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How our sessions are planned

At The Willows we follow the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), a statutory framework that sets the standard for the learning, development and care of children from birth to 5 years old.

The non-statutory Development Matters has 7 areas of learning and development; 3 prime areas and 4 specific areas. We work towards the Early Learning Goals and observe, assess and plan for each child using this.


The three prime areas of learning are:

  • Personal, Social and Emotional Development (PSED)
  • Physical Development (PD)
  • Communication and Language (CL)


The 4 specific areas of learning are:

  • Literacy (L)
  • Mathematics (M)
  • Understanding of the World (UW)
  • Expressive Arts and Design (EAD)

When staff record observations about a children they link these to the areas of learning and the individual categories that they fall into.

Staff summarise the children’s development 3 times a year, using these observations, and share these through Learning Journeys and parents’ evening. We have started to use an on-line Learning Journey, called The ILD (Interactive Learning Diary) and parents all receive a URN to access their child's diary. This allows you to view their learning and development and to show your family if desired. It is very secure and staff are trained in its use.


You can find out more about the EYFS framework on the Foundation Years website. 


All our pre-school sessions follow a similar routine to ensure familiarity and continuity:

Welcome    We encourage parents to bring their child into the room. Children are then free to engage in any activity that may be set up, sit on the carpet with a staff member or start the day as they wish. 
Carpet Time/Registration   The children are divided into smaller groups. These are age/stage of development coordinated and are led by one or two staff. The children say Good Morning to each other and early number skills are promoted through counting. The children also have opportunity to measure and sort by height, gender and age. This is followed by language groups; these may be based around Toddler Talk, BLAST or Letters and Sounds and are fun, play-based learning activities. 
Activity Time  

This is a period when the children are invited to choose and explore the different activities, in small groups or individual situations, making full use of both our indoor and outdoor environments. All the activities are carefully planned to include all the areas of learning and develop the skills that the children will build on during their lifetimes. However we really believe in being spontaneous and often our best sessions are when we've realised a particular interest or fascination that the children have at that time and followed up on that.

Staff spend time with their keychildren on a regular basis. Our small group time takes place after snack time and is planned for using the group trackers and individual next step recommendations. 

Our outside area is open immediately after registration and the children are free to go in and out when they like. Staff move between the areas to ensure that ratios are maintained. We have a variety of outdoor toys and resources, and the children are encouraged to take their toys outside if they wish. We look at the way that the garden changes according to the weather or the season and explore what nature shows us. We build and construct on a larger scale with open ended resources such as tyres and planks, off cuts of wood, lengths of guttering and hoses.

Our indoor area covers all areas of learning: we have a role play area, a messy area, writing table, construction carpet, maths area and the carpet area where children like to read and complete puzzles. We have a touch screen computer which is used with staff support, and we also have 4 iPads which are used regularly in small groups.

Staff engage with the children while they are playing and use this time to observe and support how the children are playing. Children can make their own choices as to what, and where, they are going to play. Children who are less confident can feel safe in the fact that there are continuous provisions and can feel comforted by the routine and familiarity that the space brings to them. We evaluate the physical environment each term, sometimes more frequently, and make changes as we see necessary. Sometimes we change the layout; other times we remove particular resources for a period of time in order that we can introduce alternatives.

Snack Time   Snack time is between 10.00 and 10.15am, and children are encouraged to have some fruit and milk or water. We also use this time to introduce new foods that the children may not have come across before. Children sit in small groups, with staff, and are encouraged to use this as a social occasion. Allergies are catered for and staff are very aware of this.
Tidy Up Time   A time when all the children are encouraged to take on responsibility as they carefully put their toys away. We have a musical cue to help the children to remember what to do!
Circle Time   An opportunity for the children to have a quieter time for a few moments as they gather together as a group to appreciate books, handling them carefully and enjoy a story or two; we have music time or a chance to join in with singing. We split the group in half so that all children have opportunity to speak and to listen,


Lunchtime   The children who are having lunch are asked to use the toilet and wash their hands prior to finding their lunch boxes and choosing where to sit. Staff sit at the tables and role model good manners and social skills. Children are encouraged to eat their sandwich (or alternative), followed by fruit/veg and then other lunchables. Staff recommend that parents provide a healthy lunch, with limited "treats" and not too much. When children have finished they can choose a book to look at whilst everyone else finishes.
Afternoon   Some children may go home after lunch, others may come in and others may be here all day. The afternoon activities are varied to the morning to allow for this. There are still the same areas that are set up but with some differences. Children may choose quieter activities as they are sometimes tired. If they ask for a rest then staff provide a blanket and cushion and a quieter area for them to sit or lie down in. We have a drink at 2.30pm and end the day with two groups having stories and songs.