Research published in December 2017 by Professor Tymms at Durham University established that the Reception year is the school year with the greatest impact on a child’s education. The paper entitled “The Long Term Impact of Effective Teaching” analysed the development of 40,000 children in England and concluded that children who benefited from good quality educational provision in Reception went on to achieve better GCSE results in English and maths. The study also acknowledged that it had already been widely accepted, based on other research, that high-quality early years and pre-school provision is arguably even more crucial for a child’s educational development.
At Herne Hill School, we are acutely aware of these and many other studies corroborating these research findings. As a consequence, we feel a great sense of responsibility to optimise the learning and development of the children in our care. Stemming from our years of experience and focus on Early Childhood Education and Development, we also know what it takes to achieve this. In a nutshell, it is all about creating an ideal ‘play’ environment and curriculum which combines secure, loving and responsive human relationships with rich, stimulating resources and equipment – under the pervasive cultural umbrella of our ethos of Love – Care – Excellence.
The benefits of continuity
Another proven, statistically relevant success factor in this early period of education is continuity, especially through Reception, which coincides with the conclusion of the statutory EYFS curriculum in England. We therefore place great emphasis on ensuring ongoing progression on the children’s learning trajectories, which can differ substantially from child to child, through the two-year Reception cycle we have devised.
The Kindergarten children transition from 99 Herne Hill into Pre-Reception at the school’s main site the September following their third birthday. They are joined by a few additional ‘new’ pupils. Having been introduced to the main site towards the end of their Kindergarten time, they quickly become intimately familiar with it. The Pre-Reception classes are all located at ground floor level to enable free-flow access to the outdoors.
Attendance is now required on all mornings plus a minimum number of afternoons, which increases during the year to prepare the children for full-time attendance in Reception (two afternoons per week in the autumn term, three in spring and four in summer, with all children having the option of attending full days Monday to Friday throughout the year).
At lunch, the children continue to eat family-style in their classrooms. Wrap-around care is available before (in the form of our breakfast club from 7.45am) and after school for a reasonable additional charge.
The curriculum remains play based and exploratory, meeting the requirements of the EYFS but going way beyond. The children are introduced to our expert peripatetic teachers who provide specialist music, PE/sport, dance and French lessons during the morning sessions. They also continue on their journey to grasp all facets of our golden rules, for which there is a progressive learning and reward scheme from Kindergarten through Year 2.
The incumbent Pre-Reception children transfer into Reception in the September following their fourth birthday. They seamlessly pick up on their learning trajectories, being fully familiar with the facilities, reconnecting with the trusted adults they know and happy to see their friends again. They are joined by children from other local nurseries, whom we settle in thoughtfully and as smoothly and quickly as possible.
The Reception classes are located on the first floor of the Mulberry building. All rooms have been recently renovated and benefit from being equipped with a full range of learning resources.
During the Reception year, the learning approach is still highly play-based and led by the children’s interests, with our expert staff playing a critical role in ‘scaffolding’ the development of their skills. However, we also carry on pursuing the critical transition to a more formal learning approach, which is completed by the end of Year 2.
Also from Reception, the children have their lunch in our multi-function hall, initially with a lunch plated table service which evolves to being served buffet style to allow more freedom of choice (albeit still with substantial nutritional guidance and encouragement). They can also attend our popular breakfast club from 7.45am as well as a wide range of Pre-Prep after school activity clubs and care until 6pm.