The Beacon School Leaderboard 09/05

Why it’s so important to get Early Years education right

Published on isbi School News dated Tuesday 17th of May 2022

As the world begins to recalibrate after two challenging years in education, we thought it would be useful to go back to the first years of education and remind ourselves of their importance. We asked Alton School’s Governor – Claire Boyd, who has a breadth of experience in Early Years education, to answer a few questions. This article also appears in this month’s Hampshire Life A Education Magazine.

What are the Early Years?

The early years’ experience, between the ages of 0 and 5, is the most critical time in any child’s education. All indicators of future academic success show that children who have a high-quality experience during their early schooling go on to achieve their academic potential at a faster rate and display higher levels of self-efficacy and self-esteem.

Why do they matter?

It is the time when the very youngest begin to acquire the vital skills they will need throughout the rest of their life. The personal, social and emotional skills children learn at this early stage of their development are the building blocks that will allow them to engage with more formal learning as they get older. There is something incredible about the trajectory of high-quality early years experiences where children go from emergent readers, writers and problem solvers to children who can really take ownership of their own learning. Teachers have an opportunity with the early years to inculcate children with a sense of curiosity about the world.

The early years stage passes so quickly and it’s important that parents think carefully about the environment which prioritise getting to know your child and creating spaces for them to be themselves.

What do children learn in an educational setting that they couldn’t learn at home?

Above all they learn social interaction – a sense of self away from primary care givers.

The “hurts and highs of play” – that’s what Nursery will give you – it’s a place where children can start to take small, managed risks whilst feeling safe. We talk so much about resilience but forget that the best place for that to start is from a very young age.

It is also important that children take ownership of their own learning through experimentation and socialisation. The best early years’ experience is play driven because play is how children process and understand the world.

How has Covid affected children in their Early Years/Early Years provision?

We need to be very careful about the narrative and how we express the impact of covid on young children. The language about lost learning can be very damaging and as carers and educators we need to make sure the narrative is a very positive one. There are many good things that have come out of the last two years, harnessing digital being one obvious example. We must remember that children have an incredible ability to adapt and bounce back. It’s up to us to reframe the impact that Covid can have and ensure that these young children get the most brilliant experience that they deserve – one that is joyful and one that is precious.

What should I look for in an Early Years setting?

If you get a sense of magic, an electric atmosphere that feels busy yet safe, if you can hear the excitement in the childrens’ voices and see the curiosity and wonder in their faces, then you are in the right place.

And be wary of the clean and tidy – an early years’ setting should be untidy, with little corners where children can get lost in their imagination.

The best early years experiences are play driven and play is proven by neuroscience to be critical in scheme of building, cognitive development, play and in how children process and understand the world, so early years settings that prioritise getting to know the child and create open ended opportunies for learning how to play are going to be the ones that set them up best for success.

What are the benefits of a direct transition into Reception from Pre-school?

My overwhelming advice would be to look for the environment which responds to your child’s character whilst giving them the essential building blocks for the years ahead.

The potential gain of a seamless transition where a child can be held and known, in an environment where they can hit the ground running, is unrivalled. It comes back to the fundamental principle of getting things right from the start.

Alton School’s Early Years has been awarded an ‘Outstanding’ rating by Ofsted for their Early Years Foundations Stage provision. Children start in our Nursery at 6 months and continue through to our Reception Class. We have bespoke rooms for each age group with dedicated, highly qualified staff and benefit from our extensive woodland outdoor setting and the school’s sports facilities. Ultimately our aim is to make sure each child’s transition from Pre-school to school is as seamless as possible.

Claire Boyd is a Governor at Alton School and Head at Wimbledon High Juniors.
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