Why my school accepts children from age 2
Teaching more advanced skills at nursery age can better develop children, says Sarah Ryan
BARNSOLE PRIMARY is a large school in a disadvantaged part of Medway. Year-on-year, the children in Barnsole’s Reception classes have entered school with the majority working below what is expected for their age – and a third of children significantly below. They often make good progress in Reception but, for 30 per cent, the gap is always too big to close in a year.
This made us question how we as a school could help these children catch up with their peers to ensure they were ready for the curriculum and pressures of key stage 1.
The answer for us was to make an impact earlier, which meant children needed to start school at a younger age. This would enable us to help them develop the crucial tools for becoming learners, and we could focus on personal, social, communication, language and physical skills. We could also enable early intervention when issues became apparent – and support their parents.
So the journey towards Barnsole Nursery began. It had to be the right provision for very young children, with highly qualified staff who understood two-year-olds’ development but knew where they were aiming. It also needed to be a space equipped for young children, with access to the outside and it had to work closely with parents. A tall order, but not at all impossible.
In September 2015, Barnsole Nursery opened in a house on the school site, which had previously been home to a private preschool. With a small pot of money from the local authority, it was equipped with a room for two-year-olds upstairs and a room for three- and four-year-olds downstairs. There are now 54 children registered, 20 of them government-funded two-year-olds.
The difference has been evident in only a year: the children arrive in the class for three- and four-year-olds, ready to learn with social skills in place. They have learned to work as part of a group, to listen and pay attention and to talk about what they are doing. They are starting to be independent learners. There is early identification of children with additional needs and professionals are alerted if interventions are necessary.
As these children progress through school we expect these strong foundations to have a lasting impact. So should two-year-olds be in school? Definitely, as long as they are in the right provision.
Sarah Ryan is assistant headteacher for early years at Barnsole Primary School