New Beginnings Nursery is based in a deprived area of Sunderland. The majority of places are Government funded (2 year-old free education) in addition to a high Pupil Premium percentage. The majority of children enter nursery with some speech, language and communication delay. This has become an increasing issue over the last few years. In addition to increasing numbers of children with delayed speech, language and communication, an increasing number present with disordered development, many of whom either already have a diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder or are in the process of being assessed for Autism. Over the years we have changed the learning environment to suit the changing needs and abilities of the children. This journey also involved the team reflecting on our practice and looking at it with greater levels of developmental detail.
As the manager of the nursery I have previously attended many of Kirstie’s speech and language courses and was introduced to the Launchpad for Literacy approach. I was very excited by the training and knew this was something I wanted to implement in the nursery. During a staff meeting I discussed the Launchpad for Literacy approach with the team and they were all very positive. They liked how it identified specific skill gaps with individual children and the small steps of progress when assessing and tracking the children. These skills were very specific and linked with the EYFS.
Implementing the approach has involved leadership whilst also involving the team with reflecting on and improving practice through team discussion and training days. We are now in the process of embedding the approach in various ways.
Curriculum - We developed our curriculum to embed the Launchpad for Literacy along with the EYFS. The team spent time looking at each area of the environment (e.g. home corner, construction, creative area etc.) and thought about the learning opportunities, the way we teach and model in each area. We looked at the EYFS and Launchpad for Literacy together focussing on learning opportunities we could generate. We created a long-term plan for each area. The long-term plan suggests resources, EYFS and Development Matters statements, along with Launchpad for Literacy skill steps and the adult’s role. These long-term plans were adapted according to each room, taking into account the age and stage and ability of the children in the room. As a result of this work, we developed an assessment tool which links the EYFS development matters statements with the Launchpad for Literacy skill steps. This work was very useful and practitioners were able to identify gaps In the children’s learning, and also gave ideas for smaller steps which were more achievable. The assessment tool along with the long-term plan is used as part of the assessment for the learning cycle and used to close the gap in children’s learning through moderation and our medium-term plan. Now every week there are specific skills steps and developmental statements, along with CoEL on the weekly planning board.
Environment - As a team we reviewed our environment focussing on the visual and motor skill steps. We added lots of everyday items that would create a challenge for the children such as plastic containers they had to open or ask for it to be opened. The labels on the baskets are photographs, real images, symbols and line drawings. This process made us question what resources we were making available. What was the purpose of the resources? What were the learning opportunities? We looked at other skill steps from the Launchpad for Literacy, e.g. receptive language and vocabulary and changed the resources. The resource baskets now cover a range of topics and include differences in size, and colour. They also include either photos, real life images, symbols or line drawings depending on the stage of the children (e.g. the animal box has a range of zoo, wild and farm animals, birds and pets in different sizes, rather than having these separated.)
Children with identified SEND - For those children who have developmental concerns, we use the disordered flag assessment tool and refer to professionals for further assessment. This process takes time but early identification is vital. In addition to supporting identification of delay and disorder, we also use the skill steps from Launchpad for Literacy to plan interventions and to select specific targets for an individual child’s support plan.
Daily interactions - Everyday, practitioners are interacting with children, teaching and modelling. During one training day, we reflected on our current practice and approach. We spent time in the environment talking about how we interact, model and teach in each area of the room. We looked at the daily routine, focussing on transition times and the purpose of group times. This was a fabulous way to breakdown all the interactions and opportunities for interactions, looking at how we use repetitive language throughout the day and use our interactions to reinforce the children’s learning. As a setting we sing continuously making rhyming songs up with the children as they explore and during transitions. These songs have a lot of vocabulary which is targeted within the Launchpad skill steps. The songs are embedded in our everyday practice. We also looked at how different practitioners teach or interact with children by observing each other and through discussions. This gave us a baseline of how and what words we want to use when interacting with the children i.e. making sure we use consistent language routines around daily routines.
DfE Early Years Champion - The nursery has been selected to be an Early Years Champion setting, focussing on speech and language development. The Launchpad for Literacy played a huge part in this successful bid. Additionally, one of the practitioners is currently training to be an Early Years Champion mentor and the practitioner’s ethos and practice reflects the Launchpad approach.
Helen Higgins, Nursery Manager, New Beginnings Nursery
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