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What are we trying to achieve?

Helping children become effective learners

At North Islington Nursery School our aim is to ensure that our children become effective learners whilst they are here, for when they start school and throughout their lives.

We want children to develop a thirst for learning, to be inquisitive, to play and explore and to find out new things. We want children to develop resilience when things don’t go as planned and we want children to be willing to have a go!

The Early Years Foundation Stage September 2021 sets out specific characteristics that enable effective learning.

Playing and Exploring: We enable children to play and explore by providing a beautiful and stimulating learning environment where resources are on hand and easily accessible. Resources and equipment is specifically chosen to be open ended and to support children’s current interests. For example, the use of Treasure Baskets and heuristic play items (loose parts) which are frequently used in the baby room allow children to explore items using their senses. These resources also allow babies and younger toddlers to develop patterns in their play (Schemas). They can use resources to roll, line up, rotate and transport. Staff are always on hand to model play alongside the children and will observe and consider how best each child’s play intentions can be supported. As staff play alongside children they will model self-talk, describing what they and the children are doing. This can encourage children to join in with talk or to simply listen and build up word meaning/vocabulary.

Playing and exploring focuses on process and not outcomes. Staff will praise children’s efforts in their self-chosen play, and support them with challenges. It is the willingness to have a go, engage in pay alone or with others, the thought processes during play and the thinking behind children’s intentions that is the ‘real’ learning.

Active Learning: In order for children to become active learners (motivated and willing to learn), staff support them to develop their attention skills. Learning is stronger when a child focuses toward a goal and has the will and determination to achieve it. Staff support a child’s ability to be an active learner through effectively interacting with them and by finding out what interests them. Staff will use resources to provoke interest and generate active learning – wanting to be involved and find out new things (developing sustained attention skills). We encourage children to keep on trying at things when they are difficult. We do this through encouragement and by recognising what they are trying to do and by joining in. We also ensure that children have the chance to repeat activities and return to learning opportunities that are challenging. When staff know that a child has accomplished a particular skill, they can build on that by providing more challenging learning opportunities thus extending their learning. This is not always done through focus teaching but through enhancing resources and encouragement of participation.

Creating and Thinking Critically: At North Islington Nursery School we want our children to be creative, to develop their imaginative skills and think beyond what is on front of them. We provide extended periods of free play for children to select resources to use freely and flexibly. Children are encouraged to select their own tools in art activities.

We do not enforce what they should make or draw but we may provide a provocation such as placing a bunch of flowers near to the painting easel. Paper, pens and paint is left for children to select and mix. We do not suggest what colours they should use or what size paper they should take. Choice allows for creativity and thinking ahead. We encourage children to explore and find out about the properties of materials and tools that they will then one day select for the right purpose.


Opportunities to construct, transport and design through block play and larger loose parts encourages creativity, working together and planning ahead. Staff encourage older to children to share their ideas in group play and support their learning by mutually developing strategies when problem solving.

Staff also ensure that learning experiences provide opportunities to explore what children have been thinking about and interested in. We can then take thinking one step further – staff model being a thinker - finding out together, being inquisitive, puzzled and when faced with questions, adults will respond by not answering straight away but by asking the child what they think. We try not to rush into answering children’s questions for them. Allowing time and modelling being a thinker or a problem solver, enables children to be confident to have a go themselves.