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Early Years

Early Years at Hillmead

  • We are explorers
  • We are investigators
  • We are learners

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 (Snowdrop Class).

Our Nursery Class has a daily 3 hour morning session from 9am until 12pm. 

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.

Principles & Aims (Intent)

  • Early Years’ experience should build on what children already know and can do, build their core knowledge and prepare them for future learning.
  • Children at Hillmead will enjoy a well planned and organised learning environment to facilitate rich and stimulating experiences.
  • Well planned, purposeful activity and appropriate, timely intervention by practitioners will engage children in the learning process.
  • There should be opportunities for children to engage in activities planned across the curriculum, both indoor and outdoor.  Some of these are planned by adults and some children plan or initiate for themselves.
  • Practitioners must be able to observe and respond appropriately to pupils, informed by their knowledge of how children develop and learn.
  • All children should feel included, valued and secure.
  • Parents/carers and practitioners should work together to complement the children’s experiences and develop their learning.


Admissions and Transition

We admit pupils in September in the academic year that they turn five.  It is important to us that parents 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.  Also, in July, we invite parents to attend a parent information evening hosted by the Headteacher, SLT and all EYFS staff.  Here, information regarding school life and the children’s first weeks in Reception will be set out in detail with opportunities to ask plenty of questions. 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.  All parents complete a comprehensive ‘All About Me’ document via Tapestry at the beginning of Nursery and again at the beginning of the Reception year.

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 the cohort and/or 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.  Reception parents are also offered a Consultation session towards the end of October, in line with the rest of the school.

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.

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.

The characteristics of effective learning are:

  • Playing and exploring
  • Active learning
  • Creating and thinking critically

Some of the areas you will find within our Early Years classrooms are:

  • 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 lines 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.

Planning and Teaching

The planning and teaching in our EYFS follows the guidance from the DfES to meet the requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage framework.  Differentiation and adult support are set out in the weekly plans and used to support pupils.  The teaching of English and mathematics are part of the daily routine and involve direct teaching.


The curriculum covers seven areas of learning and experience. This is divided into three prime and four specific areas of learning.

The prime areas of learning are:

  • Communication and Language – focusing on talking, listening, understanding and developing pupils’ confidence and skill in expressing themselves
  • Personal, Social and Emotional Development – learning how to manage their feelings, develop respect for others, learning to work, play and co-operate with others and develop confidence in their own abilities
  • Physical Development – physical control and co-ordination, mobility, awareness of space and manipulative skills in both indoor and outdoor environments and establishing positive attitudes towards a healthy and active way of life.

The specific areas of learning are:

  • Literacy – encompassing the teaching and application of phonics as well as encouraging pupils to become independent readers and writers
  • Maths – providing opportunities for pupils to improve their skills in counting numbers, simple addition and subtraction calculations, describing shapes and measures, with a focus on practical mathematics
  • Understanding of the World – finding out about the world around them, technology, communities and features of the natural and man-made world.  These become a foundation for history, geography, technology, science
  • Expressive Arts and Design – development of imagination and the ability to communicate and to express themselves and their feelings in a range of creative ways.

These seven areas are used to plan children’s learning and activities. This is a similar to 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.

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.

Our EYFS curriculum is delivered through cross-curricular themes and topics which build on children’s interests and which offer experiences in all seven areas of learning.  Activities are carefully planned to meet the needs of all the children and include whole class sessions, small group activities and independent activities.  Children are taught and encouraged to experience all areas of activity during the week, although they may not experience them each day.  While the teaching experiences and activities are planned and monitored by the teaching staff, children have the opportunity to develop these activities in their own way and also to direct their own learning.

A fortnightly overview and newsletter is sent home to inform parents and suggest ways to support their child’s learning at home. These newsletters are posted on Tapestry.

A list showing The Hillmead EYFS topics for the current academic year 2021/22 is attached as Appendix 1.

Phonics in Early Years at Hillmead

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 which is sent home and an additional teacher-led demonstration and 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.

Parents and carers can login using the link below to have full access to their 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.

Further and more detailed information regarding the teaching of Phonics at Hillmead from Early Years to KS1 can be found in our separate Phonics Policy and Guidance

Speech, Language and Communication at Hillmead

At Hillmead, we place a strong emphasis upon speech, language and communication…

Speech – saying sounds accurately and in the right places in words.  It also relates to speaking fluently, without hesitation, prolonging or repeating words or sounds.  It also means speaking with expression in a clear voice using pitch, volume and intonation to add meaning.

Language – understanding and making sense of what people say.  Also includes using words to build up sentences which are used in longer stretches of spoken language and to build conversations.  This skill involves putting information in the right order to make sense.

Communication – how we interact with other; being able to talk to people and take turns as well as change and take turns as well as change language to suit the situation.  It includes non-verbal communication, for example eye contact, gestures and facial expressions.  Communication also relates to being able to consider another person’s perspective, intentions and the wider context.

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 (Appendix 2) 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. 


We strive to ensure that our children’s progress across the EYFS curriculum is good from their varied starting points. As a result, the vast majority of children at Hillmead achieve their Early Learning Goals at the end of Reception and are at least in line with National Expectations. We have exceeded this in the past few years. Evidence in children’s learning journeys support all areas of the EYFS curriculum.

The impact of our curriculum is measured by assessment procedures which allow us to measure outcomes against all schools nationally. We measure the percentage of pupils achieving age related expectations throughout the academic year, putting supportive interventions in place if and when needed.

Class teachers use observations to make formative assessments which inform future planning and ensure that all children build on their current knowledge and skills at a good pace. Summative assessment compares children attainment to age related expectations using month bands in Development Matters. This is tracked to ensure rates of progress are at least good for all children, including vulnerable groups such as those with SEND, disadvantaged or summer born children. Our assessment judgements are moderated both in school and externally with local schools and others in our trust. We also partake in local authority moderation which has validated our school judgements.

The impact of our curriculum will also be measured by how effectively it helps our pupils develop into well rounded individuals who embody our values and carry with them the knowledge, skills and attitudes which will make them lifelong learners and valuable future citizens. We endeavour for pupils to be Key Stage 1 ready and have our school values embedded by the time they leave reception, preparing them for their future.


“Children in the Early Years Foundation Stage make rapid gains in their learning and confidently pursue activities of their own choice as well as those directed by adults. They are developing good literacy and numeracy skills.” Ofsted July 2014

“The proportion of children achieving a good level of development by the time they start in Year 1 is well above the national average.” Ofsted July 2014

Appendix 1

Hillmead EYFS Topics 2021/22


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

Appendix 2