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Early Years

Organisation of Classes

Our Foundation Stage is split into Nursery and Reception Classes. We currently have one Nursery Class (Clover Class) and one Reception Class (Tulip Class).

Our Nursery Class has a daily 3 hour morning session from 9am until 12pm. Our Nursery Class currently has 26 children taught by one qualified teacher and three Level 3 LSAs.

Our Reception Class takes up to 30 children aged between 4 and 5 years old and is taught by one qualified teacher supported by at least one LSA. Reception have a full day session from 8.55am until 3.15pm.


The Learning Environment

Our learning environment is large and spacious both indoors and outside. The areas are carefully organised to enable the children to develop and demonstrate characteristics of effective learning. Children have free access to all areas, supervised and supported by a member of staff at all times. Children learn by leading their own play and by taking part in play that is guided by adults.



We strive for parents to feel secure in the knowledge that their child is well cared for, safe and happy at school. To that end, we work closely with parents to support children’s transition into our setting. We undertake visits to each child in their nursery or pre-school setting during the summer term prior to joining us at Hillmead. We also run a series of Stay and Play sessions for prospective children and their parents throughout the summer term, as well as a ‘move up’ morning for children only and a parent information evening in July. Before the start of the new school year, teachers and support staff visit each child who is new to Hillmead at home for an informal chat about starting school, to discuss routines and answer questions. This is an invaluable opportunity to get to know the children in their familiar setting and find out about their needs and interests.


At the start of the new academic year, we operate a phased transition to full time school over a period of approximately one to two weeks. This process is flexible and is tailored to meet the needs of individual children, as required. 

Early in the autumn term a ‘Meet the Teacher’ session is held in school to further inform parents of the routines and expectations of Early Years at Hillmead. A parent handout is available as a follow up for this session.


Parents as Partners

We encourage parents to take an active role in their child’s learning. Parents are able to share in learning experiences through the shared online learning journal ‘Tapestry’, sharing assemblies, volunteering in school and parent workshops. Parents receive regular feedback on their child’s learning and progress in various ways; for example, we regularly share the children’s learning experiences in school via the online Tapestry system and parents can also use this system to comment on their child’s learning or share photographs of experiences from home. A ‘Chatterbag’ is also sent home on a rota basis for children to share some special objects of interest from home with their peers back in the classroom.

Teacher consultations are held with parents twice a year in the Autumn and Spring Terms and there are regular opportunities for parents to look through work and books in the classrooms. A written report is provided for each child at the end of the academic year.

Children have regular opportunities to look at their learning journals and make comments about their learning.

We pride ourselves on our open door policy in Early Years at Hillmead and value the regular contact we have with parents at the beginning and end of the school day.



To enable children to develop the seven areas of learning are followed:

Prime areas of learning:

  • Communication and Language, (Listening and attention, Understanding and speaking)
  • Personal, Social and Emotional Development, (making Relationships, Self-confidence and self-awareness, Managing feelings and behaviour)
  • Physical Development, (Moving and handling and Health and self-care)

Specific areas of learning:

  • Literacy, (Reading and Writing)
  • Maths, (Number and Shape, space and measure)
  • Understanding of the World, People and communities, The world, Technology)
  • Expressive Arts and Design, (Exploring and using media and materials, Being Imaginative)


These 7 areas are used to plan your child’s learning and activities. This is a little like the curriculum in KS1 and KS2 but it is suitable for very young children and is designed to be flexible so that adults can follow the children’s unique needs and interests.


Areas within the Early Years classrooms:

  • a book corner containing a range of fiction, non-fiction, poetry books
  • a maths resource area which allows children to select appropriate items to help them solve practical problems
  • a creative area containing resources for a range of art, design, music and technology activities
  • a construction area containing resources for developing fine motor skills, social interaction and problem solving
  • a small world area which allows children to extend fine motor skills, engage in imaginative play and develop language
  • an area for sand, malleable materials (e.g. play dough) and water play, where children can engage in practical investigations
  • a role play area which can be developed along themed line to cover several aspects of learning in “real life” scenarios

The outside area is seen as an extension of the classroom and the above opportunities will be available outside as well as inside.


Please take a look at ‘What to expect, When?’ for guidance on your child’s learning and development.


The curriculum in Early Years is organised so that children learn through a combination of child and adult led activities. Between one and two hours each day is given to ‘CHIL Time’ (CHild Initiated Learning) when the children can choose their own activities, access resources independently and meet their own challenges. It is very important that children develop social skills such as turn-taking, sharing and independence which help them a great deal in their next stages of learning.


The EYFS curriculum is delivered through cross-curricular topics and activities are carefully planned to meet the needs of all the children. These include whole class sessions, small group activities and independent activities. An overview and newsletter is sent home each fortnight to inform parents and suggest ways to support their child’s learning at home. These newsletters are posted on Tapestry. The Hillmead EYFS topics for the academic year 2021/22 are shown below:


Topic Title

Nursery Key Texts

Reception Key Texts

Autumn 1

My Wonderful World

An exploration of the world around us.

Who are our family and friends?

Where is our school? Where do we live?

Make sense of our own life stories.

Starting School, Janet & Allan Ahlberg

Full, Full, Full of Love, Trish Cooke

Owl Babies, Martin Waddell

Happy in our Skin, Fran Manushkin

The Colour Monster Starts School, Anna Llenas

The Colour Monster, Anna Llenas

*So Much, Trish Cooke

Autumn 2

How Do We Celebrate?

Celebrations! Diwali Guy Fawkes, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah & Christmas.

Recognise that people have dfferent beliefs and celebrate special times in different ways.

Peppa’s Diwali, Mandy Archer

Bringing in the New year, Grace Lin

Celebration books

*I am Henry Finch, Alexis Deacon

Non Fiction ‘Celebrations’

Spring 1

The Power in Me!

Superheroes. Fictional and real life superheroes. Considering the people who help us and recalling past experiences we have had at the doctors, dentist etc.

Silly Billy, Anthony Browne

Ruby’s Worry, Tom Percival

The Koala Who Could, Rachel Bright

My Superhero Mum,

*Willy the Wimp, Anthony Browne

*Look Up, Nathan Bryon

Perfectly Norman, Tom Percival

Spring 2

Sowing a Seed

Growing, nature and the environment. Understand the key features of the life cycle of a plant or animal.

Oliver’s Vegetables, Vivian French

The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle

Jasper’s Beanstalk, Nick Butterworth

Yucky Worms, Vivian French

*I will never ever eat a tomato, Lauren Child

*The Tiny Seed, Eric Carle

Jack and the Jelly Bean Stalk, Rachel Mortimer

Summer 1

Telling a Tale

Listen to and retell our favourite stories, Familiar and alternative versions of our favourite traditional tales.

Jack and the Beanstalk

3 Little Pigs

The Gingerbread Man

*The Magic Paintbrush, Julia Donaldson

*Little Red, David Rogers

Pigs Might Fly, Jonathan Emmett & Steve Cox

Summer 2

Wild Adventures

What is beyond where we live? Similarities and differences between life in this country andlife in other countries. Reception children focus on Africa.

We’re going on a Bear Hunt, Michael Rosen

Whatever Next, Jill Murphy

Anna Hibiscus Song, Atinuke & Lauren Tobia

*Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak

*Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain Plain, Verna Aardema

Handa’s Surprise, Eileen Browne


Phonics teaching and learning are a key part of learning in Early Years and help to develop early reading and writing skills. At Hillmead our core scheme for Phonics is Phonics Bug and children are taught in a phonics session daily. We provide information and support for parents in this approach through a Phonics Wallet home and an additional teacher led information session. We also hold a drop-in session later in the year for further support and advice. We inform parents via the fortnightly newsletter of the new sounds children are learning each day and, in addition, send home sheets and activity ideas for parents to support this learning at home. Log-in using the link below to have full access to your child’s  phonically decodable e-books and phonics games.


In Reception, children take home a reading book to share each day and parents are encouraged to read with their child daily and record their comments and feedback in a reading journal. We provide an information sheet for parents on appropriate ways to support their child in reading at home and offer teacher consultations for more advice, should parents require. Children read regularly with adults in school. Teachers assess the children’s progress and communicate progress and next steps to parents through their Reading Record Book.

Observation & Assessment

Ongoing assessment is an integral part of the learning and development process. It involves practitioners observing children to understand their level of achievement, interests, learning styles and to shape learning experiences for each child reflecting those observations. At Hillmead we make systematic observations of children’s learning experiences both informally and formally and use these observations and assessments to identify learning priorities and plan relevant and motivating learning experiences for each child. Each child’s level of development is assessed against the early learning goals (below) and practitioners will indicate whether children are meeting expected levels of development for their age. A letter is sent home to parents explaining this process in Hillmead Early Years.

We also encourage parents to use ’What to expect, When?’ (see link above) to support their understanding of learning and development in the Early Years. 




"Children start school with skills, knowledge and understanding typical for their age. They make good progress through Nursery and Reception years. At the end of the foundation stage, the proportion of children reaching a good level of development over the past three years has been consistently above average." Ofsted May 2018


"Children are provided with regular opportunities to develop their communication and language skills, through practical activities and role play." 

Ofsted May 2018


"Children’s learning is supported by a well-structured learning environment. There are a variety of independent learning activities for them to access, such as mark making, which allow them to build on prior learning." Ofsted May 2018


"Through skilful questioning and knowing the children well, they enable children to move quickly on in their learning." Ofsted May 2018

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