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The Importance of Your Child's First Three Years at School

Published by Sherfield School on Wednesday 1st of February 2023

The quality of a child's education undoubtedly has a lasting impact on the rest of their life. But how important are their first three years at school?


A child's early years experiences and the quality of the provision, form the foundation for their future development, providing a strong base for lifelong learning abilities, including cognitive and social development.


Over recent years a huge body of research has been done on the impact of Early Years Education and it is widely accepted that 90% of a child's brain develops by age 5. Research further suggests that many of the brain connections required for important higher-level abilities are formed during this time. Many educators, including early years specialists, agree with the philosophy that the nursery and reception years are the ideal time to start a challenging, accelerated curriculum filled with an abundance of experiences as research supports the idea that younger minds learn much faster.


This scientific consensus is supported by a recent report form the Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood, led by the Duchess of Cambridge Katherine Middleton, who has launched an awareness-raising campaign to increase public understanding of the importance of the first five years of a child’s life. The campaign – dubbed Shaping Us – aims to make early childhood development “one of the most strategically important topics of our time”.It was further found in another study done by the Royal Foundation, that noted that there is a significant proportion of UK parents of a 0-5-year-old (69%) who underestimate the critical importance of the early years.


Our Head of Prep, Mrs Bouwer says "At Sherfield we found that some parents opt to send their children here when they are older on the understanding that those later years are the most important as it directly relates to GCSE outcomes, but we have found in many cases the outcomes are higher for those who have had an enriching experience during the EYFS and nursery years. It is also true that many children may find it harder to catch up with those who have started in our Reception class. With all the research that has been carried out on the early years it's clear to see the impact that building strong foundational skills early on in life can have later on."


Positive experiences in your child's first three years of school can benefit them in developing social skills and their ability to learn which will set them up for life, even impacting on earning potential. Research by Durham University and the Department for Education suggests pupils in the ‘most effective’ Reception classes can expect to earn between £2,000 and £7,500 more on average than their peers in less effective settings. This is why the school selection process is so important.


Development is not an automatic process; it is highly dependent on each unique life experiences, opportunities to interact in positive relationships and enabling environments as well as a sense of belonging to a well-rounded setting. Therefore, it is paramount that all learning activities are carefully selected, planned, well-structured and supported, within the best possible environment to ensure that all children have appropriate experiences, to allow every child to move from nursery to reception and beyond with confidence, social awareness and a readiness for learning.


At Sherfield School, we have devised a two-year Reception cycle from age 3 to 5 where we seamlessly progress our children from Pre-Reception to the end of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) in Reception. Everything we do in Pre-Reception aims to prepare the children to maximise their learning during that crucial Reception year. Continuity is vital during this period since the children develop so rapidly. 


Our high staff: pupil ratio means that our staff gain an intimate knowledge of each child's personality, learning styles and needs. Our classes are small and attention to detail is high. We have a carefully planned curriculum which includes:



  • Two times more qualified teacher time than local state schools which enables us to teach one adult Maths and Literacy lesson per week

  • Regular trips and visitors further enhancing the curriculum bringing it to life

  • Specialist teaching and equipment in subjects such as Modern Foreign Languages, PE and Swimming.

The Importance of Your Child's First Three Years at School - Photo 1
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