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Reception: why it is such an important year.

The return to face-to-face teaching has been important for all our pupils, but never more so for our Pre-Reception and Reception classes whose educational development has been impacted most significantly.

In this article, Sally Weber, Head of Yarrells School in Dorset, highlights the crucial importance of supporting children aged 5 and under to reach their developmental milestones…


Now that the crisis of Coronavirus is beginning to recede nationally, at Yarrells, we are making the very most of our children’s return to school. The return to face-to-face teaching has been important for all our pupils, but never more so for our Pre-Reception and Reception classes whose educational development has been impacted most significantly.

You may have seen recently in the news a BBC report showing that the last eighteen months have had a significant impact on the development of young children’s language skills.

Whilst distressing to read it is, sadly, hardly surprising given the life experiences our under 5s have had during the Covid crisis. They have spent a disproportionate amount of their young lives with limited opportunities for communication, whether it be interaction with other children, restricted attendance at school and nursery, or communication with adults through face coverings. It is bound to have had an effect on their cognitive growth.

Of the schools surveyed in the recent BBC report, 96% said they were concerned about speech and language development in their Reception classes and 76% said that those pupils starting in Reception needed more support with communication.

Fortunately, at Yarrells, we have endless opportunities for children’s communication skills to grow. Our small classes ensure plenty of airspace for talking and being heard by adults and other children. They also ensure much higher levels of support and individual attention when developing children’s reading, writing and number skills. Our small classes, taught by specialist qualified teachers, are supported by teaching assistants in all core lessons, too, so we can make sure children are learning at the right stage and pace for their individual abilities.

Communication isn’t just limited to literacy lessons: our young children have plenty of wider curricular experiences that help expand their vocabulary as well as develop their expressive creativity. Whether it be cultivating caterpillars into butterflies, dancing in specialist lessons with Mrs May, having adventures in our ‘Wild Woods’ or taking trips to local areas to explore the world around them, our Reception children’s daily lives are enriched with stimulating and exciting activities that give them news to take home and impart with exuberance!

Our specialist music lessons ensure children have lots of opportunities for singing and music-making; they engage in plays and performances to build their confidence and creativity; they play tennis with our fabulous specialist coach and swim in our on-site pool, and all these lessons fit into their school day so their little lives are filled with wonderful experiences throughout, all of which build on their skills of communication and understanding.

We know the work we do in our Early Years classes has huge benefits for the children and this is evidenced through the detailed assessments we’re able to make throughout each stage of individual development. The children who remain with us into Reception from the Nursery are able to develop their skills more deeply in their Pre-Prep years and thus their progress is more rapid. They also have higher self-esteem and confidence because they have been engaged in an holistic curriculum which benefits the whole person.

Although we don’t doubt the effect of the pandemic on our happy band of nearly 5-year-olds over the last year, we know we are providing the best possible start in their educational journeys. It is our absolute passion and pride to do so.


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