Our Early Years Curriculum
At St Stephen’s Church of England Primary School we are proud of the start we give to all children in Foundation Stage as they join our school. The Foundation Stage is a discrete and very special phase and is concerned with the development of “the whole child”, each area of development closely and often seamlessly intertwined together as children learn and develop following a play based curriculum. The Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum has three “prime” areas of learning; Personal, Social and Emotional development, language for communication and thinking and physical development, and four “specific” areas; literacy, mathematics, understanding the world and expressive arts and design. Broad developmental bands indicating likely stages of development and behaviours in each of these areas form the basis of our planning for learning and children’s progress and attainment is monitored in relation to these developmental bands. All activities and experiences are designed and planned to meet individual needs and interests.
Quality play experiences form the basis of each day in Foundation Stage and children are encouraged to initiate and develop their own ideas, working with other children and adults in a variety of contexts both indoors and in the outdoor classroom. In addition we use our “Forest Schools” area on our school field, which involves small groups using the natural environment to explore, learn and grow, as well as enhancing self-esteem, confidence, independence and personal well-being.
We have a carefully structured induction programme to settle children into our school and we work closely with parents and families to form a partnership around each child to work together to ensure each child reaches their fullest potential. Foundation Stage children contribute to whole school life in many different ways, including performances, joining older children for Collective Worship and special celebration times, visiting other classes and sharing their work with others.
Our Years 1-6 Curriculum
The curriculum we offer is designed to meet the needs of all our pupils. It is rich, varied, creative and imaginative and meets the needs of individual learners exceedingly well. It is a priority of the school to ensure that the basic skills of reading, writing, communication and maths are taught not only as discrete subjects but in as many other subjects as possible through a cross-curricular enquiry based approach.
Over the past few years have developed a creative way of learning and teaching, enabling us to move away from discrete lessons into a more meaningful, engaging, topic based approach for our foundation subjects. Children are empowered to generate wondering questions about new topics in order to create a more child initiated, enquiry based learning journey.
This approach we feel has inspired and engaged all our children in their learning, enabling all our children to enjoy and achieve to their fullest potential. As an ICT Test bed school from 2002-2006 the school was at the forefront of successful, innovative curriculum design and following a successful county project in September 2010 entitled “Dare to Inspire”, our curriculum continues to be at the forefront; exhausting outdoor learning opportunities to engage and enrich learning experiences.
It has been a pleasure to share our new approach with other schools through the Durham Head teacher’s conference, in school training and leading staff meetings at other schools.
Our curriculum is broad and balanced, providing pupils with their full entitlement and is customised to meet the changing needs of individuals and groups. PE, SEAL, Music, RE, Drama and French are all taught discretely outside of the Creative curriculum to ensure depth and rigour. To ensure that the curriculum meets the statutory requirements themed weeks eg Science weeks, Anti-bullying weeks, Maths Investigation days and International weeks are planned throughout each term to fully meet the needs of all learners. The curriculum is enhanced with links to the ECM agenda, such as developing work on drugs awareness,SRE and bullying through our weekly family group sessions. A customised curriculum which meets both the academic and pastoral needs of all our pupils is fundamental to our school ethos and vision.
Computing is not taught discreetly but is fully embedded across the whole curriculum and permeates every subject. It is used in all curriculum areas and has raised interest, self esteem, creativity and aspirations of all children. The Computing curriculum is rich and varied and provides our pupils with the skills required for life in the 21st Century.
RE in school provides a balance of opportunities for children to learn about and learn from religion. Learning from religion provides huge scope for developing children’s spirituality. RE is taught discretely by our Deputy Headteacher during the class teachers PPA time each week. The children are thriving within the RE sessions, especially when they are given the opportunity to “Learn from religion”. In fact a Year 4 boy commented “I love RE especially when I get a chance to express myself!” We are passionate about engaging our learners outside the classroom across all subject areas. Therefore during each Autumn Term all our pupils from Year 1 up to Year 6, will visit our Parish Church of St Stephens to extend and deepen their knowledge of the Anglican faith. Throughout the year we aim to take our pupils to a contrasting place of worship to broaden their horizons of other cultures, religions and other Christian denominations. As a Church school we feel that raising the profile of RE and teaching it so thoroughly and regularly throughout the school undoubtedly has a positive impact on our children’s spiritual, moral and emotional well being. However we are also seeing unforeseen gains through the development of speaking, listening and writing across the school, as RE provides a fascinating vehicle in order to develop these literacy skills. Annual Barnabus whole school RE Days exploring various themes further develop spirituality and religious understanding.
Our Approach to Phonic and Reading Schemes
The teaching of literacy is a strength in St Stephen’s Church of England Primary School and we are proud of the progress which all children make in developing communication skills, reading and writing skills throughout school. The teaching of phonics is an integral part of developing literacy and we adhere to the DfE “Letters and Sounds” framework for teaching phonics. We have also begun using the Read, Write Inc. Programme.
Teaching of phonics, in our school, begins in nursery, beginning with phase 1 of Letters and Sounds. Children are taught to concentrate and to listen carefully to discriminate and identify different sounds, both sounds we can hear all around us as well as spoken sounds. Learning experiences to develop spoken language and vocabulary are also planned for and children are continually immersed in a language rich environment. Children are also taught to remember and sequence sounds, playing simple games, joining in with stories, rhymes and songs to develop an understanding of rhythm, pattern and rhyme.
Once children are confident and have acquired mastery of these early skills they are taught to recognise letter shapes (graphemes) and their corresponding speech sound (phonemes) and move onto phase 2 of Letters and sounds. Phase 2 introduces 19 letters and children are taught to hear, read and write sounds. Children are introduced to new sounds, revise and revisit known sounds, and then to apply their knowledge to read and write words and sentences. Phases 3, 4 and 5 build on this knowledge as children are taught the 44 speech sounds and 140 graphemes (letter combinations which can make that sound) Children’s progress is monitored and recorded in relation to Letters and Sounds phases and their overall reading development.
The assessment of children’s phonic knowledge at the end of Year 1 is a statutory requirement. We report children’s attainment to parents at the end of Y1. Provision is made for children to receive additional support in Year 2 as necessary and children who did not meet the threshold mark in year 1 have an opportunity to resit the phonics check at the end of year 2.
Within our school the reading scheme used incorporates Oxford Reading Tree materials including Floppy’s Phonics which is used to support the teaching of synthetic phonics, Traditional Tales, Biff, Chip and Kipper stories and Treetops and non-fiction books. Our scheme is also supplemented with books from other published reading schemes eg Ginn, Heinemann Story World and ‘real’ books.
2014 New Primary National Curriculum
View the DFE programmes of study for all school subjects: