The Challenge for Y1 – a cohort unlike any other that has gone before
Whenever our children arrive back into school, they will have needs unlike any cohort that has gone before them. The range of lockdown experiences in any given class will vary enormously. Some children will bear the effects of trauma, stress or grief, others will only remember uninterrupted family time – but all will have faced the lack of normal routines, missed seeing family and friends and may feel anxious about leaving the familiarity of home after such an extended period.
When they do re-enter the classroom, wellbeing has to be our first priority. Ideally children will see familiar faces in a familiar environment – an environment that makes sense to them and their interests, helping them to feel secure and begin to succeed in their learning.
Children will need to begin where they are, not where we feel they should be. Before anything else, it is critical that they feel safe, secure and valued, as without this there will be little effective learning either in the short or longer term.
For children moving into Year 1 there are particular issues we need to consider as we strive to embed effective learning and secure progress over the next year. Whether children have had a few weeks back in class before the summer or not, they will have missed almost half of their Reception year and will not have the solid foundations necessary to move to the National Curriculum as quickly and successfully as usual.
We cannot expect this cohort to ‘catch up’ in an instance, they will need time. Time to establish and re-establish strong relationships with adults and peers; to become familiar with their environment; time to play and talk when they need to; to build on and strengthen their learning in a way that develops confidence and self-esteem. All of this requires an approach to learning that remains active, practical and collaborative with strong elements of child led learning, supported by skilled.
If Continuous Provision is not currently a feature of your Y1 classroom, developing this will be a vital step towards securing successful transition – and if you already have some elements of CP, then taking time to review this in light of new circumstances, will be time well spent.
As you plan your environment, don’t worry that what you are doing is only for a few weeks, for a half term or term. Continuous Provision forms an important part of effective practice in KS1 – and many schools take this right through KS2. What you put in place now, is not solely for a pre-determined transition period to then be taken away as children are moved onto the National Curriculum – it is there to support, enrich and extend learning throughout the whole year. Whilst it may seem tempting to approach Y1 as requiring mostly direct teaching for set times of the day, followed by downtime for play – this would fail to build the foundations that the NC relies on and would overlook the value of provision throughout KS1 and beyond.
By giving your environment and your routines careful thought, not simply replicating Reception but refining it and moving it on, you will enable your children to build on their EYFS experience rather than simply repeat it. This allows children to revisit and embed deep level learning, to make links between knowledge, to build on taught skills and secures in-year progression. In this way you continue to support children with the experiences they need now, offering a seamless journey towards the requirements of the National Curriculum.
And let’s not forget the importance of outdoors and its benefits for the development of young children, which will have been curtailed for the previous few months.
Does your classroom have direct access to outdoors? Do you have exciting, large-scale resources that you can use; resources that are different to those in the classroom? Can you borrow or share a space with Reception or allocate an area specifically for your class? Again, examine the opportunities provided for Reception children – what can you provide that will engage and support your children? If you are accessing part of the whole school playground, how will these resources be stored and maintained?
Teaching through provision has always been developmentally appropriate practice for 5, 6 and 7 year olds, and this is an important time to get it right for all these children. For provision to be effective in KS1, it needs to be high quality and as much a part of your teaching as any adult led sessions. It cannot be an add on or a time filler, something for children to do when the ‘real work’ is finished. Learning through provision needs to be a pedagogical approach to teaching and learning – one that all colleagues are committed to and understand. The opportunities for dynamic, joyful and unexpected learning are immense which we explore in our KS1 CPD webinar packages as well as our upcoming FREE Transforming Provision in KS1 webinar this October.
Key points to consider:
- Which areas of provision will you prioritise?
- Which areas are you able to effectively resource?
- Can you create separate, clearly defined, areas of provision by moving or removing, furniture?
- How can you organise resources so that can children access them independently?
- How can you make your provision relevant to the NC?
- Will you need to alter your timetable?
- How and what will you record to evidence learning?
Join us to draw inspiration from the EEx Virtual classroom or our interactive live webinar which will focus on designing and equipping an effective and enabling environment in KS1.
Discover our Get Equipped Indoors 2021/22 brochure.
You can also engage with us @earlyexcellence on our social media channels and don’t forget to visit our website regularly to find forums, workshops and webinar training courses to inspire you – as well as our Early Years Resources Shop.
Our National Centre is now open to visitors every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9am – 5pm. You can also visit us virtually, where you will find a highly informative interactive environment to look around with ideas for your classroom, lots of display ideas and an exhibition of children’s work to inspire you.
We hope to see you soon!