Our early years setting follows the curriculum as outlined in the 2017 statutory framework of the EYFS.

The EYFS framework includes 7 areas of learning and development that are equally important and inter-connected. However, 3 areas known as the prime areas are seen as particularly important for igniting curiosity and enthusiasm for learning, and for building children’s capacity to learn, form relationships and thrive.

The prime areas are:

Communication and language

Physical development

Personal, social and emotional development

The prime areas are strengthened and applied through 4 specific areas:



Understanding the world

Expressive arts and design

At Highcliffe we believe that children should be given the opportunity to be creative through all areas of learning. Adults support children’s thinking and help them make connections by showing interest, offering encouragement, clarifying ideas and asking open ended questions.


Characteristics of Effective Learning

We ensure that our environment and delivery of the curriculum incorporates the three characteristics of effective teaching and learning:

Playing and exploring - children will have opportunities to investigate and experience things, and ‘have a go’. 

“Children’s play reflects their wide ranging and varied interests and preoccupations. In their play children learn at their highest level. Play with peers is important for children’s development.”

Through play, our children explore and develop learning experiences, which help them make sense of the world. They practise and build up ideas, learn how to control themselves and understand the need for rules. They have the opportunity to think creatively alongside other children as well as on their own. They communicate with others as they investigate and solve problems.

Active learning - children will have time and space to concentrate and keep on trying if they encounter difficulties, and enjoy their achievements.

“Children learn best through physical and mental challenges. Active learning involves other people, objects, ideas and events that engage and involve children for sustained periods.”

Active learning occurs when children are motivated and interested. Children need some independence and control over their learning. As children develop their confidence, they learn to make decisions. It provides children with a sense of satisfaction as they take ownership of their learning.

Creating and thinking critically - we encourage and support children to have and develop their own ideas, make links between ideas, and develop strategies for doing things.

“When children have opportunities to play with ideas in different situations and with a variety of resources, they discover connections and come to new and better understandings and ways of doing things. Adult support in this process enhances their ability to think critically and ask questions.”

Children should be given the opportunity to be creative through all areas of learning. Adults can support children’s thinking and help them make connections by showing interest, offering encouragement, clarifying ideas and asking open ended questions.


Planning is carried out by teaching staff who hold weekly meetings to ensure consistency and progression across Nursery and Reception. It is important that we have a designated time to come together as a team to come up with next steps (not activities) and then theme them around current interests/topics.Staff plan activities and experiences for children that enable children to develop and learn effectively. In order to do this, practitioners working with the youngest children are expected to focus strongly on the 3 prime areas.

Staff also take into account the individual needs, interests, and stage of development of each child in their care, and use this information to plan a challenging and enjoyable experience. Where a child may have a special educational need or disability, staff consider whether specialist support is required, linking with relevant services from other agencies, where appropriate.

In planning and guiding children’s activities, practitioners reflect on the different ways that children learn and include these in their practice.


Teaching and Learning

 Babies and Young children are experiencing and learning in the here and now, not storing up their questions until tomorrow or next week. It is in that moment of curiosity, puzzlement, effort or interest – the ‘teachable moment’ – that the skillful adult makes a difference. By using this cycle on a moment by moment basis, the adult will always be alert to individual children (observation), always thinking about what it tells us about the child’s thinking (assessment), and always ready to respond by using appropriate strategies at the right moment to support children’s well-being and learning (planning for the next moment).

(Department for Children, Schools and Families, 2009:22-23)

An Enabling Indoor Environment –

The environment supports children to be fully engaged in purposeful play of their own choice and interest. The outdoor and indoor environments allow for learning in all areas of development, but the two environments do not mirror each other. The indoor environment is the ideal place for children to be calm (and we enforce this requirement firmly and consistently), engaging in activities which require small equipment and working with resources that will not survive the outdoor elements.

In the Nursery class, the children choose where to go and what to do from the moment they arrive – they initiate their own learning and adults join them and support them in their interests.

In the Reception class the children engage in fine and gross motor activities (based on their individual needs) upon their arrival at school.

Across EYFS in all areas, the resources are available and accessible to the children at all times. The areas are clear, stocked and tidy at the start of the day:-the tables and carpet areas are free of equipment but the resources are available next to these areas. We believe this allows children to be in control of their own learning. They are able to select the area in which to play, the resources to use in that area and what to do with them. Obviously their choices are limited by the areas and resources available and it is therefore crucial to have engaging, high-quality, and open ended resources. It is also a requirement to have areas that are well-stocked, tidy, clearly labelled (with picture/word or shadows) and arranged to allow optimum access. Shadowing and photographing resources supports our children to be independent when tidying up. The environment is constantly reviewed and reflected upon to see which areas are proving to be productive and which need altering. We review our provision in terms of levels of involvement. If an area or a resource is not engaging children in purposeful play, then we remove it or change it.

With regard to role play, we ensure that there is always a “home corner” (either indoors or outside) as this is what is familiar to the children - This is where they can practise being the adults that they know (and in doing so, develop the vital life skill of empathy).


When thinking about Teaching and Learning across EYFS, the mantra is PROCESS NOT END RESULT.


“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”  Fred Rogers


In Nursery we have adopted a ‘Planning in moment’ style of teaching which incorporates a strong focus on capturing the interest of the child or children in the present moment. We aim to offer an environment that enables enables child-initiated play in order to capture the moment of engagement. Careful observation by staff is key to utilising the approach. ‘Planning in the Moment’ is broken down into three stages:

The Child’s Spark – This is when the child first shows an interest in something. There should be an air of fascination around the object and concentration in what they are now doing.

The Teachable Moment – The teacher will notice this and approach the child. This is the opportunity to extend their interest, by asking open ended questions, engaging in sustained shared thinking and considering ways to apply this interest to other options within the environment.

The Documentation – At a later date, we document the observation. We include the spark, the teachable moment and what we did next. This helps us to map out each child’s interests, and plan an environment that works for them.



In Reception, each area of learning and development is implemented through planned, purposeful play, and through a mix of adult-led and child-initiated activities. Practitioners respond to each child’s emerging needs and interests, guiding their development through warm, positive interaction.

As children grow older, and as their development allows, the balance gradually shifts towards more adult-led activities to help children prepare for more formal learning, ready for year 1.

Upon entering the Reception classes, the children’s needs and next steps are identified through discussion between Nursery and Reception staff as well as observations completed by the Reception team. Children are placed in groups according to their next steps.

Reception Staff are engaged in whole group ‘direct teaching’ at 4 different points across the school day. Communication, Language and Literacy- at the beginning of the morning session. Phonics- at the end of the morning session and Mathematics takes place at the end of the afternoon session. The fourth input takes place in the middle of the morning session before the children have opportunity to relax in to story time.

The children from both classes are split into 4 groups. These groups are named after colours. The groups are mixed ability and overseen by a different keyworker from Reception each week. The keyworker in charge of each group is responsible for ensuring that their group for the week complete their challenges within their challenge book and mark the book accordingly (using EYFS marking code- see Appendix 2). They are also responsible to work on the objective led plans within Reception with the children in areas and evidence when children have achieved their next steps, what activity was carried out or whether they required more support.

The challenge books are individualised for each child. They are kept as a running record of the children’s teaching and learning throughout Reception. The children’s challenges are set in various areas around the classroom.  The levels of challenge within each area are represented by three characters - Hungry Caterpillar (tricky), Elmer (trickier) and Gruffalo (trickiest) (example of challenge book format see Appendix 4). We believe this way of working increases the children’s independence and aids them in ‘taking control’ of their own learning. We believe this way of teaching and learning within Reception will 'hook' the children into their education and help them to see the opportunities for meaningful play and learning within all of the areas on offer within Reception as well as giving the adults in Reception further opportunity to observe, respond and assess and get more involved with play.

EYFS Curriculum


Highcliffe Primary School

Hutton Lane, Guisborough. TS14 8AA