As we finish the first half of the Autumn term, I have been reflecting on the refreshing start that we have been able to make this year as we have been able to return a school life that resembles a more normal way of operating. Our students have been mixing again during play times, making new friends in shared after school clubs, and enjoying the return of the traditional parts of the timetable such as choir and whole school assemblies.
I am often asked during tours or when speaking with other Heads, how is your early years programme different from others in Chiswick and West London?
The answer is simple: We provide a programme that is centred in play with an introduction into the academic world for those children who are ready.
What does that look like in practice? Just before half-term, I was out in the playground during a learning session for our nursery students and to most observers, you would have seen a few children on balance bikes zooming around, a few other children playing on the ladder and slide, some children drawing with chalk and a few others seated on a teacher’s lap having a cuddle and eating their snack. As an educator, what I saw was a group of children gaining confidence on a resource that targeted gross motor skills (the balance bikes), a group of children learning to share and take turns (ladder and slide), a group of children beginning their literacy learning with mark making (chalk) and a group of children recharging their emotional needs (cuddles and food). The teachers had intentionally planned and created an environment based on those children’s needs and observations from previous weeks. This intentional environment is the same model that is replicated throughout our school.
Of course you will not find balance bikes zooming through the Year 1 and Year 2 classrooms, but you will see desks arranged to encourage group work, maths resources that force the brain to understand the ‘why’ behind a sum, and emotional regulation tools such as ‘gratitude jars’.
We are an academic school and we are very proud of our results. We are able to get those results because of the intention that we put behind every single part of our school day.
I am looking forward to the remainder of the term and watching the sparkle in our students’ faces as they learn, grow and thrive in our setting.