What is BrightStart@Westfield?
We have been working hard to examine the best research and practice in primary education from around the world, to ensure that our practice is outstanding.
Taking note of the Scandinavian model and research in the UK about early development, we have decided to create a hub-style teaching system for Key Stage 1. Our pre-school children have a dedicated Early Years professional working with them and Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 have come together as BrightStart@Westfield.
They have a number of teachers working with this larger group of girls so they can be divided and taught by development rather than arbitrarily by age. This will enable girls who have particular strengths in Maths, Reading, etc. to be pushed ahead faster and target support for those who are still developing their skills.
We all know that not every girl develops skills in the same order or at the same rate and this approach ensures that all girls make their best progress. A combination of phonics and whole language reading runs throughout BrightStart@Westfield. By the time girls reach the age of 7, most of their skills are in balance and it is appropriate to move back to class-based teaching by age group in Key Stage 2.
What does it look like?
Teaching takes place in three large, stimulating, interconnecting classrooms and a large outdoor provision area. Girls come together at the start and end of every day and use the areas flexibly, depending on the learning taking place and the age and stage of each individual girl.
Thematic units of work are at the centre of everything we do, generally based around an aspect of humanities or science. Each unit is initiated by a memorable experience, whether that be an educational visit, a visitor to school or a special day.
Throughout the course of each unit, challenge and investigation opportunities are woven into the learning experience. For example; Can you make a wind powered vehicle? Can you build a lighthouse? Can you build a bridge from paper? This allows the girls to think for themselves, to work collaboratively and not be afraid to have a go!
We encourage all our girls to develop a positive attitude to maths from their earliest days at Westfield. Through years 1 and 2, girls may follow the same area of learning but age-appropriate objectives will be identified to ensure smooth progress and mastery.
Mental maths skills are a high priority and problem-solving and reasoning are interwoven throughout. White Rose Maths is a basis for our teaching, but we incorporate opportunities for cross-curricular maths in other areas. We place an emphasis on number work and after each focused teaching lesson, opportunities are provided for the girls to independently apply skills. Lessons are practical in nature, with girls developing conceptual understanding using mathematical manipulatives and pictorial representation to complement the more traditional approaches. In pre-school, numeracy is integrated into areas of provision with adults working alongside girls to model and ask questions, while in reception, there is a mix of direct teaching and play-based learning.
In literacy, focus is on the teaching of reading and writing with opportunities to listen and speak in many different situations across the curriculum.
The enjoyment of reading and the love of books is prioritised with girls having many opportunities to relax and enjoy their reading in comfortable reading corners. Initially we use phonetically decodable books alongside the Bug Clubs phonics scheme as a basis for progression and delivery. This fosters confidence in beginning to write and is made interesting and purposeful by ensuring that it is interwoven throughout the curriculum. As the girls become more proficient in their reading, access to more challenging books is available through our reading scheme.
Other areas of the curriculum
Throughout BrightStart, our specialist teachers deliver French, PE, Forest and Beach schools and Art. Opportunities to use in-class IT using computers and Ipads are freely available and the girls also have the use of a dedicated IT suite for group teaching.
At Westfield, we know that high quality creative and challenging outdoor learning experiences develop personal and social skills, communication, thinking skills, problem solving and teamwork.
Throughout BrightStart@Westfield, significant emphasis is placed on outdoor learning, with many learning experiences taking place outdoors and of a practical nature, either within our beautiful, calm and relaxing school grounds or further afield.
We also have a dedicated Forest School area within the grounds, frequently visited by the girls and we are now able to offer a new Beach school perspective at regular intervals.
Heroes of Discovery and attitudes to learning
As a Round Square school we place great emphasis on our Heroes of Discovery in and through everything we do. From Teamwork Tama and Communication Cara to Compassionate Carlos and Problem-solving Papri, we use these characters as a reference for those behaviours and attitudes to life we want to promote.
Everyone at Westfield is encouraged to adopt a growth mindset; try new things, work hard, concentrate, not give up, to learn, learn from mistakes so that they become model ‘citizens of the world’ with a clear, reflective, moral compass and independent skills to apply in the wider world.
What does BrightStart@Westfield look like for individual girls
Girls in preschool are taught by our early years specialist in a dedicated early years classroom and outdoor area that gives them the freedom to be independent choice-makers and active learners. Areas of provision, such as role play, construction zones, writing area etc will change and evolve with the interests and developmental needs of each girl. Regular observational assessments are undertaken and adults act as facilitators to help scaffold, support and extend each girl’s learning in these areas of provision.
Reception, Year 1 and 2
Reception-aged girls have the best of both worlds. Not only do they have the opportunity to access different areas of provision in which they can follow their areas of interest and develop their communication and language skills, personal, social and emotional development. They also have more formal, specific teacher input in maths, literacy and phonics and other wider curriculum areas.
In reception, girls have dedicated time for Forest and Beach school activities alongside PE and Dance. They will also start Fun French, where they will begin to explore songs and phrases.
Emphasis in this age range is placed on the Prime Areas of Learning:
- Communication and language.
- Physical development.
- Personal, social and emotional development
Also, the specific areas where the prime areas can be developed:
- Understanding the world
- Expressive arts and design
Girls are assessed at regular intervals in order to identify next steps in learning and to monitor progress towards Early Learning Goals.
Reception-aged children also have the opportunity to share some learning with their older peers in years 1 and 2, where girls generally follow a thematic approach to their learning. They will be flexibly grouped according to their age or their stage of development depending on the learning taking place. For example, some girls may be taught separately for a numeracy concept but grouped together to solve a team-related challenge in science.
Throughout BrightStart@Westfield (indoor and outdoor) areas of provision and challenge are established for girls to be able to work independently, increasing opportunities to take responsibility for their own learning, to reinforce and extend prior learning and to be creative.
Girls in year 1 continue to be taught phonics and take a phonics screening test at the end of year 1. This may continue into year 2 if reinforcement is needed.
We ask that the girls read every night to an adult and have the opportunity to talk about the illustrations and what is happening in the story. Homework in the form of challenges may be set depending on the topics being undertaken.
BrightStart FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
Will my daughter have a specific class?
The girls are not allocated to a specific class but will have an identified key teacher. The teachers work flexibly across BrightStart@Westfield and teach all of the girls at different times over the course of a day or week.
Will my daughter be taught the National Curriculum?
Yes, she will. We have adapted the National Curriculum and enhanced it to provide an exciting and holistic experience. Underpinning what we do are our Heroes of Discovery, which are the behaviours, attitudes and qualities we want each girl to develop, to prepare them for life in the future. Hands-on, practical learning opportunities are at the centre of what we do, with all having the opportunity to experience Forest and Beach schools with our outdoor education specialist teaching staff.
How will my daughter be challenged in BrightStart@Westfield?
There are many opportunities to be stretched within BrightStart@Westfield. Open-ended challenges will be used for those with more advanced skills, where more emphasis is to be placed on leadership, application and presentation skills. This means that learning can be tailored to the ability of each girl using higher level thinking skills.
For example, in numeracy, those girls excelling have the opportunity to tackle work at a mastery level and may progress at a faster rate through objectives. Any girls in need of reinforcement can work at the relevant stage to plug any gaps.
Importantly, the number of girls in BrightStart is kept deliberately small, ensuring that the amount of 1:1 support and challenge is high.
How will I know if my daughter is progressing well?
At pre-school and reception ages, girls will be assessed at regular intervals in accordance with Early Years Developments Matters. This will help track and identify next steps in learning. Parents can also contribute to this by sharing with the teachers, any achievements or developments outside school. At the end of reception year, girls will be assessed against early learning goals and this will be reported to parents.
In years 1 and 2, girls will be assessed at least termly in Numeracy and Literacy. This will be discussed at parents’ evenings and will be reported on annually. A phonics screening check will be made at the end of year 1. You are always welcome to arrange informal chats with your key teachers at any stage.
How will my daughter be taught how to read?
Girls have a daily phonics session depending on their phase of learning. We have recently invested in an interactive and progressive program to teach reading. Phonics Bug delivers a firm foundation in phonics. It is fast-paced so children learn to read after learning just eight phonemes and Bug Club combines printed books with interactive eBooks and a unique learning platform which is proven to make 30 months’ progress in reading in just 18 months. Following this we have a large range of developmental texts to suit all levels and interests.
How will I know what my daughter is doing in BrightStart?
At the start of every term, an overview of the theme and curriculum content will be sent home with ideas about how you can help your daughter progress. This will also show what trips, visitors or special days have been planned for the coming term.
Why should I choose BrightStart@Westfield for my daughter?
BrightStart is a holistic, fun, nurturing environment that will challenge, embrace creativity and initiative, and equip your daughter with the life skills needed throughout her time in school and in years to come. With a friendly, approachable professional team you can be assured of a high level of academic rigour and enjoyment and a world class education.
‘I was bowled over by the girls’ attitudes and found them much more confident, engaged and independent learners. The girls have such resilience when faced with challenges and better self-organisational skill’. (Ex-Headteacher on a recent visit)