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Developing Foundation Stage Units - The Book?


LaLa
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Hi everyone,

 

Great to see Foundation Stage Units featured so prominently on this site!

 

I set up a Foundation Stage Unit in the early nineties- we called it an Early Years Unit then (it was way before the Foundation Stage even existed) Nursery and reception-age children were totally integrated, in an open-plan space, within a primary school.

 

I now work as a freelance early years consultant, and among other things, I run a course at The Institute of Education (London) on developing Foundation stage Units.

 

I'm considering putting together a book on the subject and would be interested to know what aspects you think it would be helpful to cover.

 

Best wishes to everyone and keep up the good work!

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Hi Lala and welcome aboard! :D

you sound like you could offer some others some very useful tips!

Can you tell us any more about how your unit operated, I'm sure it would be fascinating for lots of us, not just those setting up these units at the moment?

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Hi Lala -

Welcome to the Forum and thanks very much for your first post! :D (I'm happy to say we're recommended as a useful resource on the IoE website! )

 

A book on Foundation Stage Units sounds like a fine idea to me. As you've already noticed, we have talked about these settings a lot in the past, and there are some common themes. Let me make way for those who have a lot more experience in the area than me! :)

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Hi Lala,

A book on FS Units would be really useful - the things we have most problems with are the general logistics e.g.

-Timetable

-Movement of staff and children - how long do staff/children stay in 1 area - is free-play the answer.

-Should F1 and F2 be fully intgrated? Many of our F1s seem intimidated by F2 chn. and always return to their base room. Also as our attainment on entry is extremely low, the difference in ability is very great.

-Planning - finding a simple format for everyone (6 or 7 people in our case) to follow and that works for both F1 and F2.

-How do you organise the rooms - we have 3.

-Do staff have breaks - when?

 

There are so many questions??!!

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My questions are exactltly the same as Magenta's! Except our Nursery chn aren't intimidated by the reception-mingle v.well. Our problem is that as we have older chn on the premises, perhaps we ask them to do 'jobs' more often-eg ' please could you just ask Mrs....' where as in the past with just nursery that didn't happen-nursery chn perhaps were given more responsibility. I also would like to gets tips on differentiation. :)

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Hi there Lala, great idea to write a book about foundation stage units, very much needed I would say, but there is a wealth of experience here and as Magenta says lots of questions too.

 

I have had the priviledge of working in the successful and unsuccessful FS unit, the latter being the place I currently work in. In hindsight (such a wonderful thing) I think we could have seen that it wasnt going to work. I have also worked with other teachers who have visited those settings, in order to start their own.

 

The logistics that Magenta refers to are major and each setting has to deal with that in their own way but there are some questions that I feel need answered by everyone, before you even get to the logistics stage.

 

The first and most important question to me being, Why?

Why are we as a setting considering moving over to a FS unit? What are the philosophical, educational, ideological reasons for doing this?

Or is this being overlooked at the expense of... finance, space, staffing, fashion. In one of the units I worked in, it was an excuse to cut the number of teachers we could 'get away with'. In the same unit, it was also a question of falling pupil numbers. This question from my limited experience is often not even asked let alone answered, and then the whole basis for the change has no no stability.

A guide to support a team through the 'thinking process' I think would save an awful lot of time later on.

 

Ok so having thought it through, and given it the time it needs to think it through, we decide this is the way forward for our setting. We then need to get staff, and parents on board. How are we going to do that? With any luck, the previous discussions about the why? will have already got the staff talking, but its very difficult to make it work without everyone on board. Then you need to convince parents. We were lucky as most of the parents loved it right away so we didnt have too much convincing to do. But how are we going to talk to those parenst who think their nursery children will be overshadowed by older and bigger reception children and their reception children arent getting 'stretched' enough?

 

Then we can start thinking about the logistics, the space being pretty important, one of the reasons our unit failed, the physical space just didnt work for the numbers of children we had and the movemnet that becomes necessary.

Those issues have been mentioned by Magenta and Zim, and this section of your book could contain some case studies?? Its very helpful for practitioners to be able to read about someone who has done it and say...'yes thats our problem...how did they solve it?'

 

Im sure there will other ideas from our members who are going through this process in one way or another.

And good luck, I'm sure there wil be several members queuing up for copies.

:D

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Thanks for the comments, everybody. I agree with you Mundia about the importance of asking 'why?' and I always begin my sessions with that.

 

I am happy to answer questions - but am aware that as I can currently 'bore for England' (and the entire British Isles) on the subject - I need to be a bit more precise on a message board. So.... I am going to get back to you when I can sit down and address your questions properly. Just wanted to let you know that I have read your responses and will get back asap.

cheers,

LaLa

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Hello Lala (would you be Ann by any chance?). I am starting a unit in January. I have just visited a EYU in Tower Hamlets and this has been very successful. The questions I would ask have already been mentioned. I look forward to reading your advice.

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Hi Lala

 

Would be very interested in your book - ideas for Bi-lingual children would also be useful.

 

Would you include information on how to best use assessment to inform the FS profile in a unit? Again as others have said space, logistics, planning and staffing are our main issues. Our unit has been running for only half a term.

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ok folks - here goes!

 

I've given a lot of thought to the best way to respond to your questions, as I'm very aware that my responses (and they're not 'answers' - there's more than one way to do theses things) may well throw up more questions. Context is everything - and I have a hard enough time covering it all when I do a full day's training session! So I'll start with some organisational info.

 

Our Unit had places for 90 full time children - 45 of nursery age, 45 reception year (F1 and F2) but the speed and pace with which children took up the full time place was dependent on their needs and those of their families. We were as flexible as possible with this, and settling programmes were individualised for each child.

 

Children were organised into 3 'care groups' with a 'carpet' home base for each and a nursery nurse and teacher attached to each. (we also had a variety of L.S.A.s, T.A.s EMAG support etc., depending on budgets and school finances at any one time. We were a very inclusive school, with several children with statements and high numbers of bilingual children. Ratios always met those of nursery age children, as a minimum.)

 

The care group partnership were resonsible for home visiting, monitoring, settling and record keeping for their 30 children - a loose kind of key worker system is essential to ensure children and parents don't feel lost in a buzzy, big setting. But on a daily basis adults were likely to interact with any or all of the 90 children.

 

The space was a series of interlinked rooms on the ground floor of a victorian 3 decker primary school, with secure doors and gates to prevent children straying beyond the unit. The 'garden' was L shaped - a low-fenced area within the main playground, so that children could see and talk to older sibs.

 

The rooms were loosely organised around curriculum areas and designed as resource-based workshop areas. This meant, for example, a whole room could be provided for creative(and messy) activities (and storage of materials so that children could access them for themselves) as well as lots of room for role play, large and small blocks, independent writing areas, snack corner, quiet areas etc. The garden was planned for as an outdoor room and was available throughout the day. Children had access to all rooms for most of the day.

 

Planning was based around a 2 week cycle. Staff in caregroups opted into a room for the 2 week period. The garden was linked to the smallest room and 3 staff would opt to cover this area, so that the garden was always covered, ideally by 2 people. This allowed people to be flexible about the amount of time spent indoors and out. There are drawbacks to this system, obviously, but if people are flexible (and TALK TO EACH OTHER) in my experience it works much better than strict timetables and rotas, which can be emotionally restrictive,as much as anything, and, this way, people have the option to prolong their invlvement in a n area as things develop. Other staff 'floated' throughout the whole area, providing extra support, supervision, and the possibilities for targetting work with specific children wherever the children chose to be.

 

Adults didn't take breaks (apart from Lunchtime) but because of the flexible deployment of staff were able to pop to the loo etc whenever they needed - much healthier! A member of the team made drinks for everyone and took them round. This way, the maximum number of adults were always on hand to work with the children.

 

Lunch was the most important part of the day (I'm serious about this) and a lot of planning and effort went into making it the highpoint of the day. We ate early (11.30 seems to work well for young children) with all staff on hand to help serve the children. Then half the team would take their break while the other half ate with the children. The serving dishes would be transferred to lower height tables so that children could serve themselves with seconds. Could write a book on lunch time alone...

 

Having discussed with the team as a whole, the overview of plans for a fortnight, the team member would then organise the provision for the room they were in, over the fortnight period, providing a balance of adult led activities and resources and materials for children to initiate activities for themselves. They would sometimes work directly with children, but also observe and facilitate play as appropriate. Team planning made the most of everyone's strengths and knowledge of the children, whilst reducing the amount of hours spent slaving over planning proformas at home.

 

Planning was multi layered and designed to be as 'responsive' as possible. It will take more than the scope of this message to be able to put the planning system into context - that's why I want to put it into a book ! In the meantime, I must recommend 'The Foundation Teacher In Action' (the revised 'Nursery Teacher in Action) by Margaret Edgington - which was the stimulus for us working out our own planning system.

 

In the book, I want to address the principles and priorities at stake when developing FSUs - they are not an easy option - far from it- but I think they are a way forward particularly if we are to enable 4 and 5 year old children to benefit from the Foundation Stage curriculum. Too many reception children are prevented from developing positive dispositions for learning, (or lose them!) because of the formal learning environment they find themselves in. I know there are practitioners out there working their socks off to safeguard their children from the National Curriculum and all it's top-down pressure - but there are still benefits to be gained by both F1 and F2 children, when EY provision is linked and integrated and they are allowed enough TIME to get the most out of this precious stage.And together, we make a much stronger team, with a lot more clout!

 

I want to provide case studies of the possible different models for integrating provision, looking at the benefits and challenges in working in this way. There are a lot of issues to address - but the list of benefits is longer! There'd be a big section on Observation, assessment and planning (obviously!!) with some 'real life' practical ways of monitoring children in an open plan environment and making the most of those valuable observations.

 

I'd also want to have sections on involving parents and families; supporting KS1 andKS2 colleagues(particulalry Y1) so that they can make the most of the learning our children come to them with; working in a team; managing an FSU; working with the private and voluntary sector; the learning environment etc.

 

So I know I haven't begun to answer your questions at all really, but you can see I'm working on it!!!

 

And yes I am Anne - masquerading behind the name given to me by my nieces and nephews (LaLa) -long before that yellow tellytubby came on the scene! :o

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Well I for one, am fascinated! :D

 

I have started reading the book you mention to review on site, and have been heartened before I even reached the end of the first page of the preface! I cant see that it will be anything less than useful.

 

Good luck with your book, although as a reception class teacher I cant offer much,

although I am realising more and more that the provision I was trying to offer was limited by being within a school and the top down pressures were too great. :o

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Hello Anne. I am Nicola, you taught me when I was 5 and we recently met on your course (which i would recommend). Went to visit your EYU a couple of weeks ago as Jacks has gone back there and we are still in touch. I am teaching Rec at the moment and we plan to develop an EYU on Dec 3rd ready for January. Look forward to seeing your book and I would love to keep in contact and let you know how we are getting on. Welcome to the website it is fantastic!

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As a qualified Nursery Nurse with various experiences of different early years units and reception classes, currently studying the Foundation Degree in Early Years, I would first like to recommend The Foundation Stage Teacher in Action which I have been long awaiting to be updated, as a valuable resource for assignments and practice and secondly Ann your book sounds like it will be equally as valuable in addressing the issues that we all still to have. Could there also be a section for parents titled "They don't have to have a reading book on their first day at school!"

How quick can you write????

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Argh! the reading books!! I have asked myself that question a million times susan!!

I can only conclude that it is something tangible for parents and therefore they put great importance on it ( and I work in a pre-school :o ) I think it goes sort of hand in hand with them expressing disappointment when no painting, model, masterpiece, goes home every day - unless their child has something visible they conclude they have 'just played' xD The reading book is seen as 'academic evidence' :( well that's my current theory!!!!

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Reading folders came back today, first time they've been given out this term, included was the termly newsletter... loads of them came back too, parent obviously hadnt had much input with the book! :o Oh well, we can but try :D

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  • 2 weeks later...

Now don't get me started on reading books....!

 

 

Many thanks to all who've posted replies to my original post.

 

I'm hoping to put together an article (or two...!) for the forum about developing FSUs, so watch this space.

 

Best wishes to all.

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