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A River of Learning: Connecting the Curriculum, Right from the Start
  • Early Years

This blog is from one of COBIS' Supporting Associates

Written by Phil Armstrong, Senior Education Lead, Early Excellence

For many years schools have sought ways to create a more linked learning journey for their children as they move between different phases of education; reviewing transition processes, reflecting on what their children really need and adapting practice accordingly. 

However, it may be the case that year groups or phases within a school still work in a degree of isolation, not always fully aware of what has taken place before or is planned the future. This raises key challenges as well as opportunities for schools to explore. School leadership teams need to examine strategically how they have addressed this and identify development priorities.

1/ Understanding Learning

The first challenge is how to ensure that all Subject Leaders, many of whom have never taught in the Early Years or had any prior training on how young children learn, gain a shared understanding of the key principles of the EYFS. Being responsible for planning and monitoring a curriculum that starts at 2, 3 or 4 years of age, requires subject leaders to fully understand the holistic nature of learning in the early years and how their curriculum area interlinks with other areas as well as the significance of the prime areas of learning in building a secure foundation for all learning.

2/ Connecting the Curriculum

Many schools have worked tirelessly over the last few years to develop a more connected curriculum and an essential part of this process has been to involve the early years team. This ensures that the curriculum journey makes sense with what we know about how young children learn, as well as fulfilling what we are statutorily required to do – always being mindful that the Early Learning Goals are not to be used to shape a curriculum and being wary of ‘shoe-horning’ one phase of the curriculum into another.

3/ Understanding the Environment

Key to a successful strategy of curriculum connection that fully embraces the early years, is the recognition of how vital the learning environment is in the early years, both indoors and outside. The curriculum needs to accurately capture this, with Subject Leaders understanding how the curriculum is brought to life, not just through adult-led activities but through a broad range of carefully planned, vibrant and meaningful experiences in multiple contexts.

4/ Evaluating Impact

The current EYFS has required schools to carefully re-examine their current assessment procedures and evidence gathering processes with a shift away from data towards conversations. Subject Leaders will need support to fully engaged with the early years team in order to discuss children’s progress and confidently evaluate the impact of the curriculum and the appropriateness of the next steps.

The ongoing impact of the pandemic has been profound for schools, and it is essential that as we move forward, that we do not lose sight of the unique learning needs of the youngest children and how best to support them. 

Next Steps

Critical to this is ensuring that those working with our children are highly effective and inspiring partners in play and learning. Join us for a series of COBIS online CPD sessions designed for those teaching in the Early Years, exploring the three core principles of the EYFS – the Unique Child, the Enabling Environment, and the Adult Role.