Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)

The Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum transitions through to the end of the Prep (Reception) year. It is built upon the following principles:

The Unique Child

At St Mary’s we recognise that in this complex and rapidly changing world we are unable to predict what challenges your daughters will face in their futures. Therefore, the best preparation we can give them in their early years is to provide living experiences of making choices, innovating, taking responsibility, facing challenge, thinking flexibly and critically, and learning how to learn so that they will be able to respond to their unfolding futures.

At St Mary’s we want your daughters to feel safe within warm, loving and caring relationships. Only when their basic emotional needs are met will they relax and move into exploring, taking risks, making discoveries, and experiencing the deep involvement through which they learn. The class teachers will help your daughter to feel confident, and at ease, by providing an environment that meets their need for tenderness and affection, relaxation, inner peace, enjoyment, openness, safety and belonging.

In the Prep class the girls will explore the world and their imaginations, embracing new experiences, through open-ended activities.

Within the Prep class, we recognise that every child brings with them a rich heritage. Their homes, families, life experiences and beliefs provide the foundations to their identity. This allows us to share wonderful opportunities for learning, celebrating and embracing each other’s differences.

Positive Relationships

At St Mary’s we recognise the importance of working together to ensure the best outcomes for your daughter. Research tell us that the most important predictor of children’s future outcomes is the quality of the home learning environment, so involving you, the parent, in your daughter’s learning is the most significant factor in enabling her to do well.

Every child and family in our care are unique and special to us. On entry to the school setting it is important that we get to know about your daughter. This is the start of us working together, sharing information which we can use to help form your daughter’s learning journey.

The class teacher, along with the class practitioner, will help your daughter to settle into the school routines ensuring that they feel cared for and safe. The staff at St Mary’s are privileged to be able to share in the development of your daughter, having opportunities to celebrate key moments of achievement and success with you.

Enabling Environments

At St Mary’s the enabling environment is very important to us. We want the girls to experience the real physical and natural world, as well as the social world. We want to provide routine and adult involvement which allows support for development and learning that may be planned or may arise informally. We particularly want them to develop a love of the natural outdoor environment.

The class teacher will provide opportunities for negotiation and collaboration with your daughter’s peers to allow for her communication, language and social skills to develop. They will provide open-ended play opportunities which will allow her imagination and creativity to flourish. Your daughter will have time to be in the different environments so that they can explore and develop a sense of self. The class teacher will also provide opportunities for your daughter to challenge her own emotional, social, physical and cognitive abilities and allow her to take risks.

Outdoor Learning/Forest School

At St Mary’s we are privileged to have lots of open outdoor space for the girls to explore and learn in. They are able to experience the natural world as they feel weather, hear sounds in nature as well as experience the changes in natural light. The girls have the unique opportunity to spend quality time outside in the natural environment. They learn to challenge themselves, take risks and develop new skills. Time outdoors also benefits their health and wellbeing. By experiencing first-hand, the girls begin to make sense of the world, and to learn to care for their environment.

The natural environment also supports their imaginative play and the development of relationships, encouraging collaboration with others. The children begin to develop flexible thinking. Challenging activities across the curriculum, also allows them to develop their thinking and problem-solving skills.The fantastic outdoor learning space allows the children to be inspired, to help them develop their interests and curiosities, encourage questioning, awe and wonder, and sustained shared thinking.

Learning and Development

To learn well, children must approach opportunities with curiosity, energy and enthusiasm. Learning must be meaningful to a child so that they can use what they have learnt and apply it in new situations. These abilities and attitudes of strong learners will support them to learn well and make good progress in all the Areas of Learning and Development.

Prime Areas

There are three Prime areas;

  • Personal, social and emotional development (PSED)
  • Communication and language (CL)
  • Physical development (PD)

It is through these aspects that a child accesses the world around them and relationships with other people, which in turn opens the door to learning in all areas.

The specific areas through which the three prime areas are strengthened and applied are;

  • Literacy
  • Mathematics
  • Understanding the World
  • Expressive Arts and Design

These specific areas of learning provide children with a broad curriculum and with opportunities to strengthen and apply the prime areas of learning. This is particularly important in developing language and extending vocabulary. At St Mary’s we understand that each everyday experience is an occasion for holistic development and learning. All spheres of development and learning are in action at the same time, which can be seen in the example opposite.

Characteristics of Effective Learning

In planning and guiding your daughter’s activities, the class teacher will focus on the Characteristics of Effective Learning and reflect these in their practice and assessment processes:

Playing and exploring – children investigate and experience, and ‘have a go’

Active learning – children concentrate and keep trying if they encounter difficulties, and enjoy achievements

Creating and thinking critically – children have and develop their own ideas, make links between ideas, and develop strategies for carrying out tasks

Planning, Observation and Assessment

At St Mary’s your daughter will have her own unique pathway of learning. Daily interactions involve observing, reflecting and deciding how best to support your child. At key points, whilst your daughter is with us, the class teacher will reflect on her learning pathway, creating a summary of her development, learning and progress. A holistic summary will give attention to knowledge and skills, your daughter’s emotional wellbeing and connections, and to the development of her attitudes for learning.

It is important that parents are able to share in the achievements of their daughter. The online learning programme Tapestry is a two-way system which gives parents the opportunity to see what their daughters have been learning in the Preparatory Class and also to add achievements at home. This creates a rounded picture of a child’s learning and development.

Our Locations

St Mary's Colchester
Two St Mary's Lower School pupils sitting in a Library holding books and laughing
Additional places now available

Due to increasing demand at St Mary’s, additional places are now available from September.


Enquire today to find out more: www.stmaryscolchester.org.uk/contact/enquiry-form/