Early Years


At Skyswood, we provide an ambitious, purposeful and progressive Early Years curriculum that meets the needs and abilities of every child and enables them to become the best that they can be.

Our intention in Nursery and Reception is to equip children with the necessary skills, knowledge and understanding for their future learning, but also for them to leave the Early Years as kind, independent and resilient individuals who have the confidence and ability to communicate effectively, problem solve, develop ideas and think creatively. By providing safe and nurturing learning environments and rich and challenging learning experiences, we fully intend for our children to develop the cultural capital they need to continue successfully on their learning journey.


What and how we teach is in direct response to the needs of our children. Within the first few weeks, staff aim to develop a thorough knowledge of the children in our care through play, conversation, observation and assessment. By establishing a clear understanding of their strengths, interests and learning styles, we can then respond accordingly by delivering a curriculum that builds sensitively and effectively upon these starting points.

In Early Years, we enable children to learn through a balance of child-initiated (play-based) and adult-led learning. Every day, we provide children with opportunities for prolonged periods of uninterrupted play so that they can learn through exploration, discovery, rehearsal and experimentation. Great care is given to setting up our indoor and outdoor learning environments to ensure that they facilitate not just ‘what’ we would like our children to learn but ‘how’ children learn best. Resources are selectively chosen and enhancements planned that encourage children to collaborate, persevere and problem solve whilst at the same time developing their personal and social skills. Staff seize every opportunity to support and extend learning and are constantly alert to possibilities to implement strategies to naturally enhance outcomes for children through play.

Alongside play-based learning, adult-led sessions take place throughout the week to introduce new learning, develop vocabulary, share stories and celebrate achievements. We have carefully considered and planned a broad curriculum around engaging topics to introduce the children to the diverse world around them as well as securing the foundations for their learning in Year 1. Adult-led sessions are planned to be short, focused and interactive, providing further opportunities for sustained shared-thinking and collaborative working.

It is well recognised that children benefit most from a strong partnership between practitioners and parents and/or carers. All contributions from home are welcomed and valued, and help us to shape our decisions about how best to support the children next. By capturing and sharing key milestones and ‘wow’ moments between home and school via the Evidence Me app, we ensure that parents/carers are fully informed of where their children are in their learning and that we can support each other to secure the best outcomes for the children.

At key points in the year, children’s progress is more formally assessed and monitored. Actions are taken to support vulnerable individuals or groups to ensure high levels of progress and attainment for all children, irrespective of ethnicity, gender, social/economic background or starting points.

A summary of each key learning area within the early years is captured in the Early Years Curriculum Overview.


We recognise the importance of early years experiences in developing children that are happy, independent and motivated to learn. We believe that our approach, underpinned by the EYFS framework, promotes the very best outcomes for our children. Staff are committed to providing a safe and nurturing environment and build strong, positive relationships with every child that enhance all aspects of development.

We value how important it is to know every child and support them in their learning journey.  (For further information on how we support children with SEND please visit our Special Educational Needs page under the School Information tab.)  We would be happy to show you around our setting to give you a deeper insight into some of the inspiring activities the children experience.  Please telephone 01727 854164 or email admin@skyswood.herts.sch.uk for an appointment or further information.

We understand that choosing your child’s early years setting, is possibly one of the most important and potentially emotional decisions that you will need to make during their younger years.  Building relationships from as early as possible, also provides a valuable interaction between home and school.  Staff will always strive to answer any question, no matter how small. Our early years staff are an experienced team who are passionate about high quality childcare.

We offer a wide range of opportunities for continuing professional development so our teams can continue to develop and reflect on the care and education provided for our children and their families.  We pride ourselves in creating a supportive environment where everyone has the opportunity to grow.

Early Years Curriculum Overview

Communication and Language

By interacting sensitively with the children, we ensure they develop the skills that they need to be able to listen and attend, understand spoken language and confidently express and share their ideas with others. We provide a language rich environment with plenty of opportunities daily for children to listen and respond to stories and rhymes, to ask and answer their own questions, and to engage in conversation with adults and their peers. These activities are not only important life skills, but are essential in broadening the children’s vocabulary which in turn has a significant impact on the successful acquisition of skills in early reading and writing.

Personal, Social and Emotional Development

At Skyswood, we support children’s personal, social and emotional development by helping them to interact effectively and develop positive attitudes towards themselves and others. Children receive positive feedback and experience positive role models for their behaviour. We support our children to develop confidence in who they are and to develop a deeper understanding of their own feelings and those of other people. We teach our children to respect different views and ideas, and to form constructive friendships.

Physical Development

Our indoor and outdoor environments are planned to ensure that children have plenty of opportunity to develop both their fine and gross motor skills; whether that be outside using our P.E. equipment, or inside developing their fine motor skills through a range of activities such as using playdough, construction equipment or mark making. We actively seek to support children in developing their independence and develop a range of self-care skills.


Skills in early reading and writing are initially developed through talk and regular sharing of carefully chosen books, poems and rhymes. Our aim is to instil a love of books and stories even before children learn to read by selecting high quality literature that produces a strong emotional response from the children. Books are promoted through daily story times and frequently re-read multiple times so that children can develop a deep familiarity with the stories, vocabulary and language patterns, and are eager to re-tell or re-enact them for themselves. Similarly, songs, rhymes and poems are taught to alert the children to rhyme, alliteration and sounds within words; important precursors to the learning of phonics.

At Skyswood, we follow the Read Write Inc scheme for the teaching of phonics, underpinned in Nursery by Phase 1 from Letters and Sounds. In reception, we teach phonemes and their corresponding graphemes at a rapid pace that enables the children to begin blending and segmenting sounds for reading and writing at any early stage. Reading practice is prioritised to provide regular opportunities for all children to rehearse their skills in decoding alongside the teaching sequence. Additional practice is given to those who would benefit from some extra support.

Although Read Write Inc also equips the children with the necessary skills for early writing, we feel strongly that children are best motivated to write when given a clear purpose. In Reception, we therefore teach a literacy lesson each week, in addition to daily phonics sessions, that encourages children to express their own ideas without the constraints of the phonic knowledge-to-date. Children are encouraged to offer their ideas orally and staff will scribe for them where appropriate, or when ready, encourage the children to record through writing down the sounds that they can hear. At this point, they quickly become empowered as writers as they recognise that their phonetic attempts can be read by others.

Suggestions or enhancements that promote independent mark-making and writing also feature prominently across indoor and outdoor provision in both Nursery and Reception during child-initiated learning for children to further practice and rehearse their skills.


Concepts and skills in maths mastery are taught in adult-led sessions and embedded through small group activities and play. Adult-led sessions are short, engaging and carefully planned, with maths concepts taught using practical resources and relating where possible to real life experiences. The learning environment is continually enhanced following adult-led teaching to promote and rehearse mathematical concepts such as counting, sorting, measuring, comparing quantities and pattern recognition.

Understanding the World 

In response to the revised Early Years framework, we have planned a series of learning themes across the year that align with the Development Matters 2020 document and reflect our school’s culture, community, and locality wherever possible. Children develop an understanding of their immediate environment and the roles of the people in it whilst also looking at how it has changed over time. To bring the learning to life, we make the most of our outdoor areas by looking at the impact of seasonal changes throughout the year and observing plants and wildlife. We also arrange trips locally and invite visitors into school to share their experiences with us first-hand.

Through the breadth of these topics, our children begin to develop a sense of the wider world. We learn about some of the similarities and differences in landscape, lifestyles and cultures in different countries as well as the impact of some historical figures that we remember and recognise for their adventures, escapades or achievements.

Expressive Arts and Design

Creative workshop areas are set up in both the Nursery and Reception classrooms and children are free to access the resources independently. They are given time to work on their own creations and adults will work alongside, teaching or introducing new skills where needed. Adult-led sessions throughout the year introduce children to new media and opportunities to apply newly-learned techniques such as watercolours or collage are then made available for the children to further explore during Choosing-to-Learn time.

Imaginative play is encouraged across the provision as a means for self-expression, creativity, practicing and using newly introduced vocabulary and fun! Children allowing us into their worlds through conversation and role-play is an absolute privilege, but also provides insight and opportunity to further support our children across all areas of learning.

We are proud of our latest Skyswood Ofsted report (November 2014) and feel that we have since built upon the outstanding practice that was identified within the report:

Ofsted: The Early Years Provision is Outstanding

Children make outstanding progress and are very well prepared for entry to Year 1. High proportions achieve a good level of development, particularly in their personal, social and emotional qualities, and in communication and mathematical skills.

The early years provision is led and managed very well by knowledgeable and creative members of staff. Excellent teamwork ensures that all children are well cared for and safe.

The quality of teaching is outstanding. Adults constantly ask questions, while at the same time noting the children’s emerging strengths and areas for further development. In such a way, they plan additional and supplementary activities and resources to motivate and engage all learners.

Daily communication with parents is highly effective. Information about what is happening in school each week is found in the children’s bespoke ‘learning journey’ folders, accessible to all parents. As a result, parents make a valuable contribution to their children’s learning at home, supporting carefully their progress.

The school makes sure that children settle quickly when they first join the Nursery or Reception classes. Parental visits to school, as well as staff visits to children’s homes, help to provide a detailed picture of each child’s abilities and interests.

All staff plan opportunities and experiences that draw carefully on children’s interests. As a consequence, almost all children are immersed in the daily activities. They happily play and learn indoors and out, with a wider range of resources at hand than at the time of the previous inspection. They take turns when role-playing patiently with one another, showing excellent behaviour and attitudes to learning.