School starts with plenty of hubbub! A noisy queue heralds each session and there is always a cheer (from parents and kids!) when the staff open the door. Children enthusiastically set to the task of hanging coats, refrigerating lunch boxes and adding their fruit to the sharing bowl. It remains a daily delight to see how earnestly and proudly they carry out these tasks.
Our small pupil intake means that staff can take exceptional care of any children who are anxious at being left, and their provision of one to one attention quickly settles any wobbles. There is always an art and craft activity ready to go, with a staff member manning the action. Paintings and drawings are often well under way before parents have got out of the door! Other children go straight to play dough or puzzles, and there is always a group already in fancy dress before the register is even complete!
Free flow to the outside space gives the children opportunity to choose how and where they play. Indoors they might choose to play ‘families’ in the snug ‘home corner’ or read in the book corner, alternatively, they might take books outside and sit under the gazebo or play ‘homes’ in the well appointed Wendy House. The children can select from guided activities, where learning objectives are promoted by staff, or free play where learning becomes more experiential and ad hoc: for example, they might join a guided gardening activity such as seed planting, or choose free play in the ‘Jurassic Park’ gardening area!
Our staff are the ultimate ‘helicopter’ carers – hovering nearby, never missing an chance to swoop in and reinforce positive behaviours or encourage learning as opportunities arise. They have a wealth of professional training and thousands of hours of experience. Their tireless enthusiasm means that year on year each new cohort of children experiences the very best that a pre-school education can offer.
Our daily session begins with free play and crafts. At 10.30 the children come together for a guided session. They complete the calendar for the day and record the weather. Staff lead the children in songs that reinforce numeracy and literacy, and all the children are encouraged to participate and raise their hands to make contributions. Each week one child presents their “Chatterbox’ to the group. This is an opportunity for them to talk about a hobby, collection, pets or family – the delight they experience in this early opportunity for public speaking begins the process of promoting confidence and self-worth for our little learners.
Snack time follows and again the opportunity is taken to promote as many emotional and academic skills as possible. The children sit together at small tables and each day one is allocated as table monitor. The children respond brilliantly to being given responsibility and it is wonderful watching over the months as they become more and more able to handle these tasks independently. The children help to prepare the food at snack time, and each day they bring a piece of fruit to share with the group.
The children return to play after snack time. Many of the older children enjoy spending this time at the writing table practicing basic phonics and writing ‘letters’ and ‘stories’. Our staff are trained to prepare our older children to meet the learning objectives of Reception year, and we pride ourselves on having very skilled ‘Leavers’ each year when July rolls around.
The children often reconvene again at noon for a story time. Some of the children are then collected by parents at 12.05, leaving the remainder to enjoy the ever popular social event of the day: Lunch Club. Any parent that has ever joined the children for lunch has always remarked on what a wonderful experience it has been. The children sit beautifully (as if by magic!) with their lunches, and love comparing snacks and talking about their food likes and dislikes. Many parents report that Lunch Club has been an excellent help with children that are fussy eaters……the shared experience of eating with their peers makes them feel more adventurous with food, and their desire to please the staff often means empty lunchboxes at hometime! Staff eat with the children at Lunch Club, and many of the children love this opportunity to chat and gossip with the adults.
Throughout the week at pre-school additional learning focus activities are also available. We encourage parents to come and share any skills they might have with the children in these sessions. The result is a wonderful array of extra activities taking in languages, cookery, science, gardening, story-telling, ecology, music and drama. We have a team of experienced educators and education policy planners drawn over the years from the parent body, and they ensure that we have a highly progressive and successful pre-school teaching scheme in place.
From our snug little niche in the Sussex countryside, we also endeavor to teach the children about the wider world and global cultures. Throughout the school year the children celebrate religious and cultural festivals from around the world. A whole session can be turned over to the celebration of Chinese New Year for example, with the children learning about traditions, food, beliefs and much more through a whole range of activities focused on the theme.
All your child’s achievements will be recorded in our state of the art Learning Journals. You can access these online anytime to find out about your child’s learning achievements, play & interactions with others. Seeing photos and videos gives parents a very welcome sneak peek into their child’s pre-school experience, and provides the opportunity to follow up school learning with reinforcement at home.
In addition, we run an ‘open access’ policy, meaning that you are welcome to arrange to visit during session time and enjoy, first-hand, the special way that we make learning so much fun at West Dean Pre-School.
Please visit the ‘Parents’ area of our website to find out more about our Teaching Programme, the Early Years Foundation Stage and the Early Learning Goals that we base our curriculum on.