Cherry Orchard Primary Academy


Early Years Rationale

We put the individual child at the centre of everything that we do!
We understand that play based learning is the key to successful, happy, confident and resilient learners of the future.


The cycle of observation, assessment, planning, observation is carried out on a moment-by-moment basis. We work in this way because …
Babies and young children are experiencing and learning in the here and now, not storing up their questions until tomorrow or next week. It is in that moment of curiosity, puzzlement, effort or interest – the ‘teachable moment’ – that the skilful adult makes a difference. By using this cycle on a moment-by-moment basis, the adult will be always alert to individual children (observation), always thinking about what it tells us about the child’s thinking (assessment), and always ready to respond by using appropriate strategies at the right moment to support children’s well-being and learning (planning for the next moment).”
From National Standards document Learning, Playing and Interacting P.22 – 23

Focus Children

We have focus children not focus activities. Each week, 3 or 4 children from each class are chosen as focus children, with each child being a focus child 3 times per year. The adult goes to the child. The child is not called to come to the adult.

We work this way because high-level involvement occurs in child-initiated activity. When children show high levels of involvement, the brain is at its most active and that is when progress and development can occur. High level involvement occurs most often when children are able to pursue their own interests in an enabling environment supported by skilled staff. Planning in the moment helps to make this possible.

Enabling Environment

We have a workshop style environment indoors and outside. Activities are not set out on the tables.
A variety of high quality, open ended resources are accessible to the children, who are able to select what they want to do in each area and find resources to support that chosen activity.
Where required, adults model how to respect, play with and look after resources to ensure the environment remains safe, however the uses of resources are not restricted and children are encouraged to find new ways to use or combine them.
Throughout the environment there are many opportunities for the children to take risks within their play. These risks may be physical or emotional, but they enable the children to push themselves beyond their comfort zones and try new things.


During focus weeks, adults will be closely observing focus children, providing the exact
level of support and challenge each child requires.
What about the rest of the class?
They will naturally challenge themselves and each other. An enabling environment as detailed above allows them to do this all of the time. Adults will continue to monitor the whole class, not just focus children.

Role of The Adult

The adults are there to facilitate learning. They do this through observations and interactions.
Our adults get to know the children very well, which ensures that they can enhance and extend the learning at the appropriate level.
The Ofsted definition of teaching (2015) fits exactly with our way of planning and teaching – in the moment…
Teaching should not be taken to imply a ‘top down’ or formal way of working. It is a broad term which covers the many different ways in which adults help young children learn. It includes their interactions with children during planned and child-initiated play and activities: communicating and modelling language, showing, explaining, demonstrating, exploring ideas, encouraging, questioning, recalling, providing a narrative for what they are doing, facilitating and setting challenges. It takes account of the equipment they provide and the attention to the physical environment as well as the structure and routines of the day that establish expectations. Integral to teaching is how practitioners assess what children know, understand and can do as well as take account of their interests and dispositions to learning (characteristics of effective learning), and use this information to plan children’s next steps in learning and monitor their progress.’

Records of Learning

Each adult will have an average of 1000 interactions per day. This has been shown to drop to just 100 if staff are trying to record all of these interactions.
The focus child system helps to keep the interactions the priority, not the evidence.
During a child’s focus week, any completed learning cycles (observation, assessment, planning, observation), are recorded on the child’s Tapestry learning journal as a ‘Focus’ observation. For any other children involved in the same learning cycle it will be recorded as a ‘Group’ observation.
In addition, ‘Wow’ observations are added to journals as and when significant or new learning occurs.
It is particularly important that the adults’ input (teaching) is recorded. A “T” symbol is used in observation records to indicate “adult”. The adult must describe how they have
moved the children’s learning forward (“T suggests … encourages …models …ponders …demonstrates …facilitates … offers resources .. etc.”)

The majority of evidence of progress and learning comes from adult’s own knowledge.

Curriculum Coverage

We follow the EYFS framework as an overview to the skills and knowledge children need to develop throughout their time in the Early Years. We use the age banded statements as a best fit guide to track how the children are progressing and to ensure all learners are accessing the full curriculum. Wherever possible the curriculum is delivered through play, with some adult led sessions to introduce or revise skills.

Adult-Led Sessions

Adult led inputs happen a number of times throughout the day, in order to introduce or
teach key concepts in small or larger groups. These sessions include maths, phonics, stories, singing, social skills and games and the majority of the sessions are practical, hands-on activities for which learning is not written down.
Most sessions will be planned in advance but are very flexible depending on children’s progress and interests.
This also gives children the opportunity to learn how to participate in group conversations, listening and speaking at appropriate times. Adults will observe focus children during these sessions to help inform future teaching moments.
Daily phonics sessions are held, following the Read, Write, Inc. programme, with children being assessed and grouped based on their attainment.

Parent Contribution

Prior to each focus week, parents are asked to provide information about their child’s current interests and any significant events taking place. It is also an opportunity to share any questions or concerns regarding children’s progress.

Characteristics of Effective Learning

Playing and Exploring – do they investigate and experience things, and ‘have a go’?
Learning Actively – do they concentrate and keep on trying if they encounter difficulties, and enjoy achievements?
Creating and Thinking Critically – do they have and develop their own ideas, make links between ideas, and develop strategies for doing things.

With a system of focus children, a workshop style environment and records kept in learning journals, we can ensure that all children are learning effectively all of the time.