Why my school ac­cepts chil­dren from age 2

Teach­ing more ad­vanced skills at nurs­ery age can bet­ter de­velop chil­dren, says Sarah Ryan

TES (Times Education Supplement) - - INTERVIEW -

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

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