The Importance of FS Learning
"Why it is so important for young children to be in school - and why it is safe for them to attend."
Since March 2020, the world of education has changed. The pandemic means many children will have spent the best part of a year staying at home and interacting much less than normal with teachers, friends and family.
For young children, every experience or encounter presents a learning opportunity. They learn from everything they see and everyone they interact (talk, play, laugh) with.
Parents have done an amazing job through the pandemic to keep their children safe and healthy. Some parents have been required to support in delivering part of the curriculum at home, whilst having few and limited resources available to them. With an additional focus on screen time activity and online teacher interaction, being a challenge for many.
The early years is the most important point of a child’s development. Early childhood, the years from birth to age six, is the most critical period that sets the stage for a child’s growth and learning journey.
Within the EYFS curriculum, the prime areas of learning are foundational. They play a significant role in encouraging children’s curiosity and enthusiasm for learning. It is these essential areas that are a driving force behind supporting children as they learn to form relationships, moderate emotions and prepare them for life and learning. These prime areas are:
- communication and language
- physical development and
- personal, social and emotional development
A strong foundation in the prime areas is essential, as evidence shows that, if it is not securely in place by age five, it can possibly affect other areas of learning and development.
Why it is so important for young children to be in school.
Impact on Communication and Language
Communication and Language is at the heart of everything schools do, every lesson, every subject, all reading and writing skills all stem from strong communication and language skills.
‘Schools surveyed across England found that 76% of children needed more support with communication than in previous years’ as a result of the lockdown.*
These reports suggest that, due to a limited time spent in school, children are falling behind as they are not being exposed to the same level of vocabulary and interaction that they would be if they were in school. Being one of the prime areas, developing oral language and communication skills is a constant and daily focus within the Early Years Foundation Stage day, with schools and teachers, experts in creating language-rich environments in many different forms, for the children to thrive and creating endless opportunities to express their thoughts, ideas and feelings.
Impact on Personal, Social and Emotional Development
Personal, social and Emotional Development refers to the process in which children develop the ability to initiate and maintain trusting relationships with adults and peers; to understand and express emotions in appropriate ways; to become independent, explore and engage with the environment and make responsible decisions (Ashdown & Bernard, 2012).
These skills enable children to interact positively with others, have a positive attitude toward school, strengthening academic performance. Early childhood educators, promote social and emotional skills in the classroom by providing children with a safe, nurturing, and routinely environment. Teachers play key roles in supporting children in the development of social and emotional skills.
Daily routines help children feel safe and secure. Routines help children learn how to perform tasks ranging from getting dressed, brushing teeth and getting ready for school to learning how the world works and the skills needed in order to interact successfully in it. A simple daily routine provides a basis for children to learn other essential skills such as basic hygiene, time-management, self-control, self-care, responsibility, independence, and confidence. School and teachers understand the importance of daily routines and the impact that it has on children’s well- being and provide these opportunities throughout the day.
For those children who may have no siblings, lockdown has meant limited interactions with other children. These interactions are fundamental for developing key skills such as, understanding and experiencing sharing, turn-taking, and building relationships. Schools and teachers create opportunities which allow children to have these daily interactions in a natural and safe environment.
Impact on Physical development
Physical development involves providing opportunities for young children to be active and interactive; to develop their co-ordination and control through gross and fine motor activities.
Early years teachers encourage children to be independent in their learning, thinking and doing and early years classrooms ensure there is a variety of resources made available to support the individual development of each child to support their physical development journey.
Young children within the Foundation Stage begin to be exposed to larger writing instruments, like fat crayons, with educators supporting their development from grasping them with their fist and then moving to a more advanced tripod grip. Teachers carefully develop opportunities to strengthen their fingers, with thought out activities and resources.
Children continue to refine fine motor skills and build upon earlier skills. Their artistic skills improve, and they can draw simple stick figures and copy shapes such as circles, squares, and large letters. Schools and teachers adapt the learning environment accordingly for students’ individual development needs in this area, using their expert knowledge to support the child’s next steps.
The teacher continuously scaffolds the individual learning journey, naturally developing the physical development skills necessary for starting or succeeding in year 1 and beyond such as printing letters and numbers and being able to use paints, pencils and crayons with better control.
With gross motor skills, studies suggest one of the most notable regressions among children has been in their sense of spatial awareness. Being physically able enough to join in, keep up and contribute to movement, play is profoundly important to children. Being able to negotiate their space and travel around the classroom to access resources, develops their independence. School and teachers create these opportunities daily, from small classroom activities to more focused PE sessions.
Why is it safe for children to attend school?
All schools in Dubai work in close partnership with the KHDA and DHA to ensure that all necessary health and safety measures are followed to safeguard children, parents and staff. We are constantly looking at ways we can adapt the classroom to ensure children are still able to access a play-based curriculum and stay safe under the guidelines.
GEMS Al Barsha National School, like all schools in Dubai, is awaiting updates to the full health and safety measures to be implemented in the Academic Year 2021-22.
To date, 98% of staff members have been vaccinated against Covid-19 with the school following GEMS Education and regulatory requirements to ensure that all eligible staff are vaccinated. In addition, staff members adhere to all other health and safety measures, including the correct wearing of face masks, social distancing and regular hand sanitization.
All children, staff and parents walk through a temperature scanner when entering the school building. Parents drop their children off at the FS entrance were students are greeted by teachers, and supported to their classrooms. Classrooms are fully sterilized at the end of every day.
Through out the school day, children are encouraged to wash and sanitize their hands, especially before touching resources or coming in from outside. Children do still have access to individual baskets of resources which can be sanitized between use, this continues to encourage continuous provision choices in the classroom.
There have been many other adaptions put in place, such as eliminating lockers and spacing personal belongings. Desks have been spaced out by using physical barriers, such as partitions, to separate students. Students have been divided up into distinct ’bubbles’ and these are also divided by a large perspex screen. These bubbles stay together during the school day which reduces interaction between different groups of children.
Our school clinic also ensures that, should symptoms of any kind appear, qualified medical practitioners are on hand to support quickly.
* Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) Research 2021