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Early Years Magazine - Issue 25: Case Study

This page has been archived. The content was correct at the time of original publication, but is no longer updated.
Created on 28 November 2011 by ncetm_administrator
Updated on 13 December 2011 by ncetm_administrator

Early Years Magazine - Issue 25case study

Case Study

Dacre Braithwaite CE Primary School 

Dacre Braithwaite CE Primary School is a small rural school in North Yorkshire. Smaller than the average-sized primary school, it is situated in a remote rural setting, four miles from the nearest village. The school is one of Ofsted’s Good Practice in Early Years and Childcare examples.

 Outdoor provision area
 Outdoor provision area

As a small school, practitioners need to work with mixed age classes. Ten children of Foundation age are admitted in the September of the year in which they are five, initially on a part-time basis. A key concern has been ensuring the correct balance of activities and level of challenge for Reception children and Year 1 pupils working together in the same classroom. The staff firmly believe that by standing back, taking stock and having the confidence to do what feels right for the school and the children within it, that balance can be achieved.

The mixed Reception and Year 1 classroom at the school is set up as an Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) unit with a variety of continuous indoor and outdoor provision areas that are enhanced regularly to meet the needs of all children. Children are taught largely through play-based topics and may be grouped according to ability for different tasks. Planning for this mixed-age class is initially based upon the Year 1 curriculum with constant cross-references being made to the EYFS curriculum. Staff are prepared to be flexible with their planning and are not afraid to 'go with the flow' to meet the needs of the children. As long as the learning objectives are kept in mind for both year groups at all times, having the confidence to follow the children’s lead can be very rewarding.

Independently taking care of plants outdoors
Independently taking care of plants

Provision within each area is planned for at the end of each week based on observations and assessments made during the week. Sometimes areas within the classroom are not planned in detail to allow independence and imagination to develop through the children’s own selection of resources.

Topics and themes are mapped out with the children whenever possible to encourage ownership of learning. Lessons are planned according to particular interests or questions raised, which helps to keep the children engaged and motivated in their learning. Children work extremely well in partnership with one another and the younger pupils benefit from the learning skills of those in Year 1. 'Talking partner' and 'buddy' sessions are used for children to develop their speaking and listening and also their creative and thinking skills through discussions and team work. Cooperative working across both year groups provides all children with opportunities to develop negotiation and time management skills, in addition to social skills. There are high aspirations of what children can achieve, which inspires them to want to achieve the best for themselves.

While focus groups are taking place, the rest of the class is encouraged to initiate and develop their learning in continuous provision areas. This approach allows social interactions to take place within and across year groups. Sometimes challenges linking to a specific area of learning are set up within continuous provision areas, including in the high-quality outdoor areas and the children are encouraged to move their learning forward and reach objectives in specific ways. Modelling by a member of staff is always carried out beforehand.

Sharing ‘learning journeys’ together on non-school uniform day
Sharing ‘learning journeys’ together on non-school uniform day

The children are happy, confident and motivated to learn. They are encouraged to be resourceful at all times so that they know where to find help and not become too reliant on the teacher. The atmosphere is positive and engaging, and the classroom vibrant and stimulating with examples of the children’s own work and photographs on the walls. Children thrive and particularly enjoy having a Reception or Year 1 buddy to work with or turn to when needed. Collaborative working is fantastic when tasks are appropriately challenging and interesting. Working cooperatively with others provides each child with numerous opportunities to revise and consolidate their learning.

As one parent states, 'The children flourish because they are valued as individuals and nurtured to be responsible and loving people. They are constantly encouraged to develop their own interests at school and at home in practical ways. The careful balance of child-initiated learning coupled with high expectations allows all children to find their strengths and thus enables them to be effective learners.'

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