Teaching & Learning
We follow the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and Key Stage 1 (KS1) Curriculum to ensure the best start in education and beyond. Our fantastic WOW Days are an excellent example of this – the curriculum is suspended for the entire day to provide an unusual or amazing experience that can start, augment or finish a topic the children have been studying. Our curriculum also includes swimming, class tennis lessons, class music lessons with specialist music teachers, French, music & movement, PE and games; Year 2's play tag rugby, netball and hockey.
As well as year group WOW Days, we also have whole school WOW Days where everyone in the Pre-Prep takes part in an exciting day together, focusing on an area of the curriculum such as Maths, Creative Arts or Science. During these days we often make use of our wonderful outside environment, including our large Forest School, where the children take part in imaginative, creative and investigative activities designed to inspire a love of the natural world, which is then linked to all areas of the curriculum.
Our high teacher-to-pupil ratio enables our dedicated and caring staff to meet each child’s individual needs and provide a safe and happy learning environment. We offer a broad curriculum and many extracurricular activities and clubs including choir, strings orchestra, speech and drama, PE, art and craft, dance and thinking skills.
"My two girls have flourished since they both became a 'DCPPS Squirrel', they have found a passion for music which I never knew they had, and a real love of learning has been ignited! Thank you!"
The Beginning of The Learning Journey
Our youngest pupils start their educational journey at Dean Close Pre-Prep in the Early Years where they follow an exciting play-based curriculum following an exciting child-centred programme with seven areas of learning outlined in the Early Years Foundation Stage. Our aim is to develop each and every child, ensuring that we plan the right experiences for them and ignite a love of learning., with a balance of child and teacher initiated activities to stimulate and develop each child. Children take part in music, PE, have an active part in assemblies and shows, and make use of our lovely grounds and Forest School.
Squirrel Kittens is available for children aged 2 years plus. The Squirrel Kittens group is situated in its own purpose-built suite of rooms, comprising a messy play area, cosy carpeted playroom, eating area, and their own toilet and changing area. They also benefit from sharing the Pre-Prep facilities and join with Pre-Prep to take part in activities such as playtime, PE, Forest School, library time, music and dance and some assemblies.
In our Nursery for rising threes, children love learning and developing their knowledge through exciting activities and play, whether in their bespoke outside play area, the Wendy house, dressing up, painting, cooking or listening to a story on the cushions. As with the Squirrel Kittens, they also benefit from sharing the Pre-Prep facilities and join with Pre-Prep to take part in activities such as playtime, PE, Forest School, library time, music and dance and some assemblies.
Children then move on to one of our two Kindergarten classes where they take their next steps in learning to read and write, being introduced to phonics and developing number and topic-based learning. They also have ICT lessons and are introduced to the French language through songs and games.
The conservatory area and outside playground adjacent to their classrooms provides a stimulating area for dressing up, water play and for using their imaginations to create their own world. Kindergarten also visit our Forest School every week, where they can explore and learn about the wonders of nature and their beautiful outside environment.
Continuing The Learning Journey
In Reception the children, whilst still part of the EYFS, begin full-time school and the curriculum becomes a little more structured. They will have regular numeracy and literacy lessons alongside exciting topic work and child-initiated play in their dedicated play areas and playground. Pupils also begin swimming and tennis lessons and continue their French and Forest School visits.
The curriculum in Reception builds on the curriculum and learning journey embarked on in Squirrel Kittens, Nursery and Kindergarten. The Reception year is a key year – it is the first year of school and is vital that children experience the best environment to ignite a love of learning and enable your child to develop, grow and learn. We offer a wide range of learning opportunities aimed at stimulating and nurturing your child’s development and interests, laying down the important educational foundations for academic development across the curriculum.
Reception children benefit from small class sizes, enabling each individual to be supported and challenged allowing them to develop key skills quickly and ensuring an excellent foundation for their learning. We believe in giving children the opportunity to flourish and find their talents – developing the ‘whole’ child, and therefore our curriculum includes French, Music, Dance, Drama, P.E., Swimming, Games and Forest School in addition to the areas below.
Reception children follow the Foundation Stage framework across seven learning areas. This is a statutory framework taught in all schools.
- 1. Personal, Social and Emotional Development
- 2. Communication and Language Development
- 3. Literacy Development
- 4. Mathematics Development
- 5. Understanding the World
- 6. Physical Development
- 7. Expressive Arts and Design Development
The development of communication and language is at the heart of young children’s learning and a vital part of the Reception curriculum; this includes giving many daily opportunities for speaking and listening for different purposes, developing children’s confidence and skill in expressing themselves. In class the children are given different ways to develop and practise these skills, including speaking and listening to others during ‘Show and Tell’ and ‘news’, learning to ask questions to find out more, being able to explain and present information about something they have brought in to class, or to express an opinion. The children are also given opportunities to learn words for class assemblies which they then present to the school, building up their confidence when speaking in front of others on a bigger stage.
This involves encouraging children to link sounds and letters, being read a wide variety of books and beginning to read and write.
Within the Early Years/Foundation Stage, the alphabet is learnt by a method called Jolly Phonics. In Reception, children build on knowledge started in Kindergarten and then develop by learning di and trigraphs. Phonics are the building bricks of all words and will eventually help your child decipher new vocabulary.
In Jolly Phonics the 42 main sounds of English are taught, not just the alphabet sounds. For each sound there is an action which helps the children remember the sound the letter makes. In Reception, as the letters are taught, they are stuck into a ‘Sound Book’ which your child will bring home. The letters are not introduced in alphabetical order. The first group: ‘s, a, t, p, i, n’ has been chosen because they make more simple three letter words than any other six letters. Sounds with more than one way of being written are first taught in one form only; for instance, the sound ‘ai’ (rain) is on the Sound Sheet, the alternatives ‘a-e’ (cake) and ‘ay’ (day) will be taught later.
Children in Reception soon start to use this knowledge in their writing which enables them to write independently. As their understanding of phonics develops they will be able to use digraphs and trigraphs (for example ‘ay’ and ‘igh’) in addition to using the standard spellings of high frequency words. By the end of Reception most children are confidently able to write a short story or recount of an event independently.
Children’s mathematical development arises out of daily experiences in a rich and interesting environment. It involves becoming confident and competent in learning key skills in numeracy and simple mathematical problem solving. In Reception, children build on their early experiences and learn to record their practical work – for example record practical addition of two groups of numbers. Reception children will also start using maths workbooks, recording their answers and working independently.
Instilling the Confidence to be Independent Thinkers
In Years 1 and 2, the children build on their skills and continue to develop independence in reading, writing, speaking and listening. They enjoy practical and written work in Maths, learning the four operations of number, problem solving and measure, shape and space. Our aim with this age group is to challenge and inspire them to develop their love of learning by broadening their horizons whilst introducing a more structured curriculum. This includes lessons in ICT, Art, Science, French and Design & Technology. In preparation for their move to Year 3, they also visit the Prep School for lessons in Music, Art and Games.
Through exciting cross-curricular topic work, the children develop an understanding of History, Geography and Art/DT and are able to explore scientific concepts through investigation, discussion and prediction in their Science work. Children enjoy a weekly swimming lesson in our 25m pool and receive regular tennis lessons.
We work closely with our colleagues at the Prep School to ensure children move through the School with ease and are ready for the next stage of their lives.
The curriculum is designed to offer a broad content of study although the basic framework of the Key Stage One National Curriculum is a guideline.
The Year Two children do not take the National Curriculum KS1 tests, consequently this enables staff to enrich and broaden the curriculum as appropriate. The predominant mode of work is a combination of group and individual work promoting learning for all children across differing levels of progress and ability.
Children build upon prior experiences of the Foundation stage by:
Using and applying Mathematics – developing their knowledge and understanding through practical activities, exploration and discussion.
Number – Using and applying number through problem solving, communicating and reasoning, exploration of the number system, methods of calculation (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division), data interpretation, money and mental maths activities.
Shape, Space and Measure – Understanding patterns and properties of shape, position and movement, time, measurement, capacity and weight.
N.B. The Pre-Preparatory School’s core scheme is ‘New Heinemann Mathematics’.
The science curriculum is organised to stimulate children’s curiosity through opportunities for investigation, discussion, prediction, practical and written work.
Life Processes and Living Things
Materials and their Properties
Physical Processes (forces, motion, electricity, light and sound)
Many strands of study are incorporated into other subjects across the curriculum.
A selection of topics are covered in Years One and Two, incorporating History, Geography, Art, Design and Technology.
Children learn how the past differs from the present, about the lives of significant people from the past, how to use sources of information to help them ask and answer questions and selected time eras.
Children learn about their immediate environment and the wider world, map reading skills, varying climates and landscapes, how to use geographical vocabulary, fieldwork skills and secondary sources (e.g., pictures and information books) appropriately.
Art, Design and Technology
Children have opportunities to explore artistic techniques through colour, form, texture and pattern using a variety of different materials and techniques. They learn to evaluate their work and talk about how they could change/improve ideas and designs. Children learn about the work of artists and designers in different times and cultures.
Children build upon prior experiences of the Foundation Stage by developing skills in:
Speaking and Listening – speaking with clarity, fluency and confidence to different people; listening, understanding and responding to others; participating in group discussion and drama.
Reading – building upon phonological awareness, grammatical and contextual understanding through both non-fiction and fiction books. NB The core reading scheme is New Ginn 360. In addition, a wide variety of other reading schemes are colour-coded to correspond with the core reading scheme, encouraging a broader reading scope. (See notes on helping with reading.)
Written Skills – developing correct use of a wide range of punctuation, grammar and comprehension skills, imaginative story writing, factual accounts, spelling strategies, dictation and handwriting skills.
N.B. All children begin to write in joined-up form in Year Two but learn cursive skills from Reception.