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Learning through play in reception...how does it work? Is this open to interpretation, what is Ofsted's view?

(18 Posts)
thegrammerpolicesic Tue 06-Oct-09 13:08:57

I'm very aware that reception is about learning through play but there seems to be a lot of variety between schools about the way this is interpreted.

I have a few questions for those of you in the know:

- are baseline assessments compulsory under the eyfs and are these shared with parents? When do they have to be done by in the term?

- why are some schools sending word boxes home and using reading schemes when others haven't even begun yet and it's not that long 'til half term? I know it's not a race but this seems strange.

Tbh I am worried that the amount of learning of numeracy and literacy is going to be far less in ds's class than at other schools. Ds's school had a bad ofsted and I think they are bending over backwards to comply with Ofsted's learning through play philosophy. Too far backwards maybe and going too far into pure play? It is most important to me that he is happy but others in nearby schools seem happy AND learning literacy and numeracy.

Would love insights into how all this works.

merrymonsters Tue 06-Oct-09 14:42:26

You're right. Some schools put more emphasis on phonics and learning to read than others.

My friend's son goes to a CofE school in an affluent area (got 'outstanding' Ofsted last time). She said that their reception room has hardly any toys in it and they seem to be heavily into learning even in reception. A lot of the children at this school move to prep school at 7 so the parents are quite pushy.

Our school is a community school also in an affluent area (also 'outstanding') and they teach reading, but start with books with no words and jolly phonics and don't push it if the child isn't ready. They do seem to do a lot of playing. My sons were already reading when they started reception and they cater for their levels as well and don't make them do jolly phonics.

roundabout1 Tue 06-Oct-09 14:58:35

Good question grammarpolice I'll be interested to see people's answers on this one. My dd has just started in reception, her school go into learning very gradually, no words, reading books or even phonics to practice. We had a meeting at school last week & were told that after half term there would be more "proper" homework & that they were assessing the children. Their ofsted report is good with outstanding features - does say that children come into the school with below average skills but by the the end of the first year are well above average. Not sure why this is wondering if it's because there is no pre-schools attached to the school so most did pre school sessions at day nurseries & playgroups. Dd says all she does is play at school but then this morning was trying to spell out cornflakes off the cereal box so suppose that can't be completely true!

beautifulgirls Tue 06-Oct-09 15:49:53

We just had a meeting at DD's school yesterday about what actually happens at school. They "teach" through play - the teacher leads some activities, the children get to choose others. For example they were making numbers out of dough the other day, so getting familiar with the shapes of these things whilst having fun. They have told us each week what they will be "learning" in this half term - so for example week 1 they learned about S, A, number1, red and circles. It would come into stories that they read, things that they draw, songs that they sing and they would be encouraged to try and write it but not pushed. No reading books home until half term and then we will only get picture books for them to use for a few weeks until they get the idea of turning pages and telling a story by using the pictures to start.
All of this seems a long way removed from the reports that DD gives me about what she has been doing all day....I played mummy! But of course she did play and in playing she is learning too. I am reassured that she is doing something constructive in her days now, and I am also really pleased to know she is happy and enjoying what she does too. I think she will learn far more than being made to sit down and formally "learn" at this stage of school.

Littlefish Tue 06-Oct-09 15:53:16

It can depend on the children coming into the year group. For example, the children in Reception in the school where I work have had very little experience of pre-reading ie. songs, rhymes, books, talking!, listening etc. We therefore need to do lots of work on this before we can start on "phonics" ie. letters/sounds.

However, the class my dd attends (Reception), is drawn from a community which is very supportive of children's early education. Most of them have attended nursery and have parents who talk, listen, sing, read, play etc. with them. As a result, my dd has started basic phonics straight away and is starting to write. I would actually prefer there to be more play in my dd's reception class!

I teach in KS1 and we are encouraged to use a creative curriculum, including lots of play and exploration for the children we teach.

mrz Tue 06-Oct-09 17:16:18

Baseline isn't compulsory. If schools choose to complete baselines they are usually done in the first 6 weeks after starting school.

EYFS is compulsory and schools not implementing it would be graded badly by OFSTED.
It is perfectly possible to learn both literacy and numeracy through play. There is a requirement in EYFS for a balance between child and adult led.

thegrammerpolicesic Tue 06-Oct-09 17:19:21

Yes that's a good point about the cohort of children and their knowledge.

It's a school in the sort of area though where I imagine most children are used to being read to and have been to a nursery so I don't think that's at the heart of it.

I wonder if some of it is down to how keen the teacher is to impress ofsted, other times maybe how committed they are to the learning through play philosophy and another factor might be how pushy the parents are?

thegrammerpolicesic Tue 06-Oct-09 17:21:01

Ah that last sentence is interesting Mrz as I was wondering how that child-led thing worked and the extent of it as obviously some children would never touch certain activities over the course of a year if it was solely down to them and therefore wouldn't work towards the early learning goals at all in those areas. So do you give them gentle encouragement then if say they aren't keen on writing or reading?

thegrammerpolicesic Tue 06-Oct-09 18:30:41

Why is it that if I post twice I always, always kill a thread!? blush

mrz Tue 06-Oct-09 18:35:40

Achieving ELGS

"Each child's development should be recorded against 13 assessment scales, based on the early learning goals (ELGs) and divided between the six areas of learning and development. Judgements against these scales should be made from observation of consistent and independent behaviour, predominantly from children's self-initiated activities.
Remember there should be a balance so if a child isn't accessing certain activities they would be part of the direct teacher input so children won't miss out on whole chunks of the curriculum just because they don't choose to go there to play.

thecloudhopper Tue 06-Oct-09 19:04:51

In Wales where the learning through play philosophy continues right up to 7 it is all about getting the children to know what they need to know put doing it through playletters/sounds instead of doing a worksheet you may set out things like shaving foam and cars so that the children make the letter with the car, or on the yard the adult may have drawn big letters on the flour with chalk the children then have to take the bikes or trikes and go over the letters starting in the correct place ect. This will help the letter sink in more than a simple worksheet.

In wales also like in England there should be a good mix of adult led and child led activites. These focused tasks increase in the amount that the children have to do as the children get older.

In Wales and at least in the county I work for baselines are done in each school, as tehy enter, then twice more. usually at the end of each term

thegrammerpolicesic Tue 06-Oct-09 19:33:50

Ah that makes sense. I think there is a lot of confusion about all this learning through play lark among parents. Or is it just me?

Nunk Tue 06-Oct-09 20:57:02

In our reception my son is on his second picture reading book and has some words to look at which refer to the early reading books they use.
I presume they are doing the base line assesments as well.
They also have a language teacher who teaches french. She talks to them in french and repeats in english.
There is a lot of learning going on in our reception classes as well as free play.

LadyG Tue 06-Oct-09 22:02:04

Our school is OFSTED outstanding with excellent KS2 stats but still has free play-based activities (child led) through the day apart from one hour of literacy and one hour of numeracy (in reception that is).
I think they have only moved to this last year so it is a bit early to see how it will work but so far DS seems to be really, really enjoying school which was all I had hoped for. He has 'letters of the week' to practice sounding out and writing and 2 or 3 very simple reading books per week.
If you're not happy about how much he is getting at school could you do some fun literacy games (letter snap or whatever) and things at home with him?

laweaselmys Tue 06-Oct-09 22:34:10

If you are worried speak to them, they should be able to explain what they are doing.

From my experience of learning through play it is fantastically effective though. But the interaction between the children and adults is quite a big part of it, and if that's not going great then it's not very likely to work as well as it could. If the staff seem enthusiastic then I would trust in what they are doing. I know it's hard and it sounds silly that they are learning by playing - but really this is how children learn everything they do from eating and social interaction right through to learning to read and write. That's WHY they play at all.

teamcullen Tue 06-Oct-09 22:51:02

In my DCs school we have a Foundation unit. This covers nursery and reception classes, although we call them foundation 1 and foundation 2. Children learn is through play, circle time type activities or small groups for more structured work, such as writing, reading and some numeracy.

The room is set out into areas such as construction, maths, literacy, role play, etc. The children in foundations 1 and 2 play side by side, however are split up for teacher led activities. The transition between nursery reception is smooth for children and parents.

Children dont begin to bring reading books or homework until after christmas. They learn through play in a variety of ways, such as, a child playing with blocks is improving his dexterity/motor skills. A child playing with cars might be asked, how many cars do you have? How many will you have if you have one less?

This school is in a very deprived area, and many of the children begin school way below average but catch up or even excel the national average by the time they go to year 1. We were named as, one of the 20 outstanding primary schools excelling against the odds, in a new ofsted report

The foundation unit has been running for 6 years now and has been proven to be very sucessful with staff, parents and pupils.

thegrammerpolicesic Tue 06-Oct-09 23:13:07

This is really illuminating and useful.
Thank you. I wish the school had explained it as well as you have.

Builde Wed 07-Oct-09 12:24:11

My observation of when Primary School send word tins and reading books home really just depends on the school but probably doesn't matter too much.

My dd was given reading books and a word tin probably in October of her reception year. Her word tin probably got to about 50-70 words and then got disbanded and now - thank goodness - we only have reading books. (we are the least affluent school)

Another local school still sends word tins home and has further key words. (in year 1)

And yet another local school didn't send reading books home til Easter of reception. (this is the most popular school with the most affluent parents)

My dd's school decides the reading level based on reading assessments and children will skip many reading levels if appropriate. Another local school makes children read all the books in each level. Those children have been having 6 easy books a week whereas we read a 'chapter' book over a week.

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