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Early Years

At Conkers, the 'Characteristics of Effective Early Learning' are at the centre of what we do.

These are life skills, really: curiosity, willingness to have a go at something new, getting involved and concentrating, having the confidence to keep trying even when it gets tricky, or choosing a different way of doing something, even setting up your own challenges and recognising your own achievements. Every child who develops each of these characteristics builds the resilience to overcome the challenges of everyday living and succeed in what they choose to do.

Baby playing with dough and cookie cutters
Child using a child's calculator

The importance of play

Play is how all children learn. Giving children the opportunity to discover, use their natural curiosity, imagination and enthusiasm allows them to learn and develop the skills they will need for later life. We encourage children to be as independent as possible so that they also learn through trial and error; by encouraging them to overcome difficulties for themselves they build resilience, which better equips them for the future. These are the Characteristics of Effective Learning (COEL).

Child-Led Planning

Boy in blue sunhat playing with wood

At Conkers we use Child-Led Planning. We provide an enabling environment with resources which cover all areas of learning and we allow the children to choose their own activities. Children learn best when they are interested in what they are doing: by allowing them to choose their own activities along with long periods of uninterrupted play, children can become deeply involved in what they are doing.

Teachable moments

Using the Leuven Scale of involvement developed by Professor Ferre Laevers, our skilled staff assess the environment, looking out for children who are showing high levels of engagement in their chosen activity. Staff will then extend this learning by providing ‘teachable moments’. This is where staff will observe the child or group of children first without interrupting and then skilfully extend the learning when appropriate. For example, a child may be trying to fill a watering can by scraping it through a puddle. The member of staff may extend this learning by showing or suggesting that the child could use a scoop to fill the can more effectively. This may then lead to a discussion about water or rain, or the colour of the scoop or watering can, the patterns the water makes on the floor, or that we need to make sure our pet dinosaur has water to drink…


Process not end product

The possibilities of the learning are endless and staff remain led by the child as to where the learning takes them. By learning in this way, children should show high-level involvement most of the time and therefore deep-level learning is taking place.


The emphasis is on processes not end products and so we do not use templates; the creative works that your child produces will be individual to each child.

Preparing for school

This learning and these interactions are taking place throughout your child's day at Conkers, and there are too many to record each one. For this reason, your child will be given a turn at being a 'focus child' where these interactions are recorded for a week. The information will be shared with you on Famli, an online learning journal that we use for all children, and we will ask you to contribute to this process as well.

Areas of learning

This recorded information links in with the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), the curriculum we follow which continues into the Reception year at primary school. The EYFS is divided into three Prime Areas of learning:

  • Personal, Social and Emotional

  • Communication and Language

  • Physical Development

  • These areas of learning underpin all other areas; building these fundamental skills is of paramount importance in the Early Years. The specific areas of learning within the EYFS are: Literacy, Mathematics, Understanding the World, and Expressive Arts and Design.


    Along with long periods of play, we also have some short, focussed circle times for the older children where they are able to further develop those listening skills which will be so important for their journey on to school.

    Cutting paper with safety scissors

    Getting to know you and your child

    Partnership with parents

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