What if we had a rethink about Year One?
I’ve always maintained that the jump from Foundation Stage to Year One is a more challenging transition than starting school. It doesn’t need to be.
Let’s meet them half way
In light of recent events and even before them, It has become clear to me that many year one children would benefit from participating in a foundation stage style curriculum. This would allow them to settle in and thrive, without the added stress for some children at futile attempts to be moulded into a more traditional year one way of working. Many are just not ready.
If you are not already doing so, meet your new year one half way by starting your curriculum where they actually are, not where you think they should be or where you are hoping they will end up. Foster EYFS (early years foundation stage), ways of working this September. At least for the first term and watch your pupils flourish. Here are my 5 top tips moving forward.
1. Consider staffing
EYFS have a higher staff ratio and I have known leaders to put the bare legal minimum of staff into year one. This is a shock for not only the children but also to their parents. Suddenly children are not heard read as regularly. Spare a thought for your year one teachers; with the initial few weeks of term not unlike trying to herd cats. With an extra adult, the following ideas would work with fewer hitches. Easier said than done I appreciate with increasing budget cuts. If money is tight, perhaps recruit some volunteers from your community.
Apply for educational health care plan assessments sooner rather than later. If children can’t cope with EYFS, they will struggle more in year one. More funding equals more resources, not just for that child but for the rest of the children. The class LSA (learning support assistant) is often using their time with the children with high needs, rather than being more evenly distributed across the class.
3. Free flow
Consider opportunities for free flow play in those first few weeks. Can some playground space have a barrier round it for this purpose? Utilise small group work opportunities for writing and maths and keep the class together for afternoon lessons which are easier to differentiate and scaffold. This would also allow EYFS classes to continue their free flow all year. As opposed to being encouraged too soon to attempt more formal learning readiness for traditional year one teaching.
Another tactic is to plan for a carousel approach, whereby children rotate around about five activities linked to a theme. This is great for focused group work, just ensure that the activities which are not adult led are accessible for children to manage independently. In an ideal world, the class teacher has one group, an LSA a second group and a third LSA supports the remainder. Independent skills are an increased issue post pandemic and way of working promotes these skills.
5. Other ideas
Please refer to my previous post for other ideas around supporting new EYFS children to feed into your school’s EYFS and year one practice. I would particularly recommend having children screened for potential speech and language issues. These can be a relatively ‘quick fix’ in some children, allowing them to access the curriculum more speedily.
In conclusion …
I still sometimes go in to support schools who are using a more traditional year one timetable and planning. Class teacher’s had said to me that it was not their choice to organise it this way, their leadership team was not budging. If this is a situation that you are in, perhaps forward this over to your school leaders. Should they wish to get in touch to discuss further, then please get in touch.
How could these ideas impact year one transition in your setting?