St. Catherine’s places high value on excellent Early Years Practice in Nursery, Reception and across the school.

Staff believe that learning for young children is a rewarding and enjoyable experience in which they explore, investigate, discover, create, practice, rehearse, repeat, revise and consolidate their developing knowledge, skills, understanding and attitudes. During the Early Years many of these aspects are brought together effectively through playing and talking.


The Areas of Learning

There are seven areas of learning and development, all of which are important and inter-connected. Three areas are particularly crucial for igniting children’s curiosity and enthusiasm for learning, and for building their capacity to learn, form relationships and thrive. These three areas, the prime areas, are:

Communication and language

Communication and language development involves giving children opportunities to experience a rich language environment; to develop their confidence and skills in expressing themselves; and to speak and listen in a range of situations.

Physical development

Physical development involves providing opportunities for young children to be active and interactive; and to develop their co-ordination, control and movement. Children must also be helped to understand the importance of physical activity, and to make healthy choices in relation to food.

Personal, social and emotional development

Personal, social and emotional development involves helping children to develop a positive sense of themselves, and others; to form positive relationships and develop respect for others; to develop social skills and learn how to manage their feelings; to understand appropriate behaviour in groups; and to have confidence in their own abilities.

We also support children in the four specific areas, through which the three prime areas are strengthened and applied. The specific areas are:


Literacy development involves encouraging children to link sounds and letters and to begin to read and write. Children must be given access to a wide range of reading materials(books, poems, and other written materials) to ignite their interest.


Mathematics involves providing children with opportunities to develop and improve their skills in counting, understanding and using numbers, calculating simple addition and subtraction problems; and to describe shapes, spaces, and measures.

Understanding the world

Understanding the world involves guiding children to make sense of their physical world and their community through opportunities to explore, observe and find out about people, places, technology and the environment.

Expressive arts and design

Expressive arts and design involves enabling children to explore and play with a wide range of media and materials. We provide opportunities for children to share their thoughts, ideas and feelings through art, music, movement, dance, role-play, and design and technology.

The Value of Play

Well-planned play, both indoors and outdoors, is an important way in which young children learn. It is the process through which children explore, investigate, recreate and understand the world in which they live. It is a vital component of children’s lives and is the medium through which skills can be developed and practised.

The role of the practitioner is crucial in developing high quality play in the learning environment. This includes planning and resourcing a challenging environment, supporting children’s learning through planned and spontaneous play, and extending and developing children’s language and communication in their play.

Play is essential for children’s development, building their confidence as they learn to explore, to think about problems, and relate to others. Children learn by leading their own play, and by taking part in play which is guided by adults.

In planning and guiding children’s activities, practitioners reflect on the different ways that children learn and reflect these in our practice. Three characteristics of effective teaching and learning are:

Playing and exploring

  • Children investigate and experience things, and ‘have a go’.

Active learning

  • Children concentrate and persevere if they encounter difficulties. They enjoy their achievements; and

Creating and thinking critically

  • Children have and develop their own ideas, make links and connections between their play and experiences, and develop strategies for doing things.