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What to look for in Foundation StageCreated by Lisa in Age: At School, Age: Pre-school, Being a Granny-carer, Education
Foundation stage refers to Nursery and Reception class. Some settings are separate Nursery Schools with places with a different provision for the under threes attached, but most are Nursery and Reception Classes which are part of a larger Primary School.
When your little one is coming up to the admission age for Nursery, which is the term after their third birthday, you will want to visit your local schools. It can be quite bewildering and it’s often hard to know what to look for and what questions to ask.
First impressions matter, and the warmth of the greeting that you receive from the office and teaching staff and the Foundation Stage Manager or Head of Centre will give you a good indication of the atmosphere of the school.
You will of course look at the cleanliness of the setting and the way in which the tables, chairs and spaces are arranged and organised. And, very importantly, you will look at the walls. Is the children’s work attractively displayed and celebrated? Are the walls and ceilings bright and attractive with stimulating things to engage with and look at?
Is the natural world celebrated with twigs, stones, plants and shells all used for display and to stimulate work? Do the children get the opportunity to plant and grow things? And then perhaps cook and eat what they have grown?
Are there lots of out of setting visits to local places of interest such as woods, big parks, the library and interesting parts of the locality?
And how are parents and carers welcomed and included in the day to day activities. Is volunteer help valued and are parents’ expertise used appropriately.
Ask to visit all the rooms and the outdoor play space. There should be free flow from inside to outside and plenty of spaces set up for imaginative play to take place. Examples of this would be a dressing up box with an area dedicated to a particular theme which changes every half term. There might be a market or a castle or an airport or a farm. There should be lots of activities put out such as a music table, printing, painting, counting, puzzles, leaf pressing and so on. The outside area should have opportunities to hide away, to climb, to build and to ride.
A good setting will use the SOUL system in their work. That is: Silence, Observation, Understanding and Listening to know when to intervene in a child’s activities.
But the most important thing to look at is the interaction of the adults with the children. There should always be one adult led activity which every child will be expected to take part in. This might be cooking or a big construction game. You should listen carefully to the way the conversations take place. Does the adult develop the child’s ideas? Do they extend their vocabulary by using and reinforcing new words and clear sentence structures? Do they pick up on the child’s misconceptions and are they explicit in their explanations?
The staff should be planning around the child’s interests and they should be aiming for the child to be able to express their intentions and problem solve, to make choices and to become independent learners.
It’s important to remember though, is not how shiny and expensive a new building can be or how shabby an old one is, but what you observe about the quality of the education when you get inside.