The Early Years department at Gibside is an exciting and engaging place to take those first steps into the world of education. We strive to provide a nurturing and safe environment for children to learn and grow as individuals.


We have developed a child focused curriculum across all the Early Years classes. Our children learn mainly through play and their own self initiated activities with some adult directed activities to introduce new concepts. These include UV sensory sessions, art, messy play, a range of sensory stories etc. The main focus is on the three prime areas of Communication and Language, Physical Development and Personal, Social and Emotional Development. We use a range of strategies to help develop communication. We use a symbol-based approach throughout the day in a range of contexts, environments and during our adult led activities. Makaton signing is used across all classes with each class having a dedicated weekly session led by our Makaton Champion.


Personal Social and Emotional development is an important part of a child’s development. In our Early Years classes we focus on emotions, similarities and differences with our friends, developing friendships and learning to turn take.


One of our main aims is to develop independence and life skills. We do this through a range of activities such as cookery, curriculum walks, local visits, and sessions such as hydrotherapy and rebound therapy. The curriculum also encompasses Literacy, Mathematics, Understanding the World and Expressive Arts and Design which are all taught to the child’s specific needs and ability. Children in Early Years also access other learning resources in the main school building to support these values such as soft play and the hydro pool.


Our curriculum and classrooms are adapted to suit the needs of the pupils each year making sure we provide the best learning environment for all children; however, a huge amount of learning is also carried out within outdoor learning spaces which enables children to learn in an active and enjoyable way. Our Early Years outdoor learning environment has a wealth of learning opportunities and resources. Each class garden and the shared garden is planned to promote inclusivity, a sense of calmness and promote the values of the characteristics of effective learning. In our shared outdoor area there is a range of fixed play equipment such as a tunnel, climbing frame and swing which help to promote independence and physical development. Each class garden has equipment and resources that are suitable for the individual needs and interests of those pupils.


Our Early Years curriculum is taught through a three-year rolling framework of themes which reflect children’s interests and key learning opportunities. We cover themes such as All about Me, People who help us, under the sea and the weather. Throughout the year we arrange visits from emergency services, school dental service, librarians and other exciting visitors to help give our children real life experiences. We celebrate a range of important dates such as Christmas, Easter, Diwali and Chinese New Year. Each class teacher will plan and deliver sessions that are appropriate for the individual needs of the children in their class.


Learning and achievements are celebrated through the use of learning journals via the online evidencing tool Earwig. During activities and the school day staff observe and assess children’s learning to contribute to individual journals and the Birth to Five Matters framework. The achievements and progress of children are assessed in line with the Early Learning Goals.


We feel that a strong school and family relationship is an important part of every  child’s journey at Gibside and we work closely with parents and other professionals to ensure a smooth transition into school. In the Early Years classes each child receives a home learning journal which celebrates all the exciting learning and achievements made by our children at home. By sharing these journals in class we instil a sense of pride and achievement and develop important social and communication skills.

If you would like to know more about our Early Years department and the exciting learning that takes place please contact the school office.