We are curious, unique and together

When children first arrive at Whiteshill Primary School, they enter Willow Class for the duration of their first year in school. In Willow Class, they are taught according to the Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum for their Reception year

In Willow Class there are a maximum of 15 reception children for this first year with a teacher and full-time teaching assistant in class. This means that in their first year at Whiteshill we get to the know the children very well. They can learn at their own pace and we can follow their interests to ensure they are enjoying and engaging with their learning all the time! We find out where extra support is needed and challenge all the children to really fulfill their potential. In 2019, 92% of children in Willow class achieved a Good Level of Development in line with statutory expectations by the end of the year.

At Whiteshill Primary School, we deliver a curriculum based on the framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage. This describes the seven areas of learning and the development within these which must be implemented through ‘planned and purposeful play’.

The seven areas of learning are:

  • Communication and Language
  • Physical development
  • Personal, Social and Emotional development
  • Literacy
  • Mathematics
  • Understanding the World
  • Expressive Arts and Design

The framework also states that “Practitioners must respond to each child’s emerging needs and interests, guiding their development through warm, positive interaction.’ We have a wonderful team who put this into practice every day in Willow Class.        


Over the year the children form strong friendships, develop and learn.  In the Early Years Foundation Stage, learning opportunities strike a balance between teacher-led activities, as well as allowing the children to learn through play both inside the classroom and in our large, covered outdoor learning area where the children can act out stories on the stage, build dens, explore water and sand and get dirty in our mud kitchen allowing them to grow in resilience, independence and confidence. 


The Early Years Framework also describes “The three characteristics of effective teaching and learning: playing and exploring, active learning and creating and thinking critically.”

Below are some examples of how this is put into practice day to day in our setting.

The children exploring mathematical concepts during play…


Child led writing and role play, demonstrating the consistent confidence and engagement of the children in the setting…


Investigating how different 3D shapes roll and recording their findings independently…


The children’s natural curiosity is always encouraged, with the adult’s role being more of a ‘facilitator’, allowing the children to work things out for themselves. This could be a child attempting to master a new skill, working in a group to achieve a task or consolidating previous learning by practicing something over and over.


What is phonics?

The way children are taught to read, write and spell in school today is called phonics. Phonics is one of the most effective ways of teaching children to read as it teaches children to decode words by sounds rather than recognising whole words. There are 26 letters in the alphabet but 44 sounds in the English language, this means that some sounds are made using pairs of letters.  These letter pairs are called digraphs. When three letters are used to make a single sound it is known as a trigraph. Letter sounds (phonemes) are taught from easiest to hardest with single letter sounds first then moving on to two letter sounds (digraphs) and so on. Once a child has learnt to say the sounds they can then start to read words by blending the sounds together to make a word.

How do we teach phonics in Willow Class?

Adult-led phonics sessions take place daily in reception right from the start and take around 20-30 minutes. Phonemes are introduced one at a time using the Essential Letters and Sounds programme. During a session, the children will learn a new phoneme by enjoying and sharing books, taking part in speaking and listening activities and reading and writing words that contain the phoneme. During these sessions we also teach ‘hard to read and spell’ words which are words that cannot be decoded phonetically therefore children are taught to read them by sight e.g. said, the

Videos showing you how to pronounce the sounds taught in school can be found here:

https://vimeo.com/753929025/5eaa45c0aa – Phase 2

https://vimeo.com/753931102/b9a2f8194f  – Phase 3

We also immerse the children in phonics through our continuous provision which means the children can learn about sounds beyond the adult-led session. There are always phonics activities enhancing the provision in the classroom and outdoor area for the children to get involved in.

Library Sessions

Each week, Willow class visit our very special school library! During this session they can browse and talk about the books and choose one to take home with them each week.

Books and Reading Journals

Your child will be given books to read at home with you. The book(s) that they are given each time will focus on the phonemes that have been taught that week. They will also have a reading journal in which you can record any comments about their reading. The journal is also used in school so that your child’s teachers can write in comments when they have read with your child. The journal is a lovely way for parents and teachers to communicate with each other about the child’s reading. When reading the school books at home, follow your child’s lead – are they happy to read the whole book in one go or would they rather read a couple of pages and the rest the next day? You could even take turns to read a page each. At the start of the year, the children are very much just practising their phonics knowledge – decoding and blending so do not expect them to ‘read’ the whole book.  What is important is that they are recognising the phonics that they have learnt so far.  Books will be changed once a week in line with the phonics taught that week.


How can I support my child with their reading?

1. Talk, talk, talk!

As a parent, you are the model of good speaking and listening. Regularly introduce new words (vocabulary). For example, for the word big you could also introduce large, huge or enormous. Encourage them to say the word too. This is not about reading the words but about your child hearing and saying them.

2. Read , read, read!

Read to and with your child. This models good reading skills and promotes reading enjoyment. Have a special book box or bag where your child can keep the stories and any other texts, such as comics or non-fiction books, you’ve read together recently. Re-read these so that over time your child builds up their stock of stories and texts they know well.

3. Sing!

Teach nursery rhymes and songs and find lots of opportunities to sing and recite them.

4. Pronounce words and sounds clearly

In all games and activities try and make sure you pronounce the speech sounds clearly and as short as possible. Do not make them too long. For example, the letter ‘m’ has a short /m/ sound not a continuous /mmmmmmm/ sound. Try not to add an extra sound onto the speech sound too. For example, the sound is /m/ not /m-uh/.

The Oxford Owl website has some great videos for parents, including a video where you can learn how to pronounce all 44 phonics sounds used in the English language as we would teach them in school.


Mrs Clarke’s recent phonics presentation for parents can be found here.


Reception attend weekly Forest School sessions in our local woods. This gives plenty of opportunity for investigating the natural world around them. It also allows the children to have a first-hand experience of the changing seasons throughout the year!  Please see our forest school page of the website on the main menu for more information.


Assessment in Reception is carried out in line with the ‘Early Years Foundation Stage’. Staff observe the children in their play to create a ‘learning journey’, evidencing the children’s progress through the foundation stage across the seven areas of development. Observations are done on our digital tracker and are available for parents to see throughout the year. The children will also have a learning journey book which will hold a record of child led writing, maths and art work created during ‘Busy Learning Time’. 

It is very important to us at Whiteshill that you are involved in your child’s learning during their time in Willow class, as they settle in to their first year at school. We encourage this partnership in a number of ways across the year:
  • An online platform ‘Target Tracker’ which allows the teacher to share photographs and observations of your children’s learning in school with you.
  • Two parents evenings and one written report about your child’s progress across the year.
  • Wow vouchers which you can fill in to share your child’s achievements and learning at home, to demonstrate learning outside of the classroom.
  • Stay and play sessions once every half term where you can come in to the classroom to see your child’s learning first hand.

Hello! My name is Mrs Clarke and I am one of the Willow Class teachers.  I work in Willow Class on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  I have been teaching for 8 years and I love Forest School and any activities involving art!

I love dancing, reading and walking in the countryside with my family. I love to explore new places with my husband, little boy and collie dog Charlie. One of my favourite places to visit with my little boy is Slimbridge Wetlands Centre near Stroud. We particularly love wellie boot land!

My favourite colour is purple and my favourite animal is a horse. I can’t wait to find out what all your favourite things are in September!

Mrs McClung has just joined us and teaches Willow class on a Thursday and Friday.

Mrs Cripps has narrated a tour around our reception classroom so that you can see where your children will be spending their first year at Whiteshill.  We also have a large, covered outdoor area at the back of class which you can see in the video.  The children use this daily to free-flow outside and extend their learning through play in an outdoor environment.

Please find below a video of Mrs Clarke reading a story for the children to listen to…