Case Study

EYFS (EARLY YEARS FOUNDATION STAGE)

Practice across Victoria Academies Trust

Central England Teacher Training offers students two different routes into teaching which they can choose between; they are the General Primary Route (with a focus on teaching children aged 5 – 11) and the EYFS route (with a focus on teaching pupils children aged 3 – 7).

For those who already know that they definitely want to teach Early Years, training with Central England Teacher Training offers amazing opportunities. Students can choose to take the specialized EYFS route into teaching, and can learn from Early Years experts within Victoria Academies Trust, as well as benefit from the innovative practice taking place across the Trust.

EYFS AT VICTORIA ACADEMIES TRUST

The EYFS curriculum taught at Victoria Academies Trust has a strong focus on creative and child-led learning. Nicky, Director of EYFS across the Trust, explains, “we believe that independence and ownership of learning can be developed right from the very beginning of child’s educational journey. We encourage independence through choice; for example, when learning through play, the children can choose the direction they take by choosing the method of play from within a wide range of learning zones both indoors and outdoors

The methods for creative and child led learning develop further through ‘learning challenges’. To begin each challenge, teachers frame what it is that the children are going to be learning about, and reveal what the ‘outcome’ of the learning will be. The outcome is always a real task, event or experience that will eventually be completed, and which the children will be working towards. The journey that pupils take towards this outcome is co-constructed by the teacher and the children, through discussion and mind-mapping ideas. In this way the children are involved from the beginning in choosing the direction the learning will take.

“We believe that independence and ownership of learning can be developed right from the very beginning of child’s educational journey.”

An example of a learning challenge which takes place in Early Years at one of the Trust schools is based around the question: ‘how can we create a parade for our families?’ The outcome of the learning is that pupils will organise and stage a real-life parade for their families, who will be coming into school for the event. The real, upcoming outcome sparks excitement in the children as they prepare. They suggest ways to get ready which may include creating costumes, writing invitations, and learning songs and dances. There is also plenty of teacher-led input, for example, looking at examples of parades from around the world with the pupils, such as those that take place at the Rio carnival, to learn more about what a parade is, and how it works, to get ideas. Through this particular learning challenge, children engage in several key elements of the curriculum, including literacy, geography, art, and music, in a purposeful and creative way. Learning challenges are always designed to cover key areas of the curriculum in this way, while sparking children’s imagination and creativity as they work towards their outcome.

“We try to centre much of the learning around experiences, to hook the children in, and to help them to connect with their learning in a real, immersive and purposeful way.”

Nicky explains, “we aim for a balance between adult led and child led learning in Early Years, in order to achieve successful outcomes. Teachers provide pupils with the fundamental knowledge, resources and structure needed for learning to take place, but the child-led elements then help the children to become more independent, pro-active and self-motivated in their approach. The point of learning challenges is to encourage children to see the learning opportunity as something that they should rise to, and respond to creatively. We make sure that there are clear opportunities within the learning for children to take responsibility for decisions, work in teams or independently, and to take on various roles within the process of learning and achieving. We try to centre much of the learning around experiences, to hook the children in, and to help them to connect with their learning in a real, immersive and purposeful way.Fostering warm and caring relationships with the children is also central to all our practice in Early Years at Victoria Academies Trust. We want all our children to know that the adults who work with them will always be supportive and responsive to their needs.”

The Early Years practice within Victoria Academies Trust is dedicated to providing creative and purposeful learning for children in order to help them to develop key skills such as independence, self-regulation and resilience, and therefore afford them with the best possible start to their educational journey. The Trust as a whole is dedicated to innovative practice and high quality continued professional development at EYFS level and beyond, and also has its own EYFS Network focused on moderation and sharing best practice.

LEARNING FROM EXPERT PRACTITIONERS

Victoria Academies Trust has its own Director of EYFS, Nicky Clements, who leads the sessions specific to Early Years teaching for Central England Teacher Training. Her expertise in the field also sees her running workshops at national conferences, as well as writing a popular blog on EYFS practice called ‘fire starting’ (due to her desire to ‘light fires’ of interest and passion for learning). She takes a keen interest in all developments concerning cutting edge EYFS theory and practice, and works to support everyone who trains and works in Early Years within Victoria Academies Trust in delivering state-of-the-art provision.

As well as receiving training from Nicky, CETT students taking the EYFS route benefit from observing and working alongside outstanding Early Years teachers, learning from them on a day-to-day basis within the classroom setting.