You can learn more about our Education on our Steiner Education page or download our Curriculum Framework. As our provision differs from mainstream settings, which begin formal education at age 4, whereas we focus on learning through play until age 6, this page is dedicated to our early years curriculum from birth to 5 years.
The Statutory EYFS and Exemptions
IMPORTANT INFORMATION:THE STATUTORY EYFS 2021 and EXEMPTIONS AT BEECHTREE
The Statutory Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Birth – 5 years, applies to all settings including ours. It sets out both learning and development requirements and safeguarding and welfare requirements for children from birth to 31 August following their fifth birthday.
A revised version of the EYFS came into force on the 1st September 2021. The focus of the new EYFS Learning and Development requirements and Early Learning Goals have changed, and the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship negotiated exemptions and modifications to some of these under the ‘Established Principles’ route for all Steiner schools and settings. We have now received our letter from the Secretary of State outlining these exemptions, and we are now free to follow the Steiner Waldorf early childhood curriculum without compromise.
You can find out more about how we meet the requirements of the EYFS in the EYFS/Steiner Interpretation and Read-over and other documents by contacting your child’s teacher. You can also find a Parent’s guide to the EYFS on the government website http://www.foundationyears.org.uk
Because there are areas which conflict with Steiner Waldorf early childhood principles and practice, we have received some ‘Exemptions and Modifications’ to the EYFS Learning and Development requirements and Assessment regulations under the ‘Established Principles’ route for Steiner Waldorf settings. These are mostly to do with the introduction and in some cases formal teaching of reading, writing, mathematics and use of IT/media and electronic gadgetry. There is no exemption from the safeguarding and welfare requirements. (See list of Exemptions and Modifications )
The age 5-7 years Curriculum
The term after they turn five, children are of statutory school age the term after they turn five, and legally then should be in receipt of full-time education. We recognise that at this age, children need a more challenging experience, including raised expectations from the adults in the setting and a programme of work appropriate to their age, (Key Stage 1 in other school settings). In a Steiner school ‘formal education’ begins in Class 1. While there will be some activities and projects specifically for the 5 & 6 year olds, what is of paramount importance are the staff’s higher expectations of the older children including collaborating and contributing to the kindergarten community in a structured and reliable way.
Parents will be kept informed of their child’s developmental progress throughout their time in the kindergarten and will be asked to contribute to the observations and information about their child.
The approach to language and literacy in the Steiner Waldorf Kindergarten
Children in the Steiner Waldorf Kindergarten experience a play-based curriculum from age 3 – 6 years. Within this curriculum, Language and Literacy skills are holistic and integrated so that the children’s language, literacy and communication experiences are embedded into daily life. The practitioners offer a respectful support to the child’s creative and imaginative development. This meaningful approach to Language and Literacy prepares the child for a more formal academic process when entering Class 1. Throughout the kindergarten session, there are opportunities for developing the love of language and pre-reading skills that are a necessary pre-requisite for literacy. True literacy is much more than the ability to de-code print and comprehend sentences, as it also includes a life-long enthusiasm for language, story and the printed word. Some of the Principles underpinning SW early childhood literacy practice:
– The adults regard themselves as providing examples for the children to imitate, therefore modelling good clear speech and appropriate conversational habits of talking and listening.
– Skills in listening and comprehension are fostered daily with storytelling repeated in order to strengthen memory, widen vocabulary and build imaginative pictures.
– The development of narrative intelligence provides cultural capital that is powerful in its impact on children’s future learning and opportunities. Daily access to poetry, story and good quality picture books are fundamental foundations for pre-literacy skills and an essential aspect of the kindergarten session.
– Differentiation is at the heart of planning of in the kindergarten, teachers consider the needs of the children in their group, for example bringing increasingly sophisticated stories to groups of older children.
Daily ‘circle time’, led by the teacher in which poems, verses and songs, in combination with movement, are learned through imitation and repetition. Rhyme, rhythm and alliteration are included in these sessions, extending vocabulary, phonological awareness and strengthening capacities of memory and imagination.
– Time each day for self-initiated play. The children are free to devise, construct and develop their own games which require explanation, discussion, negotiation, evaluation and review. Play will often involve an understanding of narrative, environment, character and rules. Play supports children’s cognition of the symbolic representation of concepts or objects and is an important pre-literacy skill
– Artistic activities are included daily and chosen to support the development of a healthy aesthetic sense. These activities, including painting, drawing and craftwork of many kinds are stimulation for oral and lay the foundations for written literacy and will include the use of instructions, sequencing, the understanding of process and development of powers of concentration.
– Similarly, the domestic activities of food preparation, serving and clearing away, care of the room and of the garden are also natural and meaningful prompts to expanding oral literacy.
– Examples of the use of the written and printed word will be part of everyday kindergarten life. There are pictures and posters in the cloakroom, letters and fliers for parents, registers in daily use, controls on cookers and heaters and name labels. The children will see adults using reading and writing as a natural part of life. Through their imitative capacities, children will copy these adults activities in their play.
Steiner approach to language and literacy 2019
There are well-chosen picture books available for the children. Adults will demonstrate how books are used, cared for and to be respected. Children with English as an additional language learn fast in this environment, and help is given to the parents by sharing books, stories, songs etc. with home.
The curriculum is delivered through a planned, balanced combination of activities to engage the children in areas which they would not easily discover for themselves without adult intervention, as well as a safe, peaceful environment in which to practice them within a group and independently. This early years strategy, with its slower introduction of formal reading and writing, generates a very ready assimilation of these skills from the age of 61/2 – 7years.
Before the start of Class 1, the children have already developed good listening habits, memory, picture building and can work independently and with individuality. There is a continuing emphasis on fine motor skills, working sequentially, visual and auditory discrimination through games and varied artistic activities – designed for maximum effectiveness.