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Putting Early Years First

 

The Early Years sector is unique and can often stand alone within primary schools. Kate Lee, Reception Teacher at Medmerry Primary School, explains how Schoolsworks provides a valuable support mechanism for early years across all Trust schools.

In a one form entry school, such as Medmerry, it can be difficult for those in Reception to tirelessly work on creating an inspiring environment that captures the interests of their children. We all appreciate sharing ideas and the ability not to recreate the wheel every time! The support of the Early Years team within the Trust has been invaluable, offering the opportunity to learn new things from those around us. Working in year group teams instantly allows everyone to have a shared interest and something valuable to bring to the discussion.

The Early Years leaders within the Trust aim to meet at least once a term, sometimes more, depending on current priorities. We discuss a variety of topics ranging from data to outside areas! It’s always refreshing talking to a group of people who understand and can offer advice and suggestions for new and innovative ideas. Often our meetings can head off in a different direction, but we welcome these off-shoots of conversation as the discussions which arise as a result and questions we end up unpicking are equally as important and beneficial as the original agenda. In fact it’s quite often the conversations with the experiences and advice shared that we will take away and act upon in our own settings. 

One example is the ongoing discussions we have about the approaches to teaching early writing. Some schools incorporate this into their daily phonics lessons which naturally encourage the children to apply their phonics knowledge to their independent writing. Other teach a daily ‘sentence of the day’ session which encourages all children to be brave and have a go at writing a sentence at a specific time of the day. Neither strategy necessarily works better than the other; they are just different ways of approaching and developing early writing in the classroom. By sharing different approaches we’re able to implement and adapt elements that we feel will work in our own classrooms and suit the needs of the children. As teachers we all have those areas that we just seem to go round in circles with trying to find solutions, which is why it’s always refreshing to hear about others’ successes; it makes you feel motivated to want to try it out for yourself.

We also regularly hold moderation events which are planned around the areas that as a team we feel we would like some support in moderating. We hold these events at different settings to increase the opportunities of us visiting other schools and sharing examples of good practice. So, we’ve undertaken additional visits to each other’s schools to observe specific areas of interest or just to have a look around different classrooms. You can learn so much from seeing how other settings operate on a day to day basis!

This also offers the opportunity to observe experienced teachers delivering core curriculum subjects within their settings. Taking a step back and watching the expertise of others has proved a powerful tool in self-reflection. Naturally you make comparisons to your personal teaching strategies but it also allows the opportunity for development.

One example which sticks out is watching Read Write Inc phonics being taught in different schools before we rolled it out in Medmerry. Seeing these ‘real life’ lessons supported my understanding of what a good lesson would look like, helped me to see the effective strategies such as ‘my turn, your turn’ in practice and supported me to recognise the importance of following the structured approach consistently. This experience enabled me to share, train and support colleagues in my school to feel equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to successfully implement the scheme.

For many the thought of experienced teachers visiting your setting and ‘observing’ you teach can be a daunting one. Yet it’s important that we change this perception and see it as a positive opportunity. The benefits of being part of Schoolsworks is that we can share our experiences and welcome discussions that inspire us to develop our own practice. In short, I feel grateful that I work alongside an inspiring team, who I know I can continually turn to for advice and support.