The Early Years curriculum

In the Castledown EYFS setting we provide a safe, nurturing and stimulating environment which supports the growth of independence, resilience, collaboration and reflects the learning for life values. At Ark Castledown we place a high value on vocabulary and experiences which prepare children for the rest of their school journey. Community is a high priority at Ark Castledown which is why we value and enable close relationships with children and families to ensure the well-being of the children in our care both at home and at school enabling them to achieve the highest possible outcomes for individuals.  


We use a plan, do, review model to support children’s learning which has at its core the belief that children gain confidence and a life-long love of learning. When involved in well support activities of their own choosing, the benefits of this are carried on to adult life which produce a generation with positive attitudes to society.  

Children choose from a wide range of stimulating and relevant activities which engage them fully in their learning and allow them to effectively demonstrate the characteristics of effective learning. The classrooms and the outdoor areas are highly stimulating and organised to enable children to make progress in all areas of learning.  

Our curriculum is designed to create a strong base of vocabulary and experiences to enable children to confidently move on to the next stage of their education. We have developed a curriculum which looks forwards; to learning covered further up the school specifically Key Stage 1, and further to Key Stage 2- to ensure that children have been given the knowledge and skills to build upon. We provide this through hands on experiences such as visits to local areas, interacting with living things and teach specific related vocabulary to allow them to fully access the learning opportunities later in their education.  

Pupils progress is tracked and monitored using EeXAT.  This tool is used collect evidence to build the wholistic picture of every child through pictures, observations and communications with parents. This supports us to make accurate judgements on the children’s development. 

Structure of the day  

The best outcomes for children’s learning occur when a mixture of learning opportunities are provided during the school day: Child-initiated play, guided play actively supported by adults and Adult focus-led learning.   

In nursery we place a strong emphasis on ‘In the Moment Planning’ in order to enhance children’s interests in addition to the above. This approach is shown to: 

  • develop children’s confidence, being part of a group, learning to take turns and share fairly, 
  • give opportunities to become strong and independent from a base of loving and secure relationships with parents and Key Adults 
  • provide chances to develop imagination in recreating roles and guided experiences 
  • enhance communication with others as they investigate or solve problems 
  • offer exploration opportunities, develop and represent learning experiences that help them to make sense of the world. 
  • allow children a safe space to take risks, make and learn from mistakes 
  • develop resilience through giving time for practise, building up their own ideas, concepts and skills. 
  • Staff within the setting support children to do this by: 
  • being flexible, adaptable and spontaneous. Listening to children’s ideas and interests 
  • positive reinforcement and enthusiasm about indoor/outdoor play. Adults are confident and knowledgeable about the benefits of learning in the outdoor area 
  • supporting and encouraging children to take risks and explore; and helping children make sense of the world around them 
  • adopting a problem-solving and investigational approach where possible 
  • providing opportunities for meaningful conversations between groups of children, and between adults and children. 
  • understanding that children develop and learn in different ways and at different rates.  As well as understanding that development in all areas of learning is equally important and inter-connected. 
  • observing and being reflective on children’s spontaneous play; monitoring their development in all areas of the curriculum, and using this to inform future planning. 

Communication and Language 

Communication and Language plays a huge part I n the development of children as part of the 3 Prime areas.  Ark Castledown understand the priority within this and therefore have a dedicated speech and language specialist work with children most in need of support.   In addition, paired partner talk is carefully planned to allow children to access and learn language from peers.   Staff also use contingent talk within the setting to model play and develop language and critical thinking, which will continue to be developed over the next year. 

Parental Involvement and Community  

We offer a range of opportunities to engage parents with our school community such as:  

  • Offering EeXAT logins to encourage parents to upload photos and observations of home learning.  
  • Home learning bingo for reception parents to encourage  
  • Twice termly stay & play sessions 
  • Weekly read with a relative (reception) and rhyme time (nursery) 
  • Hold workshops to support parents in areas such as reading/phonics and maths 

We know that bringing home and school together is vital in giving our children the best opportunities in life!