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Childcare – Making A Pre-School Setting A Supportive And Safe Environment
Section 1 explores the variety of pre-school providers and summarises the services they provide. Section 2 investigates how children develop. Section 3 examines the strategies pre-school providers need to implement in order to meet the requirements of the Foundation Stage Curriculum.
Section 1 – Early Years: Where Your Child Can Learn
There is a wide variety of early years’ education and childcare available for young children. It is best to check out the different providers in your area to see what services and facilities they provide. A great deal of learning and development takes place before the age of five, and your child can learn in a number of settings.
- Nursery classes, nursery schools and day nurseries
- Pre-school playgroups
- Reception classes
- Accredited childminders who are part of an approved network
- Children’s Centres
Finding An Early Education Place Near You – It is possible to find out what is available in your area by contacting your local Children’s Information Services (CIS). Your CIS can also provide help and advice with all aspects of childcare and early years’ education. You can also search for nurseries, childcare and schools online by accessing the following website: www.dfes.gov.uk and clicking on Early Years. This facility provides you with the opportunity to type in your postcode to get a list of providers near you.
This on-line facility allows you to:
- Find a new school
- Find out more information about schools, such as contact details, School Profiles, Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) reports, maps and achievement tables
- Find childcare options, such as childminders, crèches, nurseries, out of school care, holiday care and pre-school care
Of critical importance to a child’s long-term development is sourcing a highly effective provider in your local area. School Profiles are the new way for schools to report annually to parents, replacing the Governors’ Annual Report. All schools use the simple format, designed to provide information about the school’s performance and its broader achievements, both in and beyond the classroom.
The School Profile is intended to give parents the information they need to understand the school’s performance, strengths and areas for improvement and contains:
- The school’s successes
- Details of extra-curricular activities
- Health and safety information
- The school’s response to the latest Ofsted report
Free Education For Under Fives – All three and four year olds in England are entitled to a free, good quality, part-time early education place. The entitlement consists of a minimum of 12.5 hours per week for 38 weeks a year. It begins after your child turns three (the exact date depends on when their birthday falls). It ends when they reach compulsory school age.
Nursery Classes, Nursery Schools And Day Nurseries – Nursery classes and schools fall into two groups: state and private. Most day nurseries are privately run.
- Will take your child between the ages of three and five, although many day nurseries take younger children
- Open throughout the school year, although some private day nurseries open during the school holidays
- Operate a core day of 9.00 to 3.30 pm, although many nurseries offer longer days
- Offer five half-day sessions, although some types of nursery will offer part-time or full-time places depending on your needs
Nursery schools and classes have a minimum ratio of two adults to 20 to 26 children – one must be a qualified teacher, the other a qualified nursery assistant. Day nurseries have more intensive staffing ratios and different rules on qualifications of staff depending on the ages of children being cared for.
Pre-School Playgroups – These are often non-profit making. They may be run by volunteers, often including parents.
- Will take your child between the ages of three and five, although some will take two year olds
- Open throughout the school year
- Usually offer half-day sessions, although are not always open all week, and others may be able to provide you with longer hours
- Provide places for between 10 to 20 children – there must be one adult for every eight children, and at least half of the adults must be qualified leaders or assistants
Reception Classes – Some primary schools are able to admit children under five into a reception class.
- Take children aged four and five
- Open throughout the school year
- May take your child for half-day sessions at first, and then build up to full-time attendance
- Are limited by law to up to 30 children – most have assistants
Childminders – They usually look after children in their own home. Some childminders work as part of a network to offer early years’ education. All childminders who care for children under eight agree to certain quality standards and must be registered, checked and inspected regularly to make sure they are suitable to look after children.
- Look after your child from a few months old up to the age of five and some will also look after school age children after school and in the holidays
- Can often be flexible about the days and times they work: however, every childminder will be different so you will have to discuss this with the childminder
- Can look after up to six children under eight years old, although no more than three must be aged under five years of age.
Children’s Centres – Sure Start Children’s Centres can provide early education and full day care for children under five, as well as a range of other services such as family support and health services. They are open a minimum of 10 hours a day, five days a week, 48 weeks a year.
Section 2 – Child Development
The importance of the first five years of a child’s life in terms of mental, emotional, social and physical development is now widely recognised. To this end the Labour Government since it was elected in 1997 has introduced a number of measures, which have improved the availability and quality of pre-school provision. The variety of this provision was explored in section. All pre-school providers must comply with a number of legal acts e.g. The Children Act 1989, The Care Standards Act 2000 etc, which are administered by a variety of regulatory bodies.
The most effective way to make the pre-school environment safe is for the staff to fully understand how children develop. When children are stimulated and are actively encouraged to become involved with learning activities, this reduces the occurrence of bad behaviour and makes a significant contribution to improving the safety of the pre-school provision. This section is concerned with exploring how children learn and develop.
How Do Children Develop? During the last 10 years, there has been an explosion in our knowledge of the ways in which humans develop and learn. When educators discuss children’s development, they usually talk about physical, mental, social and emotional development. It is important to remember that some children progress faster than others and that the time spent in stages does not reflect their intelligence. They may have a personality which needs to move slower in order to enjoy life and really internalise their learning.
Physical Development – Once born, children develop strength from top to bottom (head, then body, then legs, then feet); from the inside to the outside (trunk, then arms and legs, then hands and feet, then fingers and toes); from large muscle (jumping, hopping, running, throwing, catching, carrying, climbing and balancing) to small muscle (using muscles of the wrist and hand in activities such as cutting, drawing, stringing beads, building block towers, working with play dough) skills. This is a sequence that all humans follow. While children are young we need to do many activities to strengthen their large and small muscles. Muscle skill development and maintaining a healthy body are especially important for future reading, writing, and maths success.
Mental Development – When a child is born, he / she comes with a brain ready and eager to learn. The brain is very much like a new computer. It has great potential for development, depending on what we put into it. Early experiences greatly influence the way a person develops. Everyone who works with children has a major responsibility for the future of those children. The activities you do with them from birth to 10 will determine how their learning patterns develop. As children interact with their environment, they learn problem solving skills, critical thinking skills, and language skills.
Social Development – First children develop a sense of self and then a sense of belonging to a family. They begin to watch other children and want to interact with them. Children’s plays develops through stages (playing alone, playing near others but not sharing, playing and sharing, playing with a purpose, organised games). These stages develop over time and with practice.
Later, children develop their ability to respect the rights of others and to feel empathy for them. They learn to work cooperatively with others and to resolve conflicts in peaceful ways. You can interact with your child in ways that encourage cooperative behaviour and respect for the rights of others. Interacting with others in positive ways is critical to successful life.
Emotional Development – As babies grow, they learn that they are not the centre of the universe and that they can depend on others. They develop a trust or mistrust of others. As toddlers, they learn to be proud of their accomplishment and state their opinions and desires. As they become pre-schoolers, children learn to separate from their parents and adjust to the school environment. They begin to participate in classroom activities.
They learn to take turns and to solve conflicts using words. They begin to learn to control their emotions. They learn that it is okay to make a mistake. They develop confidence in themselves and learn to love themselves. You can help your children by encouraging them and showing your faith in their abilities. Having confidence in yourself and liking yourself are critically important to future success in school and in life.
How Do We Prepare Children To Be Ready To Learn? – There is great interest on the part of parents in teaching children their letters and numbers and writing skills. The following lists show the pre-reading and pre-writing skills and beginning number skills that every child must develop in order to learn to read, write and do well in maths.
Reading Skills – Reading skills develop in sequence and teachers try to help each child progress along the sequence as he / she is ready to progress. First, a child develops a love of books. At the same time they are beginning to develop eye-hand coordination. Next, they acquire tracking skills (the ability to follow words and pages from left to right through a book). Then children begin to recognise individual letters and later they realise that letters form words.
Next they begin to understand that words remain the same from day to day. Listening skills improve at about the same time. The child begins to hear letter sounds and connect them with the written letters. Later, he/she begins to string sounds together to make words. The child then learns to hear and use the rhythm of the language. Reading ability continues to improve as he/she receives positive feedback from interested adults.
Writing Skills – This is a sequence which each child passes through. One step follows another. A lot of practice is required at each stage. First the child begins to develop the sequence of drawing skills (from scribbling to making representational drawings). Encourage them to draw often. Small muscle strength needed for controlling writing instruments is increased through activities using squeezing, pinching and cutting. Then the child begins to imitate letters and numbers for fun and then to write for a purpose. When they receive positive feedback from interested adults, children’s skills will continue to improve at a fast pace.
Maths Skills – These skills develop with much practice and we encourage their development as the child is ready. The child begins to count for fun (rote counting). Then they begin to see the purpose for counting and begin counting objects in a set (meaningful counting). Next they begin adding to or subtracting objects from a set. They begin comparing objects in a set. Then the child begins sorting (by size, shape, colour etc.) and ordering (by size, first-second-third etc). They enjoy learning to estimate (guess how many) and predict (what will happen next).
They begin to sequence objects (red, yellow, blue, yellow, _____). This is a slow process and requires a lot of practice. At last the child begins to recognise numbers and associate the number with a like number of objects. They also begin to write numbers. Later, they will write the number words. If we make the learning fun, children will enjoy learning maths through their school years.
SECTION 3 – FOUNDATION STAGE 3-5
The Foundation Stage was introduced as a distinct phase of education for children aged 3-5 in September 2000. In preparation, Curriculum Guidance For The Foundation Stage was distributed in May 2000 to all schools with nursery and reception classes, and to early years settings receiving education grant funding. This guidance sets out six areas of learning which form the basis of the Foundation Stage Curriculum. These areas are:
- Personal, social and emotional development
- Communication, language and literacy
- Mathematical development
- Knowledge and understanding of the world’
- Physical development
- Creative development
Each area of learning has a set of related early learning goals. Curriculum Guidance For The Foundation Stage is intended to help practitioners plan to meet the diverse needs of all children so that most will achieve and some, where appropriate, will go beyond the early learning goals by the end of the Foundation Stage. The Education Act 2002 extended the National Curriculum to include the Foundation Stage. The six areas of learning became statutory, and the Act also specified that there should be early learning goals for each area. A national consultation on the content of the early learning goals as set out in Curriculum Guidance For The Foundation Stage was carried out in autumn 2002.
Following this consultation the early learning goals and use of the Curriculum Guidance as a guide, became statutory in March 2002. The Act also established a single national assessment system for the Foundation Stage, replacing baseline assessment schemes. The Foundation Stage profile was introduced into schools and settings in 2002-03. The Foundation Stage profile has 13 summary scales covering the six areas of learning, which need to be completed for each child receiving government-funded education by the end of his or her time in the foundation stage.
The curriculum for the Foundation Stage should underpin all future learning by supporting, fostering, promoting and developing children’s:
- Personal, Social And Emotional Well-Being – In particular by supporting the transition to and between settings, promoting an inclusive ethnos and providing opportunities for each child to become a valued member of that group and community so that a strong self-image and self-esteem are promoted.
- Positive Attitudes And Disposition Towards Their Learning – In particular an enthusiasm for knowledge and learning and a confidence in their ability to be successful learners.
- Social Skills – In particular by providing opportunities that enable them to learn how to cooperate and work harmoniously alongside and with each other and listen to each other.
- Attention Skills And Persistence – In particular the capacity to concentrate on their own or on group tasks.
- Language And Communication – With opportunities for all children to talk and communicate in a widening range of situations, to respond to adults and to each other, to practise and extend the range of vocabulary and communication skills they use and to listen carefully.
- Reading And Writing – With opportunities for all children to explore, enjoy, learn about and use words and text in a broad range of contexts and to experience a rich variety of books.
- Mathematics – With opportunities for all children to develop their understanding of number, measurement, pattern, shape and space by providing a broad range of contexts in which they can explore, enjoy, learn, practise and talk about them.
- Knowledge And Understanding Of The World – With opportunities for all children to solve problems, make decisions, experiment, predict, plan and question in a variety of contexts, and to explore and find out about their environment and people and places that have significance in their lives.
- Physical Development – With opportunities for all children to develop and practise their fine and gross motor skills and to increase their understanding of how their bodies work and what they need to do to be healthy and safe.
- Creative Development – With opportunities for all children to explore and share their thoughts, ideas and feelings through a variety of art, design and technology, music, movement, dance and imaginative and role play activities.
In order to fulfil the requirements of the Foundation Stage Curriculum and provide a safe and supportive environment, pre-school providers need to implement the following strategy:
To Encourage Physical Development Pre-School Providers Need To:
- Feed children meals with good nutritional value and teach nutrition activities to children and parents
- Teach children and families about good hygiene
- Practise large motor skills (balancing, galloping, skipping, building muscles in the arms, legs, and trunk)
- Build small motor skills through practise (cutting, holding writing instruments, drawing, painting, stringing beads, using play dough, water play)
- Present activities to develop eye-hand coordination
- Offer many movement activities
- Play instruments to the rhythm of the music
- Play games that involve listening to and following directions
- Parents should be encouraged to take their children for regular medical and dental checkups
To Encourage Mental Development Pre-school Providers Need To:
- Ask open-ended questions (questions which encourage children to think because they have no right or wrong answer)
- Give children choices
- Allow and encourage creativity (through art, music and movement, dictation, re-telling stories and creating new ones)
- Building language skills (through conversation with adults and each other, word games, reading stories, learning nursery rhymes, singing, dramatic play, introduction of new words, providing a writing centre with word cards and writing materials, activities with puppets, listening centre activities)
- Provide science experiments and introduce concepts about our world to help them make sense of it
- Learn about the neighbourhood and the city through walks and field trips
- Provide many manipulative materials which encourage the development of problem solving skills
- Encourage counting objects through games and individual questions
- Ask the children for their opinions
- Make charts with their predictions and their opinions and re-read them often
- Provide small groups and individual activities involving counting sets and adding or subtracting; provide manipulative exercises which encourage classifying (by size, colour shape, general classes like animals or plants and by function such as library and book)
- Read daily to the children
- Help them learn sequencing by telling stories back to the teacher
- Observe each child in order to provide activities to encourage their individual learning
- It is important to remember what children know depends on the experiences they gain
To Encourage Social Development Pre-School Providers Need To:
- Set up their classrooms in learning centres to enable and encourage children to work together in small groups
- Help them develop self-esteem by accepting and respecting their efforts
- Give children jobs and responsibilities in the classroom
- Teach children to clean up and straighten up at the end of their work time
- Help them learn to respect others through adult action, words, stories and conversations
- Encourage children to help other children in need and to share
- Give them encouragement
- Invite them to share their culture with others and encourage their parents to come into centres
- Introduce them to children of other cultures and different abilities
- Help children develop a positive attitude by being trustworthy role models
- Read books and have discussions which show parents leaving their children at school and being there when their children arrive home
- Talk about careers and jobs and why parents have to work
- Have a structured day so that children will feel secure
- Let children help make the rules for the classroom and let them choose projects to work on
- Through example and opportunity help the children learn to work and play cooperatively with others
- Give the children the words to use to solve their problems with other children
To Encourage Emotional Development Pre-school Providers Need To:
- Help children learn to control their own behaviour through setting a positive example
- Help the children to learn to wait for a turn and to share with others
- Help them develop plans for activities to do while waiting for a turn
- Reassure children that it is okay to have feelings and to express them in acceptable ways
- Give them the ability to channel their energy in constructive ways
- Through showing respect to our children we help them to learn to show respect for each other
- Give children self-respect through accepting them as they are and helping them develop their negotiating and problem-solving skills
Bee, H. and Boyd, E. (2004), “The Developing Child”, (10th Edition, Pearson Education)
Gopnik, A. / Meltzoff, A. / Kuhl, P. (2001), “How Babies Think”, (Phoenix)
Hobart, C. and Frankel, J. (1999), “A Practical Guide To Child Observations And Assessment”, (Nelson Thornes)
Foundation Stage 3-5, QCA, (http://www.qca.org.uk/160.html)
Early Years, DFES, (http://www.dfes.gov.uk)
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