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Developing the use of the subject knowledge SET with practitioners in the EYFS

This page has been archived. The content was correct at the time of original publication, but is no longer updated.
Created on 19 April 2011 by ncetm_administrator
Updated on 27 May 2011 by ncetm_administrator

Case Study Two


This study is of two medium to large primary schools, each with a maintained nursery class.

Starting the project

Initially the NCETM consultant met with both teachers in their schools to look at the learning environment, planning and to develop their understanding of the SET. The consultant encouraged them to look at an identified area of the SET rather than complete the whole audit. They discussed which area they would look at reflecting on the school’s EYFS profile results over the last three years and practitioner confidence. The two schools completed the audit with all practitioners working in their Early Years Foundation Stage Units.

Using the SET

School A completed the audit for calculations and the nursery teacher reflected on the importance of ensuring the development of mathematical language among all staff. She highlighted problem solving, reasoning and number in her planning and supported staff working with the nursery children to recognise opportunities to develop number problems when observing children in their play. The nursery had also looked at developing further opportunities for mark making to support problem solving. A further action was to ensure mathematics is included in the Parents Newsletter for the EYFS to support understanding in the development of mathematical knowledge.

School B completed the audit for shape, space and measure as this had been identified as an area for improvement in the School Development Plan. Staff completed the SET together and found it very useful in reawakening and reinforcing the essential vocabulary needed in the teaching of shape, space and measure. On a subsequent visit the reception teacher shared how the SET had inspired her when looking at the aspect of weight. The teaching assistant had weekly cooking sessions with the children and, whilst they had used scales to measure the weight and make this explicit to the children, it was felt that children were not given enough hands-on experience to ‘feel’ and compare weight.

So following use of the SET they were provided with actual weights so the children can feel what they are helping to weigh out. Two further areas identified were shape and working with parents.  In shape the children were fine at recognising and naming regular flat 2D shapes but needed support in describing their properties and naming irregular 2D shapes. This highlighted the importance of planning lots of activities through painting, printing, drawing round shapes in the silly soap etc. focusing on the shape properties and the children’s use of mathematical language. Filmed observations of children in School B show them describing 2D and 3D shapes using shape vocabulary. One child particularly took it upon himself to be the teacher and support others in naming shapes and supporting them using his phonic knowledge.

In order to work closely with parents and help them understand the expectations in mathematics in reception year, the school introduced weekly practical mathematical challenges in the form of laminated cards. The cards are practical and revolve around mathematics in the everyday environment. There are opportunities for recordings to be made and all of the parents have spoken positively about these and more importantly, said that the children are enjoying completing the tasks.  The school intended to continue to monitor this and note the impact on profile scores at the end of the year.

Outcomes from using the SET

Both schools were very positive about their involvement in the project and were able to reflect on the changes that they had made in their practice. They intended to complete further sections of the SET and continue to develop their mathematical knowledge and enhance the experiences of the children in their settings. 

The reception teacher was very clear,

"It focused my mind on what exactly the children needed to know."

She also wanted to use the interactive white board more to support and reinforce the teaching of mathematics.  Whilst acknowledging this does not replace real life experiences it certainly engages the boys in learning about specific aspects of mathematics.

The nursery teacher reflected,

"It has really made me ensure I spend time with all members of the nursery staff explaining how to support children’s mathematical development and the correct language to use."

In both schools they identified and have found effective ways of working with parents on sharing children’s mathematical learning and ensuring parents are part of the process.


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