Learning through play reflects a child’s natural state and the way they learn about the world. The teaching staff at NAIS Sai Kung harness the play approach to achieve the aims of UK-based early years foundation stage (EYFS).
Those aims are to ensure children pick up functional skills like how to pay attention, organisation, planning and prioritising and starting a task and seeing it to completion, which Mrs Charlier said, children learn easily through the process of play. She said parts of the EYFS curriculum were adapted to suit the local environment in Hong Kong.
Importantly, play enables students to make a lot of progress quickly because learning is focussed through whatever interests a child, she said.
“It depends on what they’re interested in whether it’s football, pizza or birthday parties. That’s going to be reflected in the classroom,” Mrs Charlier said.
“That’s going to be the hook that’s going to draw them into play and draw them into learning the skills and knowledge they need. And that looks radically different in each classroom, at different times of the year.”
Teachers record each child’s progress regularly using an online tool called Tapestry, which records their progress and their teacher’s observations. Parents can view these updates in real-time at home and add to it. Collecting data regularly also means teachers can check to see if there are gaps in a child’s learning by monitoring their progress against the early years curriculum objectives, so that they develop the right skills.
Leaders in the school also help teachers analyse the data to ensure every child continues to make progress. Regularly monitoring in this way results in many children making three years worth of progress in a year.
“We’re constantly looking at adjusting our practice; it’s through that constant adjustment and changing our response to the needs of each child that they manage to make so much progress,” Mrs Charlier said.
“If you put something in place to address their needs, children can move in ways you don’t expect. All you need to do is support them a little and they will fly. You can give them targeted activities through play to move them forward and they will gallop along. We see this all the time.” Jack was no exception.