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The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) at Willow Dene is an exciting place to visit and an even more enthralling place to learn!

Our classes are small and the staffing ratio is high; because of this, we are able to focus our attention closely on the children in our classes and their unique and individual needs.

This is the ‘unique child’ principle of the EYFS. Our plans and activities take into account how each child develops, their strengths, challenges, ways of learning and what we can do to address the barriers around physical, emotional, sensory, communication, health and medical needs. We work closely with colleagues in the medical and therapy teams in order to achieve progress.

The framework of the Prime and Specific areas of the EYFS underpins everything we do; adapted to best suit the learning styles of our children whilst recognising that young children often learn in an integrated way, making links and nothing is compartmentalised. Our sessions will often involve various aspects of learning, as we seek to make connections between experiences and knowledge for children working at often early levels of development.

To this end we have developed ‘Seeds’, which looks at the earliest skills of learning on which our children are often working and use these to inform our planning and next steps, alongside the school’s Learning Journeys assessment system. We have the flexibility to follow our children’s lead and plan around things that interest them; whilst at other times we will introduce a topic or idea that we feel will be an exciting departure and learning opportunity. In this way we seek to foster the development of the ‘characteristics of effective learning’. Our long-term plans ensure that the children experience all aspects of the EYFS curriculum in a balanced and holistic manner.

As each child is unique and at the centre of our work, so is the development of skills that supports their independence, whether that is in the form of self-care, communication, physical skills or mobility. In this way the Early Years mirrors the Willow Dene curriculum for Key Stage 1 and 2, and lays the foundation for children’s ongoing learning journey at school and in life outside and beyond.