Is freeflow reception the thing ?

(35 Posts)
lookingfortreasure Tue 15-Oct-19 21:43:27

I've been viewing infant schools as my DS is due to start reception in September 2020. I've been to three different ones in my catchment. Today I saw a school two reception classes, with the doors open into a very small playground just for that year, with some climbing kit. Kids all over it and very few in the class rooms. It apparently wasn't official break time. One TA out there, but it must of been 40 kids.

The first school I visited children were engaged in a group activity with the teacher & TA. Relatively under control a few stragglers at the back.

The first school I went to it was an evening session, but they said they had a freeflow outdoors policy and would come find children if they needed to sit with them for some work. I don't know what I'm suppose to be looking for. Is this freeflow a thing? Do they just do what they want most of the time and no sitting for lessons? I think they are very young for formal
Education at 4, but how do I know if it's a good school. Btw all 3 have a good from Ofsted if that means anything.

OP’s posts: |
TildaTurnip Tue 15-Oct-19 21:48:00

I’d not consider a school without free flow for about 80% of the time.

During free flow, the staff will be alongside the children and encouraging learning through play. There will be options and added in activities to develop skills.

Phonics will be taught more systematically.

lookingfortreasure Tue 15-Oct-19 22:55:54

@TildaTurnip it just looked like chaos today. I mean 2 adults in a class of 30. But it wasn't, because most were outside with one adult. How can they be teaching them anything in freeflow. Great for fresh air of course. I know children learn from trying things out, but at preschool the more staff to children ratio is higher. I guess I'm not used to it.

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MollyButton Tue 15-Oct-19 23:01:47

They can learn a lot. My DC's infant school ended up having "outdoor areas" for all years, and they would spend a lot of time outside every day (except extreme weather). They had blocks and things to explore numbers.
The special outdoor/indoor classroom for reception would be changed around to explore different aspects of the curriculum. So one half term it would be based around a street with shops to do math skills, and houses etc. Another time they'd be explorers and lots of observing and science based activities.
It might look chaotic but they learnt a lot, and the teachers and TAs guided and supervised exploration. And the children often didn't realise how much they learnt.

SleepingStandingUp Tue 15-Oct-19 23:10:37

I'd be concerned by tbe ratios if one ta really was supervising 40 kids.

However free flow is fine. DS goes to a school reception where they do formal lessons in the morning (phonics etc) then "do time" when thry can go out of thry want, do art, reading etc. The afternoon is similar, some formal learning and more "do time" when thry can go outside again

snowballer Tue 15-Oct-19 23:21:02

The EYFS curriculum is largely child initiated and the free flow set up plays well into that. Phonics will always be structured. The more child led the better I think, as in Y1 it all gets more structured (too early IMHO). Children learn through play and exploration. I definitely wouldn't be put off by this - quite the reverse

Mammyloveswine Tue 15-Oct-19 23:23:11

Early years (including reception!) should predominately be free flow play between the inside and outside classroom.

I am staggered that this is still a surprise!!!


MissNorma Tue 15-Oct-19 23:31:34

Yes very common - and in my area usually 60 kids freeflowing between classroom and outdoors . I was actively looking for a school that didn't have this set up for DC2 which was really difficult as it was so common.

RazAnn Tue 15-Oct-19 23:33:42

Free flow is recommended in EY. You can ask about the adult child ratio but if there's two classes and a lot outside I would think that should be 2 outside for most of the time. It could be that the second adult was just catching something but do ask. The activities may look like play however they are usually planned with a purpose, this being to promote learning and development in on of the EY curriculum areas. For example physical gross or fine motor skills which in turn are necessary for writing. Good luck making your choice!

SleepingStandingUp Tue 15-Oct-19 23:38:28

I was actively looking for a school that didn't have this set up for DC2 how come?

cabbageking Wed 16-Oct-19 00:44:30

Our schools offer about 10% free flow and forest school activities in top. Mornings tend to be formal learning and afternoon more creative. You have to shop around

DippyAvocado Wed 16-Oct-19 01:06:14

Yes free flow is recommended, especially at this early stage in Reception. Don't assume that structured learning is best at that age (Primary teacher here), although there will be some going on each day (phonics and number work). There will also be guided activities going on with small groups and individuals.

YouSirOweMeOneNewHat Wed 16-Oct-19 01:39:17

Free flow is the best way for EY children.

If you want your child to have a formal education from the age of 4 look into academies.
I viewed one for DD and the day was structured down to the last minute.

I've got to say though, the children in free flow reception classes looked much happier.

Norestformrz Wed 16-Oct-19 07:01:30

Free flow is very much the norm and considered best practice.

grumpypug Wed 16-Oct-19 07:11:07

Chaos - Yes, it does look like that to people who don't know EYFS well. I often stand back and watch the children in my large reception unit where it's busy, loud and 'chaotic' and that's when you really see the learning, independence and all other skills taking place that will set them up for later school. The KS2 teachers who come down during sessions are horrified with how chaotic it looks but I love it!

SarahTancredi Wed 16-Oct-19 07:16:36

They have free flow at dds school. Its 2 form entry the classrooms are adjoining but there no door there is an open archway. Reception also have their own fenced off play area too. Seems to work well. Kids always seemed happy.

Peaseblossom22 Wed 16-Oct-19 07:17:45

Two of mine would have hated free flow thank goodness they are older and only had the free choice stuff in the afternoon. Both were so much happier once they were in the routine and quieter atmosphere of year 1. For children with sensory issues the noise of 40 children free ranging is completely over whelming.

MissNorma Wed 16-Oct-19 07:55:29

SleepingStandingUp -as peaseblossom says it's not suitable for all children. DC2 has ASD, at age 4 he didn't have the play skills or the social skills for this sort of learning. And the noise and choas would have been very stressful for him. In the end he went to special school anyway, we were considering mainstream but this sort of set up put us off.

lookingfortreasure Wed 16-Oct-19 08:24:21

I worry as my child is quiet, not confident and not good with large groups. He will happily play with one or two friends. He has a best friend at preschool, but always looks overwhelmed when I drop him off in a big room of kids randomly doing stuff.

I've never been to schools before, so I'm not sure why it is "shocking" I'm surprised by the free flow set up. I can't really remember reception year of school.

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Mitebiteatnite Wed 16-Oct-19 08:32:18

Free flow is considered best practice in Early Years, so if the school doesn't have it, I'd be avoiding it altogether. It may look like chaos from an outside perspective, but as an Early Years practitioner I can assure you that the vast majority of learning goes on during free flow. Yes, we teach them to count and add, but free flow will be where they put that learning into practice and discover how it relates to the real world. Same with phonics, and science.

It's not 'the thing'. It's essential learning.

averythinline Wed 16-Oct-19 08:38:51

if its Sep 2020 he may well be more comfortable with larger groups/noiser environments by then - a lot of develpoment at that age in a year.... will he not move to the bigger room at nursery? thats usually part of the preparation for DS was similar and a summer born so I was concerned.... but by the time he got to school he was ok -
maybe look for the smallest of the options? (although that can have issues as well)
the ratios are much less at school than nursery but more of the children can follow instructions etc

SleepingStandingUp Wed 16-Oct-19 09:20:26

Thanks MossNorma and peaseblossom, I was just curious.

OP are there no smaller schools, single form entry? I know that's still 39 children potentially but split between in and out is less overwhelming. I think our class of 30 has 1 teacher and three TA's so always enough for two in and two out

Norestformrz Wed 16-Oct-19 09:34:32

In theory

Kokeshi123 Wed 16-Oct-19 10:16:01

My concern about this kind of thing is that it might just lead to children doing more of what they are good at/comfortable with already, often based on what they have brought in from the home environment.

Like: If kids are given a choice of whether they want to sit down at a table and do a craft activity with scissors, the ones who already get that kind of activity at home with Mum/Dad may be more likely to choose it or to spend more time doing it. Children who are left in front of the TV and have never done a craft activity in their lives may be less likely to choose to sit down at the table and take part in this activity, but this could mean that the fine motor skills gap between the kids with involved, switched-on parents and those without, gets wider over time. I'm just using crafts as an example.

I'm also wondering about children esp boys with poor social and verbal skills. What if they end up spending long periods of time alone doing repetitive activities like pouring sand again and again and lining up small toys? This will not exactly help them to develop their weaker areas. I am overseas so everything is different here, but I've known a couple of parents who removed their sons from Montessori preschools because they were concerned that being allowed to choose their own activities much of the time was not working for their child, and that he needed more structure to get him to participate and improve his speaking and social skills.

SleepingStandingUp Wed 16-Oct-19 10:30:57

@Kokeshi123 in a typical school reception the kids aren't being ignored for an hour, the teacher will work alongside them. So the kid lining up cars may be encouraged to count them and practise colours or use them in different ways etc

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