George Dent Nursery


Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)

We adhere to the Revised Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) statutory framework EYFS framework March 2021 and use the non-statutory guidance developed by the Early Years Coalition, Birth to 5 Matters to support educators in implementing the ‘Principles of the EYFS’.

Children's Development and Learning

Our provision reflects the four key themes and the principles of the Early Years Foundation Stage recognising that ‘children develop in different ways and development is not a linear or automatic process’.

Learning and development depends upon each unique child having opportunities to interact in positive relationships and enabling environments that encourage their engagement and recognise their strengths, their interests, and the different ways in which they interact with other people and the world around them.  

Through ‘Responding to Process’ our educators concentrate on identifying what each unique child ‘knows and can do’ and ensures that children build the positive dispositions and attitudes (Characteristics of Effective Learning) that will prepare them for future learning and beyond.

The Characteristics of Effective Learning and the Prime and Specific Areas of Learning and Development are all inter-connected. We provide rich opportunities for learning in all the Prime and Specific areas of learning.

The Prime Areas:

The three Prime areas, Personal, social, and emotional development (PSED), Communication and language (CL), and Physical development (PD), describe universal core aspects of early child development and are crucial in the first 3 years. They remain centrally important for children’s development and learning throughout the EYFS and beyond and receive priority attention to ensure strong foundations in development and learning.

Personal, Social and Emotional Development

Personal, Social and Emotional Development is about helping children to understand the ‘who we are (personal), how we get along with others (social) and how we feel (emotional)’. It is key to ensuring children develop a strong sense of self, build effective relationships with others, and learn to recognise and manage their emotions. As educators we do this in our practice by celebrating the unique child. We begin by getting to know them and know their families. We appreciate ‘the funds of knowledge’ children come to nursery with; the rich and varied cultural experiences. Our role is to support them to be independent thinkers, who can develop their own values and beliefs. Building strong attachments is important to us and children and their families are welcomed into our community. We want our children to feel safe and secure, to have a strong sense of self and identity, to feel loved and valued, and fully capable of achieving their potential. We model the behaviours and attitudes we want to see and encourage children to take responsibility for their own emotional harmony as well as developing a sense of community responsibility, negotiating, and agreeing expectations and boundaries.

Froebel states that ‘When relationships are built on trust in which children and adults respect the emotions and feelings of others, this leads to a more democratic, humane and cohesive community’.

Physical Development

Being physically active is important for all children. It underpins all other areas of a child’s learning and development. Being physically healthy includes having nutritious food, a clean and safe environment, appropriate clothes; healthcare; mental stimulation; movement and activity; rest and sleep; access to the outdoors and loving relationships. We help to encourage children to begin to make healthy lifestyle choices and show them how to look after, their bodies.

In the last few years there has been an increase in ‘sedentary’ behaviour’ and a reduction in physical activity and Darlington have launched a ‘Childhood Healthy Weight Plan 2019-2024’ with an emphasis on developing healthy lifestyles. NHS guidelines state that children under 5 need 3 hours exercise a day and that it should be with a mixture of bone strengthening, muscle building and cardiovascular.

All children are actively encouraged to participate in physical activity indoor and outdoor and every child is included in the experiences we have to offer. We use some of our early years pupil premium funding to provide weekly sports activities, where vigorous cardiovascular activity is encouraged. As children move and explore the world around them, they learn about the properties of objects and their own capabilities. We support children to increase control over the large movements that they can make with their arms, legs, and bodies, so that they can run, jump, hop, skip, roll, climb, balance, and lift.

Developing fine motor co-ordination is just as important. Educators ensure that the environment and experiences on offer encourage children to explore and make small movements and to increase control over the small movements they can make with their arms, wrists, and hands, so that they can pick up and use objects, tools, and materials. Further information can be found in the Federation’s Communication, Language and Literacy booklet.

Communication and Language

‘Communication and language development are closely intertwined with physical, social, and emotional experiences. Communication and language lay a foundation for learning and development, guiding and supporting children’s thinking while underpinning their emerging literacy. Language is more than words.  We encourage children to be involved in daily conversations with one other, in small and larger groups. This involves children listening and attending to others as well as understanding the meaning of words and language used. Our educators provide regular opportunities for children to use their spoken language as they join in with rhymes, songs, and stories, consider the choices they make whilst playing and explaining their thoughts and ideas to others. For further support please see the Federation’s Communication, Language and Literacy booklet.

The Specific Areas

The learning that takes place in the early years of a child’s life is not subject specific. For example, in deep concentration during play a child could be, communicating, using their whole body, being sociable, counting and mark making all at the same time. In addition, individual children’s approaches to learning the same concept are endless. Therefore, our environment and the interactions adults use to further learning needs to reflect these aspects of how young children learn.


Literacy in the early years includes talking about books, print in the environment, early mark making and writing, as well as sharing books and reading. Early literacy is what children know about reading and writing before they learn to read and write. It lays the foundations, so that children have the necessary skills when they are developmentally ready to read and write.

We believe that it is our job to encourage a lifelong love of books and we endeavour to ensure that we select a range of genres that will appeal to all children. We choose key songs and rhymes each term that the children learn, and parents are encouraged to join in this process as well as quality core books which are shared and explored daily over a week/two-week period. Listening to stories introduces children to words they would not often hear in everyday speech. It also gives them an awareness of sentence structure.

Children need to learn to write so they can communicate and express themselves. We provide children with lots of opportunities to build their physical strength and control in the core, upper body, hands, and fingers.

Experienced educators understand that ‘phonics’ happens every day in an early year setting as children explore and make sounds with their voices, objects, and instruments; as they tune into voices, sounds, words that they hear; as they notice the difference between sounds, words, and sentences; as they recognise expressions and emotions; and as they join in with songs and rhymes and actions. For further support please see the Federation’s Communication, Language and Literacy booklet.


Mathematical learning is one of the seven areas of the early years foundation stage and is used to develop a child's confidence and ability with number but also to encourage their understanding of shapes, space, and measures. We recognise that through drawing on the child’s cultural experiences, through play and through quality interactions, children can explore and acquire mathematical language, as well as the knowledge and skills required to enable them to add and subtract, using quantities and objects and understand concepts like weight, position, distance, and money. Children are encouraged to use mathematics in their everyday activity such as working out if there are enough cups for the group, how many places to set at the table and how many pencils to replace in the pot. Children are encouraged to explore pattern, create, and solve mathematical problems and engage with stories, songs, games, practical activities, and imaginative play.


Understanding the world

Understanding of the World is about how children get to know about other people, the place where they live and about all aspects of the environment. ‘It provides a powerful, meaningful context for learning across the curriculum. It supports children to make sense of their expanding world and their place within it through nurturing their wonder, curiosity, agency, and exploratory drive’.

Children taking ownership of their environment is a fundamental aspect of our approach. Through this ownership children begin to develop independence in their learning and because many of our resources are open ended, they offer multiple learning possibilities for children allowing them to be engineers, architects, scientists, artists, and mathematicians as they play and explore, developing their concentration by engaging actively in their learning.

Leon Lederman, who won the Nobel prize in physics in 1988 said, about children’s natural curiosity:

“Children are born scientists. They do everything scientists do. They test how strong things are. They measure falling bodies……they learn the physics of the world around them. They are all perfect scientists….They ask questions why? Why? Why?”

However, to allow for progression, and advancement towards creating and thinking critically we know that independence alone is not all that is needed. Therefore, alongside this, children are encouraged to become ‘experts’ and share their knowledge and ability with their peers.  The gradual acquisition and embedding of these skills will mean that they ultimately become transferrable; dovetailing with the continuous provision, enabling children to further their own learning, thinking, ideas and thus facilitating children to move into the higher-level understanding required for demonstrating they are able to create and think critically. We believe that this approach will also result in learning being seen as collaborative; something to share, celebrate and build on together.

Being actively involved in thinking about how we look after our environment, promote sustainable living, and protect our planet is important to us. Children are learning through their gardening activities, through growing fruit and vegetables and through the schools eco actions (as we progress towards achieving the Eco schools green flag award) how they can take responsibility for protecting the planet.

As the children learn about the world around them, they find out about the past through talking to parents, grandparents and friends and they develop an interest in their own story as well as the stories in their family – this is the beginning of developing an understanding of the past and helps them to learn about how other people are different from them, yet share some of the same characteristics and ideas. 

Technology is an integral of daily life for most children within our schools. We use it sometimes without thinking. Children demonstrates their skills and understanding in many ways but particularly through their imaginary play. Children are actively encouraged to use iPad/tablets and Cameras to record their achievement, to look for information and to further their understanding.

Expressive Arts and Design

Expressive Arts and Design does not sit in isolation from the other areas of development. In fact, it is often through expressive arts and design that children can communicate their thought, ideas and needs. The ELG for EAD also requires children to explain the process they have used in their creations, appreciate what they are seeing and hearing. Drawing children’s attention to what they see and hear from a mathematical perspective supports both areas of learning and development. Through their imagining they explore shape, space, and pattern, collaborate on joint projects. Textures and types of tools enable children to acquire new vocabulary and apply new skills. Being able to listen and respond to sounds and speech is important in music-making, dance, but also in role play. Through activities and an environment for EAD, children may find ways to express their feelings and learn to collaborate and be with others. Many of the Arts involve some level of movement. This might be whole-body movement when responding to music or fine motor skills when using a paintbrush or moulding clay.