Early Years

Welcome to St Mary's Early Years page

At St Mary’s we offer provision for Nursery and Reception aged children within an Early Years Unit. Children are welcome from three to four years old and can start as they turn aged three. Our unit supports children to confidently grow and develop throughout their Early Years journey.

St Mary’s Early Years offers opportunities for children to play that are structured around the Early Years Foundation Stage guidance to ensure that all children receive a quality experience that supports their development and learning. We provide well planned experiences indoors and outdoors based on child’s interests, alongside topic-based learning opportunities planned to encompass all areas of the Early Years Curriculum. We provide a variety of learning experiences that are not only of interest to the children, but also building on what they already know!

Our routines, activities and Early Years environment are designed to enhance curriculum areas, offering them opportunities to play and practice their growing skills, ensuring that every child has an opportunity to learn and develop at a pace that is suitable to them. Our staff team will support all children to learn with enjoyment and challenge, having a balance of child initiated and adult led play-based activities.

We observe and assess your child on a regular basis to identify and track the progress they are making. This helps us to ensure we are providing appropriate support and learning opportunities to develop every child through their Early Years experiences. Observations help practitioners to decide where the children are in their learning and development, and to plan next steps. Observations and photographs of your child will be placed in their own Learning Journey. This document captures their learning from the first day they start at St Mary’s through to leaving us. We encourage parents and other family members to contribute to this document throughout your child’s time at our school. We feel its important to share learning and experiences both at school and at home. We pride ourselves on being a friendly and welcoming place for all families and children.

At St Mary’s we provide a nurturing, positive and energetic atmosphere where our professional and caring team inspire and enable children to discover their individuality and creativity giving them a positive attitude to learning and building confidence. Your child will begin their journey through educational play, early language, healthy lifestyles and an understanding of the world, learning all the skills they need to help them grow and flourish.

Outdoor Learning

We believe that every child should experience the world beyond the classroom as an essential part of learning and personal development and that is why we have made this one of our Key Priorities at St Mary’s. The outdoor environment has massive potential for providing learning opportunities. We are extremely fortunate to have a school pond, woodland walk, outdoor classrooms, allotments, wild garden area, planters and large outdoor space to explore and discover the natural world.

The journey through education for your child at St Mary’s will include a series of planned, quality outdoor learning experiences. Learning outdoors is part of our wide range of practical approaches to developing skills. Opportunities for outdoor learning supports and enhances all curriculum areas and help develop personal and social skills, communication, problem solving, thinking skills and teamwork, as well as English, Mathematics and all other curriculum areas.

Outdoor learning experiences are often remembered for a lifetime. Integrating learning and outdoor experiences, whether through play in the immediate grounds or adventures further afield, provides relevance and depth to the curriculum in ways that are difficult to achieve indoors.

Benefits of outdoor learning:

● higher levels of conversational language.
● greater independence.
● improved health and sleeping patterns.
● greater physical competence and agility.
● improved time focus on activities and more concentration.
● a greater understanding of nature and the environment.
● improved social skills, involvement and initiative.

We are always busy at St Mary’s First School. With many events occurring that we need to explore, discover and investigate. Click on the headings below to find out about some of our learning adventures.

In Reception, there are daily whole class teaching carpet sessions that include handwriting, phonics, mathematics, literacy and science as well as weekly Circle time, RE, PE sessions, music and Art. We plan half termly topics that we feel will inspire the children’s curiosity, understanding and
development. All seven main areas of learning are incorporated into the outdoor curriculum and planning is cross curricular across all areas. Our curriculum provides children with the opportunity to develop skills and enhance learning through a practical and fun approach.

We have found a dragon egg in the school grounds that we had to nurture and build a safe nest to support the egg. We looked for prints or marks to try and find the Dragon who had lost her egg. We shared stories, drew pictures and created a newspaper page. One Monday when arriving back at school we found the nest scorched and the dragon gone!

Early Years children have been investigators to find Little Red Riding Hoods Grandma, finding clues and identifying tracks left behind in the outdoor classroom. They created posters to find the Big Bad Wolf, photographed evidence, wrote reports and interviewed children at school. Luckily, Grandma was found safe and well!

We have discovered a piece of meteor buried in our allotment area. The children had to suit up with safety goggles and gloves to make observations and investigate this ‘Mystery rock’. We recorded a news report, researched Space and explored different rock samples.

Early Years Foundation Stage

As children grow, the prime areas will help them to develop skills in 4 specific areas. These are:

  • Literacy;
  • Mathematics;
  • Understanding the world; and
  • Expressive arts and design.

Children in the EYFS learn by playing and exploring, being active, and through creative and critical thinking which takes place both indoors and outside. It is very important that they develop social skills, such as turn-taking, sharing and independence, which help them greatly in the next stages of their learning.  The guiding principles that shape our practice in the Early Years are that children are born ready, able and eager to learn.  They actively reach out to interact with other people, and in the world around them.  Development is not an automatic process, however.  It depends on each unique child having opportunities to interact in positive relationships and enabling environments.

This does not mean that all your child’s learning is divided up into specific areas.  One experience may provide a child with opportunities to develop a number of skills and concepts across several areas of learning.  Our expectation is that your child’s records will be passed on from Nursery and/or Pre-school groups, enabling us to ensure continuity throughout the Early Years Foundation stage.

Phonics teaching and learning are a key part of the Foundation Stage and help to develop early reading and writing skills. The EYFS curriculum is delivered through cross-curricular topics, such as ‘What can I tell you about myself? , What happens in Autumn?, How can we help save Humpty Dumpty?, What can you see in the deep blue sea?’  If you visited Nursery or a Reception class, you would see a range of activities taking place such as role-play, practical games, painting, cutting and sticking and reading in the book corner. You would also see the outdoor classroom in operation, with equipment such as bikes, cars, sand and water.

Children work and play independently, with a strong emphasis on choice and being able to sustain concentration on projects, as well as joining a variety of nursery nurse and teacher-led activities. We encourage a partnership with parents so they are actively involved in their children’s learning.

Assessment at the end of Reception

Assessment plays an important part in helping parents, carers and practitioners to recognise children’s progress, understand their needs, and to plan activities and support. Ongoing assessment is an integral part of the learning and development process.  It involves practitioners observing children to understand their level of achievement, interests and learning styles, and to then shape learning experiences for each child reflecting those observations.  In their interactions with children, practitioners should respond to their own day-to-day observations about children’s progress, and observations that parents and carers share.  To this end we make systematic observations and assessments of each child’s achievements, interests and learning styles.  We then use these observations and assessments to identify learning priorities and plan relevant and motivating learning experiences for each child.


Each child’s level of development is assessed against the early learning goals (above).  Practitioners will indicate whether children are meeting expected levels of development:

  • Emerging, not yet reaching expected levels of development for age
  • Expected
  • Exceeding, , beyond expected levels of development for age


Year 1 teachers will have access to the Profile report together with a short commentary on each child’s skills and abilities in relation to the three key characteristics of effective learning. These will inform transition meetings between Reception and Year 1 teachers about each child’s stage of development and learning needs and assist with the planning of activities at the start of Year 1.

Early Years Funding

All three and four-year-olds are entitled to free high-quality early education, starting in the term after a child’s third birthday until compulsory school age.

The current free entitlement is 15 hours a week (570 hours a year) for 38 weeks of the year. Starting September 2017, eligible families will be able to claim an additional 15 hours free childcare per week, taking their entitlement to 30 hours free childcare a week for 38 weeks of the year (1140 hours a year).

Parents/carers of two-year-olds who meet a range of criteria are entitled to the same amount of free high-quality early years education or childcare, from the term after a child’s second birthday until the end of the term in which they are three.

Please click on the link below to view information for parents/carers on free entitlement to early years education and childcare for three to four-year-olds (and eligible two-year-olds) in Northumberland.

Northumberland County Council has produced a document full of information for Parents & Carers on Free Early Education Entitlement for 2, 3 and 4 year olds in Northumberland.
To access this documents please click on the link below.
If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact the office on 01289 306170

Please click on the link below to find about how the government is introducing new ways to help parents with childcare costs. Whether you have toddlers or teens, you could get support.

Early Years Pupil Premium is extra funding that can be claimed for eligible 3 and 4 year old children who are accessing a free early education and childcare place to support their learning, care and development.

We can claim up to £300 per year for each eligible child.

We will use this extra funding to enhance the quality of your child’s early years experience, for example to improve teaching and learning, facilities, resources and training.  All of which will have a positive impact on your child’s progress and development.
High quality early years education and childcare can influence how well a child achieves at both primary and secondary school so we want to make the most of this additional funding.
To find out more about pupil premium and to apply please follow the link below.