Early Years education is the foundation upon which young children build their schooling. It is a holistic approach to education that encompasses all learning and development. At Dundonald School the Early Years setting consists of two part-time Nursery classes of 26 (morning/afternoon) and two full-time Reception classes of 30. The Early Years is divided into three separate classes and an outdoor area. The Unit is staffed by an Assistant Headteacher, a Reception teacher and two level 3 qualified Early Years Practitioners. All learning is differentiated to suit the needs of the individual child.

The EYFS aims to provide children with a positive, successful, enjoyable and developmentally appropriate learning experience, in a safe and secure environment. We seek to develop children’s self-confidence and independence along with increasing their respect for themselves and others. We value children’s social, emotional and physical development as well as their intellectual growth and set high standards for the learning and development of each child. We deliver a curriculum which inspires learning through play and encourages both child-initiated and adult-directed activities in an inclusive educational setting which values the whole child.

Teaching in the EYFS is delivered in accordance with the government’s statutory requirements (March 2014). The curriculum is centred on 3 prime areas of learning: 1. Communication and Language, 2. Physical Development, and 3. Personal, Social and Emotional Development.  Schools must also support activities through four specific areas which strengthen the prime areas: 1. Literacy, 2. Mathematics, 3. Understanding of the World, and 4. Expressive Arts and Design. Educational activities must relate to one of these seven areas which address children’s physical, cogitative, linguistic, social and emotional development.

Learning through Play
The School recognises that young children learn best when they are active. Play can support children in all areas of development as it can be adapted to suit a child’s preferred learning style and encourage them to cultivate their own skills and concepts. Learning outdoors is given equal importance as it gives children space for movement and supports both gross and fine motor development. It also provides opportunities to develop confidence, independence, active learning, co-operative play and risk taking.

The EYFS framework seeks to ensure that all Early Learning Goals are covered by the end of the Reception year.  Regular recorded assessment of a child's learning and development needs is performed primarily through practitioner observation, both formal and informal. Output from the assessments is used to build learning programmes and is recorded in each child’s Individual Learning Profile. The Profiles are always available to parents and they are encouraged to contribute towards them through informal conversation as well as more formal WOW certificates documenting achievement from home. Children are assessed against EYFS Development Matters statements and profiles are updated at least once a term. Baseline assessment is performed within the first six weeks of a child joining the EYFS and based on observation of the child's learning and behaviour. The school uses the EExBA Baseline Assessment. At the end of the Reception year children are assessed against the EYFS early learning goals using the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (2014).

Parents are actively encouraged to participate in their children's education and to provide specific feedback on their children.  This feedback helps practitioners to respond more effectively to children's needs.  Interaction with parents is facilitated through parents' evenings, Show and Share and Celebration assemblies, as well as participation in educational visits and an open door policy. All children within Nursery are assigned a Key Person in advance of their start date. The Key Person's role is to help settle children into the school and to provide a communication point for parents/carers.

Admissions and Induction
Nursery children and their parents/carers meet their new teacher ahead of the child's start date through a home visit. Children undergo an initial settling in period. The length and timing of the settling in period is determined by the Nursery teacher. Prospective new entrants to Reception are invited to undertake settling in visits to the Early Years Unit prior to their formal enrolment and to help build familiarity with their new surroundings. The transition from Nursery to Reception and then Reception to Year One is planned carefully. Practitioners seek to keep parents/carers fully informed about the induction process, both through face to face meetings and the use of School Information Packs.

Dundonald emphasises self-discipline among children by promoting a conscious choice of good behaviour and the use of words to resolve conflict. Use of a recognition system (star of the day, house points etc.) helps to encourage good behaviour. "Circle time" sessions are held regularly within each class allowing children to reflect on their own behaviour as well as their classmates.  Practitioners also work with parents to improve a child's behaviour.

Equal Opportunities and SEN
EYFS remains committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of all children. The school actively encourages children to respect and value different cultures. Learning materials are available to allow children to explore different cultures and the whole school celebrates a new 'Language of the Month'. Children with a non-English home language are encouraged to use this with their peers and other adults in the Unit wherever possible.  Extra support is provided for children with Special Needs. Where a child requires regular intervention, an Individual Education Plan can be put in place to support their needs.

Health & Safety
The School adheres to a strict Health & Safety Policy. Equipment is checked on a regular basis while strong emphasis is placed on good hygiene.  Three members of the EY team have a paediatric first aid certificate.