects everything we do from learning environments and daily routines to planning and assessment methods.
“Establishing a happy, safe and stimulating environment for children is not a luxury; it is a necessary base on which mature societies build. But children need environments in which they “learn how to learn” which are planned, and provided with independent thinking, self-direction and social responsibility central to their rationale “
(Affiliated Body of Childhood Education)
Moreover, in furthering the delivery of an international education in a Chinese context, we have merged the English Early Years Foundation Stage and the Chinese Curriculum (2-6 years) guidelines to create an encompassing curriculum and Wellington framework for teaching and learning. We have 4 guiding principles which shape our practice and these are:
• 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 in enabling environments, in which their experiences respond to their individual needs and there is a strong partnership between practitioners and parents
• Children develop and learn in different ways and at different rates
There are 7 Areas of Learning and Development that shape our educational programmes and all are important and inter-connected. These are made up of the 3 prime areas and 4 specific areas. Moreover, as a bilingual nursery, we work towards learning outcomes in Communication and Language and Literacy in both English and Chinese.
The three Prime 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 are:
• Personal, Social and Emotional Development
• Communication and Language
• Physical Development
The four Specific areas are also supported, through which the prime areas are strengthened and applied and are:
• Understanding of the World
• Expressive Arts and Design
Underpinning all areas of learning and development are the Characteristics of Effective Learning which are a set of skills, divided into 3 main areas and focus on how children learn.
• Playing and exploring
• Active Learning
• Creating and thinking critically
Many of these skills relate to children’s ability to reflect, to help themselves and be self-motivated, as well as to have a good attitude and “can do “approach to learning and new challenges. To support children in being able to recognize these skills and to become aware of them, we use the language of thinking as much as possible in our daily interactions as well as in ways we share assessment of new learning in individual Learning Stories, and in displays throughout our environments.
Learning is constantly developed through play-based activities, centred around a range of child-led projects or themes whereby pupils are invited to share what they already know and then, with the help of the adults around them, research the theme in greater depth. As the 7 Areas of Learning and Development from our Wellington Framework are all interrelated, children’s knowledge, understanding and confidence in each aspect are taught through this highly effective pedagogical approach. Therefore, the holistic education they receive ensures that no skill is taught in isolation but within a context already chosen or known by the pupil. By presenting them with this appropriate curriculum, designed to challenge, motivate and inspire curiosity, we allow them to delight and experience success as well as ensure that planning for gaps in learning are supported so children move forward with their personal and academic achievements.
Assessment in our nursery allows for a personalized view of each pupil and includes an individual record of their achievements throughout each year, documented in a Learning Story or Journey ) and this is shared with the pupil and parents to ensure a holistic representation of a pupil’s development. This approach also offers opportunities to reflect on and celebrate new learning as well as plan next steps.
Each Area of Learning and Development has a set of desired, age-appropriate Learning Outcomes and these are monitored through observational assessment by the class teaching team whilst children are deeply engaged in independent play. Responsible pedagogy through open-ended questioning is also used when making judgements to make sure that we allow children the time and experience to show us what they know and can do. Tracking and reporting progress against individual pupil’s children’s attainment and achievement are supported by a Wellington College China internal IT analysis platform which is also used to check and ensure that we offer and maintain the optimum conditions for teaching and learning
Each nursery class has its own co-teaching partnership which forms an integral part of the class team. Strengthened by a shared understanding of the bi-cultural Wellington ethos, teachers, teaching assistants and early years assistants work collectively to share responsibility for each child’s individual learning and promote all the areas of learning and development in both English and Chinese.